Postmodernism is a period label generally given to cultural forms since the 1960s that display certain characteristics such as reflexivity, irony and a mixing of popular and high art forms. Although the term first found favour in architecture, it is now used to describe literature, visual art etc. Either seen as a continuation of the more radical aspects of modernism or as marking a rupture with such things as modernist ahistoricism, or yearning for closure, postmodernism has been linked to the "cultural logic of high capitalism" (Jameson); the general condition of knowledge in times of informational technology (Lyotard); replacing a modernist epistemological focus with an ontological one (McHale); and the substitution of simulacrum for the real (Baudrillard). Postmodernist literature has been called a literature of replenishment (Barth), on the one hand, and the literature of an inflationary economy (Newman) on the other.
In short, there is little agreement on the reasons for its existence on the evaluation of its effects. Nevertheless, a study of the overlapping concerns of the various art forms and discourses in which the term is used yields certain common denominators that might be seen to define postmodernism.


Parody is an ironic discontinuity that is revealed at the heart of continuity, difference at the heart of similarity. Parody is a perfect postmodern form, for in some senses it paradoxically both incorporates and challenges that which it parodies.

Narratori postmoderni

E' come se il romanzo contemporaneo, divenuto consapevole dell'infinita iterabilità del linguaggio, dei temi e dei motivi letterari, si sia concentrato su tali sue caratteristiche, accentuando gli aspetti di gioco e di performance della propria costruzione per offrirli come riflessione critica.
Strumento di questa riflessione, dell'interrogazione del testo a se stesso, è la figura del narratore, elemento a volte unificante, a volte destrutturante di una materia erratica e inafferrabile che sempre più si sottrae a una lettura che cerca un'interpretazione della realtà.
Perché il ritorno del narratore oggi dopo la cancellazione modernista? Se il moderno in letteratura si affermò come critica a un modo di rappresentazione unidimensionale e ingannevole del reale, comportando la negazione dell'oggettività che la voce del narratore pretendeva di esprimere, il postmoderno si annuncia invece nel disagio della raffigurazione, nel divertimento permutativo tra reale e irreale, nello svelamento del gioco simulativo che è alla base di ogni forma d'arte. Il ritono del narratore diventa così funzionale alla problematizzazione della relazione del testo con la realtà: l'io narrante, consapevole della propria inadeguatezza a presentare una visione coerente del mondo, non ha altra pretesa che offrire al lettore la sua prospettiva parziale e imperfetta.

Muriel Spark, The Comforters, 1957
'Those voices, Willi - since I've been in hospital I have heard them. But one thing I'm convinced of' - and she indicated her leg which had swollen slightly within the plaster case so that it quite hurt a lot - 'this physical pain convinces me that I'm not wholly a fictional character. I have independent life.'
'Dear me,' said the Baron, 'were you ever in doubt of it?'
So she told him, confidentially, of her theory. He was intrigued. […] 'Am I also a charact-er in my previous book, Caroline?' he asked.
'Yes you are, Willi.'
'Is everyone a character? - Those people for instance?'
He indicated the seven other beds with their occupants and visiting relatives and fuss.
'I don't know,' Caroline said. 'I only know what the voices have hinted, small crazy fragments of a novel. There may be characters I'm unaware of.'
The Baron came to see her every week-end. On each occasion they discussed Caroline's theory. […] One day she informed him, 'The Typing Ghost has not recorded any lively details about this hospital ward. The reason is that the author doesn't know how to describe a hospital ward. This interlude in my life is not part of the book in consequence.' It was making exasperating remarks like this that Caroline Rose continued to interfere with the book.

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