The path to me understanding postmodernism

Imagine an alien, equipted with only a stick of glue and the vaguest notion of the hominid form, trying to piece together a picture of a human using only photos of limbs and torsos clipped from Hello magazine. Now imagine a young man, equipted with only a love of novels and the vaguest notion of postmodernism, entering his third year at university and trying to piece together four decades of high-level academic and political discourse using only random essays taken from the vast canon of literary theory.

The alien could do with Gray's Anatomy. I could have done with an introductory text. I have no idea why I wasn't given one. I could have been steered towards Terry Eagleton's Critical Theory: An Introduction. Or, if it had been published in 2000, his "explosive follow-up", After Theory. I am half-way through the third chapter, 'The Path to Postmodernism', and I understand more about postmodernism now than I ever did back then.

It's hard to know what a human body looks like if you only look at the fingernails. It's hard to know what postmodernism is if you read too much Borges and smoke too much pot.