For modernism, the world is Bacon's "book of nature," a text designed to be read. Science and rationality are the means to read it. Postmodernism blows all of this away, insisting that the world is fundamentally indeterminate, eternally lacking closure. The text of the world is still read, but it is created as it is read, and everyone reads it differently. It is no longer a physical but rather a linguistic phenomenon, a creation of signifiers which only have meaning in relation to each other.
For postmodern philosophers such as Rorty and Oakeshott, known as "antifoundationalists," the world is constructed in an ongoing conversation that has no outside anchor, no foundation whereby anything more than a provisional, consensual truth can be measured. As literary theory, this outlook highlights and celebrates rather than frets over the indeterminacy of texts. For postmodernists, texts have no clearly defined borders, no univocal significance beyond the play of language, no firmly identifiable "authorial voice."
David Harvey puts it this way:
Embracing the fragmentation and ephemerality in an affirmative fashion
implies a whole host of consequences. . . . To begin with, we find writers
like Foucault and Lyotard explicitly attacking any notion that there might
be a meta-language, meta-narrative, or meta-theory through which all things
can be connected or represented. Universal and eternal truths, if they
exist at all, cannot be specified. Condemning meta-narratives (broad interpretive
schemes like those deployed by Marx or Freud) as "totalizing,"
they insist upon the plurality of "power-discourse" formations
(Foucault), or of "language games (Lyotartd).
(Postmodernism, pp. 44-45)
The theory of transformative technology suggests that modernism arose with a print culture that could freeze knowledge in apparently stable archival forms separated from the flux of human existence. Postmodernism arose with the onset of an electronic culture which gives the audience, if McLuhan is to be believed, a much more personal, intense, involving relationship with media that can no longer be held at a safe distance. When postmodernism, literary theory, and transformative technology meet in the work of Jay David Bolter, George Landow, and Mark Poster, we find that electronic technologies are the most unstable, the most indeterminant, the most distanced from physical matter.
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