Postmodern Influences on Exposition

A short postmodern discussion I wrote for theory of exposition class. I’m thinking about writing a postmodern essay sometime, but I need to look into postmodernism a bit more.

Defining postmodernism carries with it many of the same headaches that go with defining exposition. Although there are many similar explanations that follow the same ideas and logic, coming up with a singular, defining explanation is very difficult. Modern thought and traditional values hold less value in postmodernism, and in many ways this postmodern movement is an assault on traditional belief. Once you move away from this viewpoint however, defining postmodernism becomes a hazy subject. These viewpoints stem from differing ideas on where to go from modernism. By defining the situation as multiple theorists coming up with different ways to put the ‘post’ in postmodernism it is easier to examine the big picture of postmodernism and its varied approaches.

The one thing most people can agree upon is that postmodernism is a movement away from modernism. A modernist viewpoint of a family could be seen in a traditional nuclear family, with clearly established gender roles and social hierarchy. A postmodern viewpoint would turn this nuclear family upside down and suggest “Alternative family units, alternatives to middle-class marriage model, multiple identities for couplings and childraising. Polysexuality, exposure of repressed homosexual and homosocial realities in cultures.” (Irvine)

The chart I just quoted from provides one of many examples of postmodern alternatives to modernism. While the postmodern alternatives are very different than modernist beliefs, there is a pattern that arises in this chart. For each modernist view, the postmodern alternative is almost exactly the opposite stance of the modern view. Although in many ways postmodernism seems like a direct attack on modernism, I believe the term ‘rejection’ as it is used in the first two chart examples is more suitable. Postmodernism is an attempt to move as far away as possible from modernism, holding no similarities in the process.

This lack of similarities brings forth a problem when comparing postmodernism to exposition. While exposition has evolved and changed greatly over the years, oftentimes attempting to be different than past incarnations, I would not say that exposition at any point in its evolution has attempted to reject each and every value from a past incarnation. Even the most modern forms of exposition carry traces of elements from the oldest theories of exposition.

One could try to define exposition by tracing its history and changes over time. In order to comprehend the exposition of today, and to better understand how it has evolved, it would necessitate understanding that which came before it. Likewise, to define postmodernism, as I said before, you would need to determine what constitutes modernism. Yet for both exposition and modernism there is no clear distinction of what came before. As the website questions: “Was there ever a pre-postmodern consensus about history, identity, core cultural values?”(Irvine) I don’t think it is safe to believe that postmodernism necessarily clarifies or complicates our understanding of exposition, rather, it simply encourages us to approach the idea of defining exposition from another angle. An “out with the old and in with the new” sort of angle I think, though I would need to study postmodernism a bit more before I can state this with certainty.

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