chapter  11
11 Pages


ByLinda Hutcheon

DEFINING THE POSTMODERN In the nal decades of the twentieth century and even into the new millennium, the term ‘postmodern’ has appeared to be more casually bandied about than carefully de ned. For some it was a mere ‘moment’, while for others it was a more general ‘condition’. Some denigrated it to just a ‘style’; still others elevated it to a historical ‘period’. These variations do not only signal differences in critics’ perspectives, however; they also mark the multiplicity and complexity of the cultural phenomena gathered together under this heading. There is certainly no shortage of differing opinions and competing models of postmodernism, but the critics are not the only ones to blame for the sometimes confusing number of explanations and descriptions. Although the word existed before, it rst gained wide acceptance (and its current meaning) in the eld of architecture in the 1970s, and referred to works that were ‘doubly coded’, as the in uential architecture theorist Charles Jencks (1986: 7) put it: that is, new and modern(ist), but also historical, although in a parodic or ironic way. These hybrid buildings self-consciously took advantage of all the technical advances of modernist architecture, but their historical echoes of earlier traditions challenged the anti-historical emphasis on purity of form alone that had resulted in those familiar stark, undecorated skyscrapers typical of what was called modernism’s International Style.