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Marxism and Marxist Literary Criticism

Marxist Literary Criticism English Culture and Literature

The fundamental premises of Marxismthe economic systems structure human societieseconomics is the base on which the superstructure of social/political/ ideological realities is builtall human events and productions have specific material/historical causestheoretical ideas can be judged to have value only in terms of their concrete applications

Class System in MarxismThe proletariat Individuals who sell their labour power

The bourgeoisieOwns the means of production" Buys labour power from the proletariat (recompensed by a salary)Exploits the proletariat

The class system in AmericaUnderclass - the homelessLower class the poorMiddle class the financially establishedUpper class the well-to-do Aristocracy the extremely wealthy

Why dont the economically oppressed fight back?struggling just to stay aliveoppressed even more effectively by ideology

The role of ideologyIdeology: a belief system/consciousness and perceptions within a society

Often controlled by the ruling classDetermined according to what is in the ruling class's best interests Confuses the alienated groups Creates false consciousness - real purpose is to promote the interests of those in power The role of ideologyAmerican dream - getting ahead is the belief in competition as a natural or necessary mode of being

Classism - the higher ones social class, the better one is assumed to bePatriotism - keeps poor people fighting wars against poor people from other countriesReligion - the poor, if they remain nonviolent, will find theirreward in heavenRugged individualism - pursuit of a goalConsumerism - can be as good as the wealthy if I can purchaseIdeologies

culture, in this narrower sense, is the primary bearerof ideology

Human behaviour, the commodity, and the familyAlienated labor Capital - values into monetary equivalentRelationship to the commodityCommodificationSign-Exchange valueExchange valueUse valueConspicuous consumptionHuman behaviour, the commodity, and the family

Imperialism Colonies

Marxism focuses on the material/historical that shape thepsychological experience and behaviorMarxism and literaturethe literary work might tend to reinforce in the reader the ideologies it embodies, or it might invite the reader to criticize the ideologies it representsREALISM - the best form for Marxist purposes/clearly and accurately represents the real worldHow to do a Marxist reading: 1. Look for examples of oppression, bad working conditions, class struggles, etc. 2. Search for the covert meaning underneath the overt, which is about class struggle, historical stages, economic conditions, etc.3. Relate the context of a work to the social-class status of the author. 4. Relate the literary work to the social conditions of its time period. 5. Explain an entire genre in terms of its social period. 6. Show how literature is shaped by political, economic, labor, and class conditions.

Marxism and literatureMarxist theory helps us see the ways in which ideology blinds us

Thanks for your struggle of attention!