Could someone explain, in layman's terms, what exactly postmodernism is?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

First, the term implies that it came after modernism, which is not quite accurate.  Second, usually these terms are invented after the fact by critics, but this term was incorporated into the movement itself.  In layman’s terms, Postmodernism is that element of modern literature (and art in general) that deals with form more than content.  We know that Modernism refers to the realistic, social world as opposed to an imaginary or historical or classical world – Hedda Gabler rather that Clytemnestra, Willy Loman rather than King Arthur.  But at the same time as writers found the everyday as a subject matter, they were also moving away from the traditional ways of telling a story, so Postmodern became a term valuable in discussing such departures as unreliable or multiple narrators (Faulkner), nonlinear time (Proust), exhaustive discourse (Joyce), implied imagery (T.S. Eliot), and the like – new ways to tell a story.  In layman’s terms, then, Postmodernism refers to experiments in language, discourse, speech acts, rhetoric, and all the other areas of inquiry into how language “works.”

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial