The Postmodern Era:
From WWII to the Present
American culture and society in the post-World War
era immediately following the war was incredibly positive and optimistic, at
least on the surface.
were undercurrents of fear, apprehension, and discontent, however:
of nuclear war, which many thought was inevitable.
sense of impending doom.
sense that there is no longer any order or logic to life.
pressures to conform, for men, women, minorities, children and young
rise of the white-collar middle-class and the suburbs:
more affluent, educated culture--as much as 50% of the population is
college educated; workers are protected by strong unions.
more mobile culture—the average family moves once every five years.
shift in focus from the extended family to the nuclear family.
of family, community, work, wealth, success.
emphasis on appearances (which often masked unpleasant realities).
establishment of a “teen culture.”
further establishment and extensive growth of popular, consumer culture.
This pressure-cooker of conformity explodes in the
1960s and 1970s:
between conformity and individuality; tradition and innovation; stability
of the diversity of America.
of personal identity and experience, of how the personal and the social
interact to form the individual.
tendency to critique and question anything or anyone that sets themselves
up as “right”, or as “the truth.”
of the subjectivity of all “truths” including political truth and moral
of the extent to which rhetoric forms our concepts of “reality.”
Postmodern Literature and
In many ways, these decades witness a continuation
of the trends and ideas of Modernism, but in reference and reaction to a
society that is “progressing” at a much greater rate and in a multitude of
decentering of authority.
eradication of traditional boundaries between high and low, art and
struggle against the anonymity that contemporary society accorded most
focus on pointing out the rhetoric of society, the half-truths and
untruths that people are convinced to believe.
focus on the experience of the individual, of how the personal and the
social come together to form identity.
focus on the concept of “voice”—how, in this vast culture, does one
establish any sense of individuality?
How does one find a meaningful way to express and explain
oneself? How do people achieve