Literary Theory

The postmodern as “the incredulity towards metanarratives”

Jean Francois Lyotard, in The Postmodern Condition famously described Postmodernism as the “incredulity towards metanarratives”. Postmodernism attacks specific notions of monolithic universals and encourages fractured, fluid and multiple perspectives. Lyotard observes that modernism relies on metanarratives or grand recits — the grand overarching stories that a. culture tells itself, hiding several contradictions and inconsistencies inherent in the social order. Postmodernism criticises and disbelieves in metanarratives and focuses on mini/local narratives or petit recits. Lyotard also emphasised on postmodernism’s view of language as incapable of representing reality, owing to the endless chain of signifiers without a signified.

By this famous statement, he also argues that no philosophical/political theory can be totalising. No system can be all-inclusive and hence any attempt at enforcing universality will be violent and repressive. Thus Marxism‘s idea of class conflict and emancipation, Hegel‘s “spirit” of history, Freud‘s “repressive psychosis” are all totalising, which give very little space for alternate views of the world. Further there is no credibility for such grand narratives, as these have ,already revealed themselves to be oppressive and homogenising and have proved to be representations rather than absolute truths. Lyotard inaugurated a key theoretical note in postmodernism when he characterised it as a resistance to grand narratives and focussing on the fragmented , anecdotal, luminal and the marginalised against the fixed stabilities of totalising systems of thought.



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