University of California, Irvine, USA
The origins of postmodernism cannot be traced to a single source or set of circumstances. At first glance, the different trails may appear diffused, disparate, and disconnected. A closer look might reveal a common pattern woven by those different threads. Postmodernism is generally viewed as a reaction against, or rejection of, modernist tendencies in philosophy, social and cultural theory, literature, and politics. Postmodernism is closely related to poststructuralism, whose origins are slightly different but whose arguments are very similar – so much so that in the eyes of many, postmodernism subsumes poststructuralism and therefore they are treated interchangeably. The last quarter of the twentieth century witnessed the most intense excursions into postmodern ideas.
In architecture, where postmodernist tendencies were first noticed, there was a reaction against modernist definitions of form and style, questioning the emphases on universalism, functionalism, and rationalism. Postmodern architecture considered the modernist approach to be too rigid, and argued for greater fluidity of design, the mixing of styles, and local variability. In literature, postmodernism was a reaction against the entrenched notions of the Western canon. It has given rise to the poststructuralist movement away from the signifier to the signified, and toward displacement, difference, and ...