Marxism and Literary Theory | Literary Theory and Criticism


marxism in literature

Marxist Criticism. According to Marxists, and to other scholars in fact, literature reflects those social institutions out of which it emerges and is itself a social institution with a particular ideological function. Literature reflects class struggle and materialism: think how . However, Marxism and Literature leaves ample room for dissent as its cultural theory takes into account "emergent formations" that represent an oppositional relationship to the dominant culture. SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Marxism and Literature by Raymond Williams. Marxism and Literature is a work of nonfiction by Raymond Henry Williams.

Marxism and Literature by Raymond Williams

Marxism is a materialist philosophy which tried to interpret the world based on the concrete, natural world around us and the society we live in.

It is opposed to idealist marxism in literature which conceptualizes a spiritual world elsewhere that influences and controls the material world, marxism in literature. According to Marxism, marxism in literature progresses through the struggle between opposing forces. It is this struggle between opposing classes that result in social transformation. History progresses through this class struggle. Class struggle originates out of the exploitation of one class by another throughout history, marxism in literature.

During the feudal period the tension was between the feudal lords and the peasants, and in the Industrial age the struggle was between the capitalist class the bourgeoisie and the industrial working class the proletariat.

Classes have common interests. In a capitalist system the proletariat is always in conflict with the capitalist class. This confrontation, according to Marx, will finally result in replacing the system by socialism. Another important concept used by Marxism in literature was the dialectic which was originally developed by the 18th century German philosopher Hegel.

Hegel was an idealist philosopher who used this term to refer to the process of emergence of new ideas through the confrontation of opposing ideas. He believed that the world is governed by thought and material existence is the expression of an immaterial spiritual essence, marxism in literature. But Marx used the same concept to interpret the progress of the material world.

Marx argued that all mental ideological systems are products of real social and economic existence. For example, marxism in literature legal system reflects the interests of the dominant class in particular marxism in literature periods rather than the manifestation of divine reason. Marxist dialectic can be understood as the science of the general and abstract laws of development of nature, society and thoughts.

It considers the universe as an integral whole in which things are interdependent, rather than a mixture of things isolated from each other. All things contain within themselves internal dialectical contradictions, marxism in literature are the primary cause of motion, change and development in the world, marxism in literature.

Dialectical materialism was an effective tool in the hands of Marxists, in revealing the secrets behind the social processes and their future course of development, marxism in literature. One of the fundamental concepts of classical Marxist thought is the concept of base and superstructure which refers to the relationship between the material means of production and the cultural world of art and ideas.

It is essentially a symbolic concept which employed the structure of a building to explain this relationship. The foundation or the base stands for the socio-economic relations and the mode of production and the superstructure stands for art, law, politics, religion and, above all, ideology. Broadly speaking it refers to the idea that culture is governed by historical conditions and the relations of dominance and subordination prevalent in a particular society.

Morality, religion, marxism in literature, art and philosophy are seen as echoes of real life processes. Take the case of the novels of Mulk Raj Anand which address the life of the untouchables, coolies and ordinary workers struggling for their rights and self esteem, marxism in literature.

It is true that they can be traced back to the class conflict prevalent in the Indian society M. Vasudevan Naira noted Malayalam novelist wrote about the breaking up of the feudal tharavads in Kerala. But in the final analysis his stories reveal the filtering of the bourgeois modernity in Kerala society and how it enters into a conflictual relationship with the values of feudalism.

Thus traces of this connection can be identified in various forms of cultural production. Socialist Realism took shape as the official aesthetic principle of the new communist society. It was mainly informed by the 19th century aesthetics and revolutionary politics. Raymond Williams identifies three principles as the founding principles of Socialist realism.

Narodnost refers to the popular simplicity of the work of art. Marx, in Paris Manuscriptsrefers to the alienation that originates out of the separation of the mental and manual in the capitalist society. Earlier under feudalism the workers engaged in marxism in literature industries produced various items on their own, all activities related to the production happening at the same place under the supervision of the same people.

But under capitalism the workers lost control over their products they were engaged in the production of various parts and were alienated from their own work. The concept Narodnost reiterates this quality of popular art which is accessible to the masses and wanted to restore their lost wholeness of being.

Klassovost refers to the commitment of the writer to the interests of the working class. For example, marxism in literature, Balzaca supporter of Bourbon dynasty, provides a penetrating account of the French society than all the historians. He argued that literature must become an instrument of the party. In the congress of Soviet WritersSocialist Realism was accepted as the official aesthetic principle of Soviet Union.

It was accepted as a dogma by communists all over the world. As a marxism in literature, a direct cause-effect relationship between literature and economics was assumed, with all writers seen as trapped within the intellectual limit of their class position.

One of the examples of this rigid Marxist literary criticism is Illusion and Reality by Christopher Caudwell. The Hungarian Marxist critic Georg Lukacs represented this type of political orthodoxy.

Lukacs considered the 19th century realist fiction as a model and believed that a realist work must reveal the underlying pattern of contradictions in a social order.

