This article is from the Postmodern FAQ, by Van Piercy firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
Finally, I must emphasize that certain influential figures who
converge in discussions of the postmodern, themselves rarely use the word
"postmodern" and do not describe their theories or discourses in that way.
Their theories can't be simply reduced to "postmodernism" without
controversy, and yet their arguments are drawn on and criticized very
often in the name of what goes by the "postmodern." The works of Friedrich
Nietzsche, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze are
prevalent in discussions on the postmodern (and this insistent close
association probably explains the oft-remarked failure to distinguish
between post-structuralism and post- modernism).
I'd suggest that it is important for following discussions of
postmodern theory to study and know Nietzsche's philosophy and espe-
cially his short essay on history, _On the Advantage and Disadvantage
of History for Life_ (transl. Peter Preuss. Indianapolis: Hackett,
1980). An acquaintance with the writings of Foucault, Derrida and
Deleuze can be useful. They have all been profound students or readers
of Nietzsche, part of a "return to Nietzsche" or the "New Nietzsche"
movement in France in the 1960s. There's a nice collection of
Foucault's writings edited by Paul Rabinow titled _The Foucault Reader_
published by Pantheon Books, 1984. For Derrida, to pick a citation for
him almost at random, see the essay "Differance" in _Margins of
Philosophy_ (transl. Alan Bass. Chicago UP, 1982). On Deleuze, the best
way into his ideas is to dive into one of his texts and keep going. The
most rewarding introduction to his work that I've seen is by Brian
Massumi, who translated _Milles Plateaux_, titled _A User's Guide to
Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari_
(MIT Press, 1992). By no means is this group of suggested readings
intended to be limiting or exhaustive. I am only pointing out what seem
particularly plausible or telling routes of entry into these writers'