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Postmodernism

Defined variously as a reaction to modernism or merely the movement that followed it, postmodernism remains a controversial concept. As a term, it tends to refer to an intellectual, artistic, or cultural outlook or practice that is suspicious of hierarchy and objective knowledge and embraces complexity, contradiction, ambiguity, and diversity. It includes other 20th-century theoretical movements such as poststructuralism and deconstruction, mainly through a common emphasis on discourse and the power of language in structuring thought and experience. Because it attacks traditional concepts of history, knowledge, and reality itself—arguing that “truth” is culturally and historically specific—postmodernism has often been accused of relativism. Many of the central postmodernist theorists are French and include Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Jean Baudrillard, and Jean-François Lyotard.

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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