Defining Postmodernism

René Magritte
Ceci n’est pas une pipe. René Magritte

What is Postmodernism?


Postmodernism is difficult to define, even for theorists, and postmodern concepts exist within texts of varied time frames, so it can be a challenge to determine whether or not a film, novel, or art piece, etc. can be labeled as “postmodern.” To help clarify the concept of postmodernism, I have gathered information from academic resources across the inter webs and summarized it here.

Key Postmodern Concepts


  1. Meta-narratives are displaced, and people no longer believe there are absolute ways to explain reality. Postmodernism rejects universal truths and plays with interpretations, multiple perspectives, uncertainties, and contradictions.
  2. Style, spectacle, special effects, and images are given precedence over content, character, substance, and narrative.
  3. Narratives are mini, local, fragmented, or non-linear.
  4. Time and space are less stable; they are more confused, incoherent, and disunified.
  5. There is a lack of distinction between the imagined and real.
  6. Postmodernism contains elements like parody, ironic quotation, pastiche, appropriation, intertextuality, or bricolage.

The Postmodern Film


According to Norman K. Denzin, there are six characteristics present in the postmodern film.

  1. An effacement of boundaries between past and present.
  2. Terrorizing the nostalgia of the past, in which signifiers of the past act as signs of destruction.
  3. A presentation of the unpresentable, such as imagination, dreams, or impossible happenings.
  4. Wild sexuality or violence. Nothing is hidden.
  5. A featuring of the femme fatale trope.
  6. Locating violent margins in everyday society.

Top Names in Postmodern Theory


The following are well-known and widely discussed postmodern theorists, listed with their most famous or influential publications. Book links lead directly to the full texts or lengthy excerpts.

  1. Jean-François LyotardThe Postmodern Condition
  2. Jean Baudrillard –  Simulacra and Simulation
  3. Jacques Derrida Of Grammatology
  4. Slavoj Žižek Welcome to the Desert of the Real

This site will feature examples of the postmodern in film, art, theory, and culture. Welcome to my simulacrum, and cheers to you.

M. Chaplin


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