Language Is More Important for the Postmodernist and Postcolonial Writers Than for the Modernists

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1619 Words
Date:  2022-03-27

Postmodernism is not easy to define since it's a concept that is associated with many varieties of discipline and areas of study like music, literature, sociology, communications, and technology, it is also not easy to historically and temporally locate because it's not clear when it started. Perhaps let's understand modernism to help us think better about postmodernism. Modernism is the movement in music, drama, and literature which rejected the old standards of how art should be consumed, made and its meaning. Postmodernism grew or emerged from modernism. All together let's dig down by making various comparisons between postmodernism and postcolonialism with modernism and prove the statement that language is more important for the postmodernist and postcolonial writers than for the modernist.

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Understanding the relationship between postcolonialism and postmodernism is vital for this argument, the two converge in their respective purposes since both are examining a dominant or emergent global culture and are textual. The difference comes in such a way that the former involve geographical nature on them and expresses the existence. Consider The Gospel According To Mark, Borges expresses the existence of Salado floods. '...he would bore his friends by telling them the story of the Salado flood' Other statements like 'The next day, looking out over the flooded fields...' And 'Outside, the wind was rocking the Australian pines,' signify the existence of geographical nature. (Borges, 2) This can be arguably classified as a postcolonial type of novel but in other ways can exhibit other characteristics of modernism. Anyway postmodernism and postcolonialism share the same motives, and therefore I'll consider them one thing in the following argumentative discussion.

The comparison of the characteristics of modernism and postmodernism would help bring a backup for the thesis statement above. Modernism emphasizes subjectivity and impressionism in writing focusing on is 'how' seeing takes place rather than 'what' is perceived. 'In the whole house, there was apparently no other reading matter than a set of the Farm Journal, a handbook of veterinary medicine, a deluxe edition of the Uruguayan epic Tabare..' Borges describes the vicinity of the house of Espinosa's friend, how the sight can work but one really gets to perceive little or none from the description. (Borges, 2) This is a writing of stream consciousness.

Modernism is characterized by the movement from the objectivity which is apparent and done by fixed narrative points of view, narrators who are omniscient third-person. Margaret Atwood's "Happy Endings" is a multiply-narrated stories which gives an example of this aspect. (Atwood, 1)The story primarily consists of six varying bare-bone settings originating from the very catalyst "John and Mary meet" Setting A presents the ideal marriage of John and Mary signified with fulfilling careers, unfading sex life, no drama, no conflict, tension or crisis, it is undoubtedly a happy ending. Settings B to F test and weigh different situations that can occur after John and Mary meet. Plot B exposes Mary as the unrequited lover who wants sensitize John of her love for him. Plot C places John on the side of the middle-aged insecure man seeking a younger woman's assurance. Plot D resembles a story of disaster. Plot F finally shows lovers in a political turmoil, whichever the story may be, it always ends with the setting A. An emphasis of discontinuous narratives in fragmented forms.

Modernism works show a rejection of a distinction between 'low' and 'high' or famous culture, both in the method of distributing, displaying and consuming data and material choice. Postmodernism has most of the same ideas, opposing boundaries between low and high art forms and emphasizes parody and playfulness. The art favors self-consciousness and reflexivity, discontinuity and fragmentation mostly in simultaneity and ambiguity on the dehumanized subject. Postmodernism differs from modernism in the attitude toward some trends. Modernism orients to present a fragmented view of human history and subjectivity, think of 'The Gospel According To Mark,' for instance, or 'Happy Endings.' And presents it as something to be mourned, lamented as a loss and tragic. Modernists' work tries to embrace the idea that art can influence coherence, unity and do what other human institutions have failed. On the contrary, postmodernism doesn't mourn the idea of provisionality, fragmentation but instead celebrates a meaningless world, and art can't make meaning. For instance 'Harrison Bergeron' responds to the theme of equality in a strange way. Instead of suggesting that all people should be equal, it depicts a world where the government of the United States uses cruel handicaps to force its citizens to be equal. (Vonnegut, 3)Strength, beauty, and intelligence are the vital themes and thus the abilities in the novel which are targeted by the General of the handicapper.

