As noted in a previous chapter, one of the essential characteristics of postmodernism was that proferred by Jean-François Lyotard, namely ‘incredulity towards meta-narrative’ (grands récits). What is meant by metanarrative is not evident at first sight, but a definition that will serve is ‘narratives that attempt to explain the nature of the human condition’, or ‘why things on a broad scale got to be the way they are’. ‘Over-reaching explanation’ is much the same thing. So far as history is concerned, and history is what metanarrative or ‘master narrative’ is about, it means an explanation of human progress (or in a few cases decline) on the presumption that progress or decline really is the situation which confronts the participants.
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