An Insight into Postmodernism

Oct 2, 2013 by

By Phineas Upham

I recently re-read “What Is Postmodernism?” by Eva T.H. Brann, included in my book Space of Love and Garbage. Eva T.H. Brann was Dean of St. John’s College, Annapolis, from 1990 until 1997. She is the author of a trilogy, The World of the Imagination, What, Then, Is Time?, and The Ways of Naysaying. Her latest book is Homeric Moments: Clues to Reading the Odyssey and the Illiad. She is currently teaching at St. John’s.

Here is the bio (above) from the essay and a quotation of my favorite paragraphs of the essay (below).

The question proposed is: “What is Postmodernism?” What kind of question is it? We may ask: “What is a human being?”, for there are natural human beings, and the question invites us to define their essence or to analyze their existence or to describe their characteristics. It is a question worth asking because our lives depend on the answer. We may ask: “What is a work of art?”, for we can point to an example and meet rational opposition: “That’s not art, it’s . . .” That question has recently acquired even a cash interest, since some members of Congress want public funding to go only to those who produce acknowledged works of arts.

Postmodernism, however, is not a natural kind nor a material artifact. It isn’t even a theory, that is to say, a work of intellectual architecture, freestanding and well-founded. Instead it bears the signature of an intellectuals’ movement: the “ism” ending. We speak of the Theory of Relativity, and then again we speak of Relativism. That pair exemplifies the distinction I mean.


About the Author: Phineas Upham is a writer and ex-journalist. He usually writes about philosophy, investing and travel. Visit Phineas Upham Facebook page.

You can also buy this book on Amazon: Space of Love & Garbage by Phineas Upham

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