The term “postmodern” raises a number of vexing critical questions, not the least of which concerns the meaning of the “modernism ” to which postmodernism must logically be related. Italian literary history departs, in some respects, from the standard treatment of twentieth-century literature in other European literatures and in American criticism because of an important current of Italian critical thought that employed the term il decadentismo (decadentism) to define what other literary cultures would have called modernist. The major authors of Western modernism, such as T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Thomas Mann, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, or Jorge Luis Borges (to mention only a few) were less influential forces in Italian culture before World War II than elsewhere, although in the postwar period their works were widely read, imitated, and analyzed. While, in the past, Italian critics sometimes overlooked connections between native writers today regarded as modernists (Luigi Pirandello, Eugenio Montale, Italo Svevo, Carlo Emilio Gadda) and their counterparts in the rest of Europe or America, contemporary critics, both within Italy and abroad, have been unanimous in regarding Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco as postmodernist masters. Their works enjoy enormous audiences throughout Europe, the United States, and the English-speaking world, and they have achieved this widespread popularity in large measure because they have been perceived as exemplary expressions of the postmodern bent in contemporary culture, a cosmopolitan literary style that seems to transcend national boundaries.