According to Frederic Jameson, postmodernism and modernism are formations of culture and accompany specific stages of capitalism. The first stage which is market capitalism is associated with technological developments like steam motors and other aesthetics namely realism. Monopoly capitalism is the second stage which is associated with internal combustion and electric motors accompanied by modernism. We are in the third phase currently, and this is a consumer or multinational capitalism where the emphasis is on the market and not production, for example, electronic and nuclear technologies, postmodernism is correlated to this reform.

The modern societies go about creating ideas labeled 'disorder' or 'order' with the effort of achieving stability. Francois Lyotard states that totality in stability is the completeness and wholeness of a system. Francois argues that order, stability, and totality are maintained in modern societies by the ways of master and grand narratives. For instance, American culture can have the story that democracy is the most rational and enlightened form of government. This makes me believe that language is now more stable than before, consider pre-colonialism. Let's connect this issue to the story happening in 'Harrison Bergeron.' Vonnegut cautiously asserts that society is at the cause of unnecessary much suffering and it's noble at once. Institutions of democracy may assist to manage the baser nature of the people, but even the most dignified behavior can result in new problems emerging. Vonnegut implies that despite the pathological efforts to destroy talent, beauty, and brilliance there is optimism and that the values will be defended by a champion. His pessimistic opinion is elaborated when Harrison Bergeron throws off his mask, weights and shackles and those of the musicians and dancers only to dance being his only revolution act. Society is in need of rebels in order to effect change. The irony comes in that society must be unfair to others in order to be fair to another group. The ignorance of humanity is attacked constantly, for instance, Harrison was shot. (Vonnegut, 6) 'She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor.' This is emotional.

Lyotard asserts that science is the basic form of knowledge in modern societies which depend on the grand narratives. Postmodernism comes in to be the critique of grand narratives. In a broader meaning, an attempt to create order usually demands the same amount of disorder, however, a grand narrative conceals the structure of these classifications by emphasizing that order is good and rational, but the disorder is bad and chaotic. (PENNA, 149)Postmodernism favors mini-narratives which are provisional, situational, temporary, contingent and claims no universality and thus explain in details local events and practices instead of global or large-scale universal concepts. For instance, in the novel 'Harrison Bergeron, 'the theme of freedom is exposed through the many details including Harrison's escape from jail.

Language is more important in postmodernist than modernist writers in that in modernism, language is transparent, and the word doesn't have any other function beyond their meaning, they are just mere representations of things and thoughts and signifiers only point to signified. Think of Borges novel, he describes the protagonist as one of the common run young boys, and he is a medical student. (Borges, 1) These words have no other functions apart from their normal meanings. In postmodernism, there are only signifiers. The permanent and stable reality is lost, only signifiers with no signified, this can be derived from the statement in Vonnegut's novel 'The rest of Harrison's appearance was Halloween and hardware. Nobody had ever born heavier handicaps. He had outgrown hindrances faster than the H-G men could think them up. Instead of a little ear radio for a mental handicap, he wore a tremendous pair of earphones and spectacles with thick wavy lenses. The spectacles were intended to make him not only half-blind but to give him whanging headaches besides.'(Vonnegut, 3)

In modernism language is equated to science and is contrasted to narrative, a narrative is considered a bad and primitive knowledge and science a good knowledge. In postmodern society, knowledge is functional. People learn knowledge to use them not just to know them. Comparing 'Happy Ending' and 'Harrison Bergeron,' the former talks of different situations of marriages for those who have met, it just explores the variety of options available for the purpose of knowing. (Atwood, 3)The latter teaches about democracy and institutions that can manage people baser, this is something tangible which can be put into action, and so together with the cumulative points of discussion above, language is more important for the postmodernist and postcolonial writers than for the modernists.


PENNA, SUE. "John J. Rodger, From Welfare State to Welfare Society; changing context of social policy in a postmodern era, Macmillan, London, 2000, ix+ 206 pp.,PS 14.99 pbk.-." Journal of Social Policy 30.1 (2001): 149-188.

H Vonnegut Jr, Kurt. "Harrison Bergeron." Ark. L. Rev. 44 (1991): 927.arrington, Daniel J., and Edmund Borges J. Luis. The Gospel According to Mark. WH Sadlier, 1983.

Atwood, Margaret. "Happy endings." Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft (1989): 279-81.

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Language Is More Important for the Postmodernist and Postcolonial Writers Than for the Modernists. (2022, Mar 27). Retrieved from

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