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The difference between modernity, modernism, and postmodernism

The difference between modernity, modernism, and postmodernism

Clarify as best as you can, the difference between modernity, modernism and postmodernism, according
to Mary Klages’s definitions and the other items posted in the course. Write at least 600 words. Quote
BRIEFLY from her essay throughout your posting. Most of the writing should be your own words. The
ratio of your own writing to quotes should be about 4 to 1. Paragraph your ideas. Organization is
important. Try to bring some insight to the discussion. You will be graded on organization, your use of
quotes from the item posted in the course, and the insight you bring to the ideas. You MUST use
quotation marks and cite your the works you use with a Works Cited page. If you do not include quotes
from the course items, quotation marks, a Works Cited page, and if your response is shorter than 600
words, you will be automatically graded down for not fulfilling the basic requirements.

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The difference between modernity, modernism, and postmodernism

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Postmodernism is basically a difficult term to define. However, to properly understand
what it means, it is vital to first define and comprehend what the word modernism connotes
considering that “modernism is the movement from which postmodernism appears to come out”
(Klages 1). Modernism can be described in two modes or aspects, and both help one to
understand postmodernism. The first aspect of modernism stems from the aesthetic movement
widely dubbed as modernism. Modernism is the “movement in drama, literature, music, as well
as visual arts that rebuffed the old Victorian standards of the way that art has to be produced,
used, and what it has to signify” (Klages 1). From a literary standpoint, a few of the major
features of modernism are: (i) an emphasis is put on subjectivity and impressionism in writing,
instead of emphasis on what is perceived. (ii) A lack of clarity in differences between genres, so
that writing style appears more poetic and poetry appears more documentary; and (iii) a
highlighting on discontinuous stories, fragmented forms, as well as random-seeming collages of
dissimilar materials (Klages 1).
Similar to modernism, postmodernism follows nearly all of these same ideas. However,
postmodernism is different from modernism in its approach towards many of these trends. For
instance Klages (2) stated that modernism has the tendency of presenting a fragmented viewpoint
of human history and subjectivity, but it presents that fragmentation as something that is tragic;
that has to be mourned and lamented as a loss. On the contrary, postmodernism does not lament
the view of incoherence, provisionality, or fragmentation; it instead celebrates that (Klages 1).
Whereas modernism is understood as the extensive aesthetic movements of the 20 th
century, it differs from modernity in that modernity is understood as ethical, political, as well as
philosophical views that offer the basis for the aesthetic facet of modernism. Moreover,
modernity came before modernism (Klages 2). Modernity is essentially “about order; it is about

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rationalization and rationality, and establishing order out of disarray and disorder” (Klages 2).
The supposition is that establishing more rationality contributes to establishing more order, and
that the more ordered a given society is, the better that society would actually function. Given
that modernity is about pursuing the ever-increasing levels of order, societies that are modern are
always guarding against everything and anything that is disorderly and that may actually disrupt
order. As such, “modern societies depend upon continuously creating a binary opposition
between disorder and order, so that they can claim superiority of the order” (Klages 3).
In addition, postmodernism is mostly concerned with questions of the organization of
knowledge. It is notable that in modern societies, knowledge was contrasted to narrative, and
compared with science. Science was essentially good knowledge, while narrative was irrational,
primitive, and bad hence associated with insane persons, primitives, children and women (Klages
5). Nonetheless, knowledge was good for its own sake given that a person obtained knowledge
through education with the aim of becoming generally knowledgeable and to be a person who is
educated. In contrast, within a postmodern society, knowledge actually becomes something
functional since an individual gets to learn things for the purpose of using that knowledge rather
that to know them (Klages 5).
In postmodern societies, knowledge is typified by its utility, although knowledge is also
disseminated, arranged and stored variously in postmodern societies than in modern societies. In
particular, the dawn of electronic computer technologies has actually served to revolutionize the
knowledge creation, dissemination, as well as usage methods in today’s society. Within
postmodern societies, things that cannot be translated into a form that a computer could
recognize and store would not be considered as knowledge anymore. In this paradigm, Klages
(5) stated that ignorance is actually not the opposite of knowledge as it is the humanist/modern

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paradigm, instead it is noise. Anything and everything that does not qualify as knowledge is
categorized as noise, and is not recognizable as something in this system. Another equally
important difference is that modern societies rely on the notion that signifiers at all times “point
to signifieds, and that reality actually does exist in signifieds” (Klages 4). Nonetheless, there are
only signifiers in postmodernism and the view of any stable reality disappears along with the
view of signifieds that signifiers point to. Instead, “there are only surfaces with no depth for
postmodern societies; only signifiers without signifieds” (Klages 4).

Work cited

Klages, Mary. Postmodernism. Web. 2013.

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