marxist literary criticism

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Mariano Marcos State UniversityCOLLEGE OF TEACHER EDUCATIONLaoag City

LIT 106: Literary Criticism

MARXISM

Hi I am CAPTAIN BARBELL. I usually help people in distress. I give solutions to your problems. I am so happy that I am here today at the Sunshine City of Laoag! Lets meet my first client.

HelloMy name is Nicholas, NICK in short. Captain Barbell, I have a problem about learning this literary approach called MARXISM. Can you help me with this?

Sure! Did you hear it? Nick needs our help. So let us try to help him! Come on. Lets do it.

General Description

So, let us begin helping Nick. But before delving deeper, let us first define the term? What is Marxism? Let us consult my HEAVY-DUTY BARBELL!

Marxist literary criticism is the belief that literature reflects class struggle and materialism. It looks at how literature functions in relation to other aspects of the superstructure, particularly other articulations of ideology.

Like feminist critics, it investigates how literature can work as a force for social change, or as a reaffirmation of existing conditions.

Like New Historicism, it examines how history influences literature; the difference is that Marxism focuses on the lower classes.

Sources of the Trend

We also need to meet the brains behind this literary approach. Here, I only included the top five proponents.

Karl Marx1

If anything is certain, it is that I myself am not a Marxist.Reported by Friedrich EngelsLetter to Eduard Bernstein

He was a 19th century German philosopher that became a part of the Young Hegelians, and later, the Communist League. He was revered as one of the most influential socialist thinkers of the 19th century.

WORKS: The German Ideology (1845): introduced the concept of dialectical materialism (argued that the means of production controls a societys institutions and beliefs, and contended that history is progressing toward the eventual triumph of communism) Communist Manifesto (1848): identified class struggle as the driving force behind history and anticipated that it would lead to a revolution in which the workers would overturn the capitalists, take control of economic production, and abolish private property by turning it over to the government to distribute fairly Das Kapital (1867): argued that history is determined by economic conditions and urged an end to private ownership of public utilities, transportation, and the means of production

CORE MARXIST PRINCIPLES: Proletariat. Lower class Bourgeoisie. Upper class Capital. Means of gaining profit Hegemony. Upper class dominates the lower class False consciousness. Lower class doesnt realize the effect that the upper class has on them.

2Friedrich Engels

He shared Marxs socialist beliefs and provided support financially as well as intellectually while Marx developed his theories.

WORKS: The Condition of the Working Class in England (1844): argues that the Industrial Revolution made workers worse off. Co-authored The Communist Manifesto (1848)

3Georg Lukcs

He was a literary theorist and philosopher who was widely viewed as one of the founders of Western Marxism.

CONTRIBUTION:Reflectionism or Vulgar Marxism Believed that the text will reflect the society that has produced it Stressed that historical approach is different to reflectionism Reflectionists attribute the separation that they discover to the ills of capitalism.

4Louis Althusser

He was commonly referred to as a structural Marxist.

CONTRIBUTION: Interpellation Argued that literature and art affect the society Believed that the working class is manipulated to accept the ideology of the dominant one

5Antonio Gramsci

He was a leading Italian Marxist theoretician and politician.

CONTRIBUTION: Developed the theory of cultural hegemony, to explain why the "inevitable" revolution of the proletariat predicted by orthodox Marxism had not occurred by the early 20th century.

Trivia Corner

Did you know that? The principles of Marxism were not designed to serve as a theory about how to interpret texts. Instead, they were meant to be a set of social, economic, and political ideas that would, according to their followers, change the world.

Definition of Terms

BaseThe methods of production in a given society

BourgeoisieThe name given by Marx to the owners of the means of production in a society

CapitalismAneconomic systemthat is based onprivate ownershipof themeans of productionand the creation of goods or services forprofit

HegemonyControl or dominating influence by one person or group, especially by one political group over society or one nation over others

IdeologyA belief system

ProletariatThe name given by Marx to the workers of the society

Socialisma political theory or system in which the means of production and distribution are controlled by the people and operated according to equity and fairness rather than market principles

SuperstructureThe social, political, and ideological systems and institutions for example, the values, art, and legal processes of a society that are generated by the base

Table of General Precepts and Underpinnings about Marxism

We already helped Nick on some of his problems. But I believe we should teach him now the principles under Marxism. This will be a comprehensive view for him to better understand the said literary approach.

Thats right Captain Barbell. So please help me read this table. Come on! Lets delve deeper in the world of Marxism.

General PreceptsUnderpinnings of the General Precept

Marxist literary criticism promotes the idea that literature should be a tool in the revolutionary struggle.

It attempts to clarify the relationship of literary work to social reality.

It judges literature by how it represents the main struggles for power going on that time, how it may influence those struggles.

It should follow rules laid down by literary tradition. In Communist Manifesto (1848), Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels identified class struggle as the driving force behind history and anticipated that it would lead to a revolution in which the workers would overturn the capitalists, take control of economic production, and abolish property by turning it over to the government to distribute fairly.

Louis Althusser pointed out that there remains a possibility that the working class will develop its own culture, which can lead to revolution and the establishment of a new hegemony, or power base. This idea is referred to as production theory.

The concept of dialectical materialism argued that the means of production controls a societys institutions and beliefs, and contended that history is progressing toward the eventual triumph of communism.

Georg Lucks viewed the text as a reflection to the society that has produced it. This is also known as reflectionism.

Marxist reflection theory advocates that readers who recognize the influence of capitalistic classes on human behavior and the perpetuation of injustice and inequality should propose workable solutions.

Luckss Vulgar Marxism seeks to determine the nature of a given society, to find a truer, more concrete insight into reality and look for the full process of life.

Althussers Interpellation stated that the working class is manipulated to accept the ideology of the dominant one.

Frederick Jameson stressed on the political unconscious, the exploitation and oppression buried in a work. The critic, according to Jameson, seeks to uncover those buried forces and bring them to light.

To write well is more than a matter of style; it also means having at ones disposal an ideological perspective which can penetrate to the realities of mens experience in a certain situation.

In Joseph Conrads Nostromo, the pessimistic view is rather a unique transformation into art of an ideological pessimism rife in his perioda sense of history as futile and cyclical, of individuals as impenetrable and solitary, of human values as relativistic and irrational, which marks a drastic crisis in the ideology of the Western bourgeois class to which Conrad allied himself.

To explain any social or political context, any event or product, it is necessary to first understand the material and historical circumstance in which they occur.

Marxism is the basis of a system of thought that sees inequitable relationships as the source of class conflict.

Literary works are forms of perception, particular ways of seeing the world which is the social mentality or ideology of an age.

For Antonio Gramsci, literature is a tool of the privileged class.

Joseph Stalin stressed that literature should promote Socialism.

Writers and critics alike began to use Marxist interpretations and evaluations of society in their work. Through this, it became interestingly important to ask how a given text contributed to the solution of social problems based on Marxist principles

Marx described his own works in a letter to Engels as forming an artistic whole, and was scrupulously sensitive to questions of literary style.

Marxist criticism is not merely a sociology of literature concerned with how novels get published and whether they mention the working class. It should be sensitive to forms, styles and meanings.

Anatomy of Marxist Literary Criticism

CONTENTShould be portrayed as being oppressive to most peopleELEMENTFollows the rules laid down by literary tradition

WORK

WRITEROn the side of the oppressedREADEREnlightened about the relationship of the powerful few to the powerless many

Guide Q

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