DEFINITION OF MARXIST CRITICISM Marxist criticism is a type of criticism in which literary works are viewed as the product of work and whose practitioners emphasize the role of class and ideology as they reflect, propagate, and even challenge the prevailing social order. Rather than viewing texts as repositories for hidden meanings, Marxist critics view texts as material products to be understood in broadly historical terms. In short, literary works are viewed as a product of work (and hence of the realm of production and consumption we call economics). Marxism began with Karl Marx, the nineteenth-century German philosopher best known for Das Kapital (1867; Capital), the seminal work of the communist movement. Marx was also the first Marxist literary critic, writing critical essays in the 1830s on such writers as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and William Shakespeare. Even after Marx met Friedrich Engels in 1843 and began collaborating on overtly political works such as The German Ideology (1846) and The Communist Manifesto (1848), he maintained a keen interest in literature. In The German Ideology, Marx and Engels discuss the relationship between the arts, politics, and basic economic reality in terms of a general social theory. Economics, they argue, provides the base, or infrastructure, of society, from which a superstructure consisting of law, politics, philosophy, religion, and art emerges. The revolution anticipated by Marx and Engels did not occur in their century, let alone in their lifetime. When it did occur, in 1917, it did so in a place unimagined by either theorist: Russia, a country long ruled by despotic czars but also enlightened by the works of powerful novelists and playwrights including Anton Chekhov, Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Russia produced revolutionaries like Vladimir Lenin, who shared not only Marx's interest in literature but also his belief in its ultimate importance. Leon Trotsky, Lenin's comrade in revolution, took a strong interest in literary matters as well, publishing Literature and Revolution (1924), which is still viewed as a classic of Marxist literary criticism. Of those critics active in the Soviet Union after the expulsion of Trotsky and the triumph of Stalin, two stand out: Mikhail Bakhtin and Georg Lukács. Bakhtin viewed language—especially literary texts—in terms of discourses and dialogues. A novel written in a society in flux, for instance, might include an official, legitimate discourse, as well as one infiltrated by challenging comments. Lukács, a Hungarian who converted to Marxism in 1919, appreciated pre– revolutionary realistic novels that broadly reflected cultural "totalities" and were populated with characters representing human "types" of the author's place and time. Perhaps because Lukács was the best of the Soviet communists writing Marxist criticism in the 1930s and 1940s, non-Soviet Marxists tended to develop their ideas by publicly opposing his. In Germany, dramatist and critic Bertolt Brecht criticized Lukács for his attempt to enshrine realism at the expense not only of the other "isms" but also of poetry and drama, which Lukács had largely ignored. Walter Benjamin praised new art forms ushered in by the age of mechanical reproduction, and Theodor Adorno attacked Lukács for his dogmatic rejection of nonrealist modern literature and for his elevation of content over form. In addition to opposing Lukács and his overly constrictive canon, non-Soviet Marxists took advantage of insights generated by non-Marxist critical theories being developed in post- World War II Europe. Lucien Goldmann, a Romanian critic living in Paris, combined structuralist principles with Marx’s base superstructure model in order to show how economics determines the mental structures of social groups, which are reflected in literary texts. Goldmann rejected the idea of individual human genius, choosing instead to see works as the "collective" products of "trans-individual" mental structures. French Marxist Louis Althusser drew on the ideas of psychoanalytic theorist Jacques Lacan and the Italian communist Antonio Gramsci, who discussed the relationship between ideology and hegemony, the pervasive system of assumptions and values that shapes the perception of reality for people in a given culture. Althusser’s followers included Pierre Macherey, who in A Theory of Literary Production (1966) developed Althusser’s concept of the relationship between literature and ideology; Terry Eagleton, who proposes an elaborate theory about how history enters texts, which in turn may alter history; and Frederic Jameson, who has argued that form is "but the working out" of content "in the realm of the superstructure." Adapted from The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms by Ross Murfin and Supriya M. Ray. Copyright 1998 by Bedford Books. Marxism Karl Marx (1818-1883) was primarily a theorist and historian (less the evil pinko commie demon that McCarthyism fretted about). After examining social organization in a scientific way (thereby creating a methodology for social science: political science), he perceived human history to have consisted of a series of struggles between classes-- between the oppressed and the oppressing. Whereas Freud saw "sexual energy" to be the motivating factor behind human endeavor and Nabokov seemed to feel artistic impulse was the real factor, Marx thought that "historical materialism" was the ultimate driving force, a notion involving the distribution of resources, gain, production, and such matters. The supposedly "natural" political evolution involved (and would in the future involve) "feudalism" leading to "bourgeois capitalism" leading to "socialism" and finally to "utopian communism." In bourgeois capitalism, the privileged bourgeoisie rely on the proletariat--the labor force responsible for survival. Marx theorized that when profits are not reinvested in the workers but in creating more factories, the workers will grow poorer and poorer until no short-term patching is possible or successful. At a crisis point, revolt will lead to a restructuring of the system. For a political system to be considered communist, the underclasses must own the means of production--not the government nor the police force. Therefore, aside from certain first-century Christian communities and other temporary communes, communism has not yet really existed. (The Soviet Union was actually state-run capitalism.) Marx is known also for saying that "Religion is the opiate of the people," so he was somewhat aware of the problem that Lenin later dwelt on. Lenin was convinced that workers remain largely unaware of their own oppression since they are convinced by the state to be selfless. One might point to many "opiates of the people" under most political systems--diversions that prevent real consideration of trying to change unjust economic conditions. 