His debate with Bertolt Brecht marxism in literature the whole questions of realism and expressionism discussed in detail the importance of form and the concept of form in Marxisi criticism. The debate was handed over to the Formalists who developed new directions in the development of Marxist criticism.

Marxist criticism flourished outside the official line in various European countries. Russian Formalism emerged as a new perspective informed by Marxism in the s. It was disbanded by the Communist party as it did not conform to the official theoretical perspective of the party.

Lemon and Marion Marxism in literature Reis. One of the members of this group, Mikhail Bakhtin remained in Soviet Union and continued his critical practice. His concept of Dialogism affirmed plurality and variety. It was an argument against the hegemony of absolute authorial control.

He affirmed the need to take others and otherness into account. In one sense, it was an argument against the increasing homogenization of cultural and political life in Soviet Union. Many others belonging to the same perspective went into exile and continued their work abroad. It was the beginning of a new form of Marxist criticism. In Germany the Frankfurt School of Marxist aesthetics was founded in as a political research institute attached to the University of Frankfurt.

Walter BenjaminTheodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse were some of the important figures attached with this school. They tried to combine aspects of Formalism marxism in literature the theories of Marx and Freud. They produced for the first time studies on mass culture and communication and their role in social reproduction and domination. The Frankfurt School also generated one of the first models of a critical cultural studies that analyzes the processes of cultural production and political economy, the politics of cultural texts, and audience reception and use of cultural artifacts.

Marxist scholars like Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht considered art as a social production. A revolutionary artist should not uncritically accept the existing forces of artistic production, but should marxism in literature and revolutionize those forces.

It helps in the marxism in literature of new social relations between artist and audience. In this process, authors, readers and spectators become collaborators. Bertolt Brechtmarxism in literature, a close friend of Benjamin, developed the concept of Epic Theatre which dismantled the traditional naturalistic theatre and produced a new kind of theatre altering the functional relations between stage and audience, text and producer, and producer and actor.

Bourgeois theatre is based on illusionism. The audience is the passive consumer. The play does not stimulate them to think constructively, marxism in literature. According to Brecht this is based on the assumption that the world is fixed, given and unchangeable and the duty of art is to provide escapist entertainment.

The technique is to alienate the spectators from the performance and to prevent them from emotionally identifying with the play. It presents the familiar experience in unfamiliar light forcing the audience to question the attitudes which was considered to be natural and unchanging.

Marxism in literature employed techniques like back projection, song choreography cutting and disrupting the action rather than blending it smoothly. The Marxism in literature Marxist thinker, marxism in literature, Louis Althusser further developed the Marxist approach through the introduction of various concepts like overdeterminationIdeology etc.

Overdetermination refers to an effect which arises from various causes rather than from a single factor. This concept undercuts simplistic notions of one to one correspondence between base and superstructure. Ideology is another term modified by Althusser. The civil society spreads ideology through the law, textbooks, marxism in literature, religious rituals and norms so that the people imbibe them even without their knowledge.

The RSA includes law courts, prison, police, army etc and the ISA include political parties, marxism in literature, schools, media, churches, family, art etc. Althusser imported structuralism to Marxism. In his view, marxism in literature, society is a structural whole which consists of relatively autonomous levels: legal, political and cultural whose mode of articulation is only determined by the economy.

The founder of Italian communist Party, Antonio Gramsci was a politician, political theorist, linguist and philosopher. Known as an original thinker among Marxist scholars, Gramsci introduced the concepts like Hegemony and the Subaltern. Hegemony is the domination of particular section of the society by the powerful classes. Most often it works through consent rather than by power, marxism in literature. It is the moral and intellectual leadership of the upper class in a particular society.

The term subaltern was originally used by Gramsci as a collective description for a variety of different and exploited groups who lack class consciousness. But marxism in literature it is being used to represent all marginalized sections like Dalits, women, minorities etc.

An influential figure among the New Left was Raymond Williams. His writings on politics, culture, the mass media and literature are a significant contribution to the Marxist critique of culture and the arts. Williams was interested in the relationship between language, literature and society. Cultural materialism gives us different perspectives based on what we choose to suppress or reveal in reading from the past. Cultural Materialism argues that culture is a constitutive s social progress which actively creates different ways of life.

Similarly creation of meaning is viewed as a practical material activity which cannot be consigned to a secondary level. Another important concept in Williams thought is Structures of feeling.


Marxist literary criticism - Wikipedia


marxism in literature


This book extends the theme of Raymond Williams's earlier work in literary and cultural analysis. He analyzes previous contributions to a Marxist theory of literature from Marx himself to Lukacs, Althusser, and Goldmann, and develops his own approach by outlining a theory of cultural materialism /5. However, Marxism and Literature leaves ample room for dissent as its cultural theory takes into account "emergent formations" that represent an oppositional relationship to the dominant culture. According to Marxists, even literature itself is a social institution and has a specific ideological function, based on the background and ideology of the author. The English literary critic and cultural theorist Terry Eagleton defines Marxist criticism this way.