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The origins of 'postmodernism' Sir, -The first use of the term "postmodernism" (Letters, February 19) is before 1926, and extends to the 1870s, when it was used by the British artist John Watkins Chapman, and 1917 when used by Rudolf Pannwitz. "Post-Impressionism" (1880s) and "post-industrial" (1914-22) were the beginning of the "posties", which flowered intermittently in the early 1960s in literature, social thought, economics and even religion ("PostChristianity"). "Posteriority", the negative feeling of coming after a creative age or, conversely, the positive feeling of transcending a negative ideology, really develops in the 1970s, in architecture and literature, two centres of the postmodern debate (hyphenated half the time to indicate autonomy and a positive, constructive movement). "Deconstructive postmodernism" comes to the fore after the French post-structuralists (Lyotard , Derrida, Baudrillard) became accepted in the United States in the late 1970s, and now half the academic world believes postmodernism is coufined to negative dialectics and deconstruction. But in the 1980s a series of new, creative movements occurred, variously called "constructive" , "ecological", "grounded", and "restructive" post-modernism.

It is clear that two basic movements exist, as well as "the postmodern condition", "reactionary postmodernism " and "consumer postmodernism"; for example, the information age , the Pope, and Madonna. If one wants an impartial , scholarly guide to all this, Margaret Rose's The PostModern and the Post-Industrial: A critical analysis , 1991,serves verywell .

I should add that one of the great strengths of the word, and the concept , and why it will be around for another hundred years, is that it is carefully suggestive about our having gone beyond the world-view of modernism - which is clearly inadequate - without specifying where we are going. That is why most people will spontaneously use it, as if for the first time . But since "Modernism" was coined apparently in the Third Century, perhaps its first use was then.

CHARLES JENCKS London --------$ --------


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