What exactly is post modernism and how does it differ from modernism?

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ophelious eNotes educator| Certified Educator

That is a great question, and though it is technically easy to answer, making the answer understandable (considering that I don't even fully grasp it) can be a bit rougher.  Based on what I understand, here is the gist of it.   I hope it helps:

Modernism, as applied to many areas:

  1. Modernism believes that things can be proved by logic and science which can be used to "govern" the world.
  2. People are free to choose their own path in life.
  3. "High Culture" deserves study, while "low culture" does not.
  4. Symbols have distinct meaning.
  5. Art is supposed to fight capitalism.
  6. Serious themes and purposes in art.
  7. There is an ultimate meaning to a piece of fiction, best discovered by critics who are skilled at it.
  8. Mass marketing and creation of products.
  9. A sense of clear boundaries between art, music, and writing.

Compare these ideas with some of the post-modern ones:

  1. We cannot hope to "govern" the forces of the world through logic and science,
  2. People think they are free to choose a path, but they are not.  Many subtle (and not so subtle) forces guide people's choices.
  3. All culture is "popular culture" and deserves equal treatment.
  4. The meaning of symbols is fluid and not set.
  5. Art is consumed by capitalism.
  6. Art can be ironic and playful.
  7. There is no ultimate meaning to fiction...people get out of the text what they bring into the text.
  8. Niche products.
  9. The lines blur between life and art, and one form of artistic expression and another.

In short, Post Modernism is a rejection of Modernism.