Posts Tagged ‘Extension 1’

One of the questions I am asked frequently by Extension English students (both Year 11 and Year 12) is, “what’s the deal with postmodernism?”

I think one of the reasons that students struggle with this concept is because they’ve lived their entire lives in a world shaped by postmodernity, so it’s difficult to step back and see the idea as a whole.

Here are some of the key concepts:

Questioning and Uncertainty

Postmodernism, like other movements or discourses, is a reaction against earlier ways of seeing of the world. Postmodernism questions the seeming certainty of more traditional views such as institutional religions, conservative politics, and even the scientific method. Where another worldview may see clear black and white, postmodernism sees only greys.

Signifier and Signified

Postmodernism also questions the ability of language to accurately convey meaning, because a word for an object or idea can never be the object or idea itself.

This image, by postmodern artist, Magritte, reinforces this idea. The image of the pipe is captioned, “this is not a pipe,” meaning that an image of a pipe (a signifier, which we interpret as readers) is not actually a pipe (the signified). An acknowledgement of this idea leads to reader response and hypertextual theories of literature.


Postmodernism can seem to some students not only confusing but also overly cynical. What seems to be missing is the element of fun. Postmodern texts often hae fund with ideas and language, through the Ps of postmodernism: Parody, Pastiche, and Play. Parody and pastiche both involve the appropriation of earlier texts or concepts. While both are often humourous, parody is often employed for satirical purposes, while pastiche often refers to the collaging of different textual forms together.

This is a very basic introduction to the ideas of postmodernism. If you want more information, I suggest




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I put this activity together for Standard English students studying the Global Village elective for Module C, but it could also be useful for the Extension elective: Navigating the Global. Ideally, students would do this activity in small groups, moving between quotes and sharing ideas, but it can be done as a revision activity by yourself.

Complete the following activities for each quote.

a) Rewrite the quote in your own words.

b) List two or three themes/ideas from your texts that relate to the quote.

c) Using the quote as a thesis statement, write a five sentence introduction for an essay.

  1. Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. – Margaret Mead, Anthropologist
  2. The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens. – Baha’ullah, prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith.
  3. The new electronic independence re-creates the world in the image of a global village. – Marshall McLuhan.
  4. The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow. – Bill Gates.
  5. It was the season of Light; it was the season of Darkness, It was the spring of hope; it was the winter of despair. – Charles Dickens.

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Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua was, according to the author, “supposed to be a story about how Chinese parents are better at raising kids. But instead, it’s about a bitter clash of cultures and how [she] was humbled by a thirteen year old.”

This book is a valiant defence of the traditional Chinese way of parenting, in the face of overwhelming cultural opposition. Amy Chua explains the challenges of maintaining family pride and achievement in a sympathetic and thoughtful way. The different styles of parenting–“western” vs Chinese–are framed within different values systems and the entire story is told with charm and good humour.

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