Symbiosis International University Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts

Postmodernism: Literature and Philosophy


What is postmodernism? Can postmodernism be described as a consistent philosophical position? How does the question of postmodernism relate to other significant questions of contemporary intellectual life? Can the human subject master its own destiny? Can meaningful claims to truth still be made? What is the relationship between subjectivity, sexuality, discipline and power? Is there a possibility of ethics in our "postmodern" condition? And finally what are the implications of postmodernism for interaction among different cultures, specifically interaction between Western culture and its others? The aim of this course is to understand the significance and the origins of these questions. We will also investigate the relationship of postmodernism to feminism and postcolonial theory. The initial focus of the course will be to survey the philosophical origins of 20th Century intellectual movements. In this context, we will read the works of some postmodern thinkers Jean-François Lyotard, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari and Kafka. We will then investigate the relationship between postmodernism and knowledge particularly in philosophy of science. Finally, we will move to the question of the relationship between postmodernism and feminism and read the works of Seyla Benhabib, Judith Butler, and Sandra Harding.

 Course Objectives 

  • To familiarize the students of the general traits of postmodernism as a contemporary movement in literature, philosophy, anthropology and politics.
  • To respond to the challenge and possibilities posed by postmodernism
  • To understand modernity and its relation to postmodernism
  • To acquaint oneself with some of the prominent thinkers of postmodernism



 Course Outline 

S. No. Topic Hours
1. Course Introduction
Background and context of 20th Century Continental philosophy: Phenomenology, Existentialism, Hermeneutics, Psychoanalysis, Structuralism, and Critical Theory/Marxism
8 hrs
2. Postmodernism in Literature
Jorge Luis Borges
“The Library of Babel”
“On Exactitude in Science”
“Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote”
3. Postmodernism in Philosophy
Jürgen Habermas
“Modernity—An Incomplete Project” (P 3-15)
Jean-François Lyotard
The Postmodern Condition“Answering the Question: What Is Postmodernism?” (P 71-82)
David Harvey
The Condition of Postmodernity“Modernity and Modernism” (P 10-38) “Postmodernism” (P 39-65)
4. Major postmodern voices
Jacques Derrida
Of Grammatology“…That Dangerous Supplement” (P 141-164) Writing and Difference “Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences” (P 278-293)
Michel Foucault
The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences“The Human Sciences” (P 344-387)
The History of Sexuality, Volume 1“Right of Death and Power Over Life” (P 135-159)
Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari
A Thousand Plateaus“1933: Micropolitics and Segmentarity” (P 208-231)
Toward a Minor Literature“What Is a Minor Literature?” (P 16-27) What Is Philosophy? “What Is a Concept?” (P 15-34)
5. Knowledge in/of the world: Postmodern applications
Paul Feyerabend
Against Method“Introduction” (P 1-32)
6. Feminism
Seyla Benhabib
Feminist Contentions: A Philosophical Exchange“Feminism and Postmodernism: An Uneasy Alliance” (P 17-34)
Judith Butler
Feminist Contentions: A Philosophical Exchange“Contingent Foundations: Feminism and the Question of ‘Postmodernism” (P 35-58)
Sandra Harding
Feminism/Postmodernism“Feminism, Science, and the Anti-Enlightenment Critiques (P 83-101)