"The last few years have been marked by an inverted millenarianism in which premonitions of the future, catastrophic or redemptive, have been replaced by senses of the end of this or that (the end of ideology, art, or social class; the "crisis" of Leninism, social democracy, or the welfare state, etc., etc.); taken together, all of these perhaps constitute what is increasingly called postmodernism. The case for its existence depends on the hypothesis of some radical break orcoupure, generally traced back to the end of the 1950s or early 1960s.

As the word itself suggests, this break is most often related to notions of the waning or extinction of the hundred-year-old modern movement (or to its ideological or aesthetic repudiation)."

--Frederic Jameson, Postmodernism or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism

Although the term "postmodernism" is continually undergoing interrogation and redefinition, one constant that emerges from the critical discourses surrounding it is a sense that postmodernism involves a radical rethinking of representational strategies, and with this a questioning of our underlying assumptions about how "meanings" are produced. Postmodern narratives are therefore frequently formally experimental as William Burrough's emblematic "cut-ups" demonstrate, employing such techniques as fragmentation, intertextuality, and appropriation to fundamentally alter the way language represents the "meaning" of texts. Other postmodern narratives are preoccupied with the intersection of the "past" and contemporaneity, continually asking what's at stake when representations of previous cultural history are put to work in various ways as a comment on the present.

Also associated with postmodernism are recent developments in philosophy and critical theory which have thoroughly dismantled the idea of a cohesive subject, leaving open the question of the very location of meaning, along with the possibility of its existence. Theorists such as Michel Foucault have concerned themselves with tracing how power is bound up with the ability to dictate meaning in a cultural landscape where signs and symbols are severed from their ideological moorings.




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