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 often the quest for wealth traditionally defines characters. So Marxists generally view literature "not as works created in accordance with timeless artistic criteria, but as 'products' of the economic and ideological determinants specific to that era" (Abrams 149). Literature reflects an author's own class or analysis of class relations, however piercing or shallow that analysis may be. The Marxist critic simply is a careful reader or viewer who keeps in mind issues of power and money, and any of the following kinds of questions: What role does class play in the work; what is the author's analysis of class relations? How do characters overcome oppression? In what ways does the work serve as propaganda for the status quo; or does it try to undermine it? What does the work say about oppression; or are social conflicts ignored or blamed elsewhere? Does the work propose some form of utopian vision as a solution to the problems encountered in the work? Marxist Literary Criticism: Brief Guide Along with psychoanalytical, feminist, and cultural criticism, Marxist literary criticism exemplifies what the French philosopher Paul Ricouer terms a "hermeneutics of suspicion." These are approaches that concern themselves not with what the text says but what it hides. As Terry Eagleton, a leading Marxist critic, writes, the task of Marxist literary criticism "is to show the text as it cannot know itself, to manifest those conditions of its making (inscribed in its very letter) about which it is necessarily silent." By its very nature, ideology is silent. Like the water in the aquarium breathed by the fish, ideology is virtually invisible. Its invisibility gives it greater power. Ideology - defined in general as the shared beliefs and values held in an unquestioning manner by a culture - exerts a powerful influence upon a culture. Those who are marginalized in the culture are most aware of the ways in which an ideology supports the dominant class in the society. Those who enjoy the fruits of belonging to a dominant group of the society barely generally are filled with what Marx called "false consciousness." Since it is not in their interest to notice the ways in which an economic structure marginalizes others, they tend to buy into an ideology that supports that structure. Recurrent terms in Marxist literary criticism: Base vs. Superstructure: Base in Marxism refers to economic base. Superstructure, according to Marx and Engels, emerges from this base and consists of law, politics, philosophy, religion, art. Ideology: the shared beliefs and values held in an unquestioning manner by a culture. It governs what that culture deems to be normative and valuable. For Marxists, ideology is determined by economics. A rough approximation: "tell me how much money you have and I'll tell you how you think." Hegemony: coined by the Italian theorist Antonio Gramsci, this "refers to the pervasive system of assumptions, meanings, and values -- the web of ideologies, in other words, that shapes the way things look, what they mean, and therefore what reality is for the majority of people within a given culture" (See glossary in case studies in contemporary criticism book). Reification: often used to describe the way in which people are turned into commodities useful in market exchange. For example, some would argue that the media's obsession with tragedy (e.g.the deaths of Jon Benet Ramsay, Diana, JFK Jr., the murders at Columbine High School in Colorado) make commodities out of grieving people. The media expresses sympathy but economically thrives on these events through ratings boost. What do Marxist literary critics do with texts? They explore ways in which the text reveals ideological oppression of a dominant economic class over subordinate classes. In order to do this a Marxist might ask the following questions: o Does the text reflect or resist a dominant ideology? Does it do both? o Does the main character in a narrative affirm or resist bourgeosie values? o Whose story gets told in the text? Are lower economic groups ignored or devalued? o Are values that support the dominant economic group given privilege? This can happen tacitly, in the way in which values are taken to be self- evident. They look at the conditions of production for the work of art. For example, they ask o What were the economic conditions for publication of a work? o Who was the audience? What does the text suggest about the values of this audience? What other approaches resemble Marxist literary criticism? Marxist literary criticism often shares with feminist criticism a desire to challenge the power structures in contemporary society. For feminist, the issue is a marginalized gender; for Marxists, the issue is not gender but economic power, leading to political power. Marxist literary criticism can also be viewed as a type of cultural criticism, in that it seeks to analyze a discourse (of power) that makes up one of the discourses that determine a text's historical meaning. Marxist Literary Criticism By Allen Brizee For Introduction to Graduate Studies Prof. Hausman Spring 2000 The workers of the world are being oppressed!! Everyday, the capitalist system exploits millions of people. And by participating in this repressive abuse, we in turn, oppress textile workers in southwest Virginia who are now jobless - at the mercy of our capitalist government. By participating in this repressive abuse, we exploit sweat shop workers in third world countries who toil for pennies a day so they can barely survive. Our role in the capitalist system makes us guilty of oppression! The capitalist economic system is designed to keep the upper classes (the rich and the middle class) wealthy, while at the same time the lower classes remain firmly entrenched (trapped) at the bottom of the imbalanced structure. The workers' tragedy is compounded because they are forced to support a system that continually keeps them from improving their condition. We must break free of the capitalist dogma! This is not an easy task; capitalism and its bastard offspring, consumerism, saturate our reality. Our daily lives are soaked with the belief that the American dream is a worthy and healthy goal. But the so- called American dream was built on the broken backs of workers who suffered to fulfill the exploitative schemes of the founding fathers. This misleading dogma pervades our lives: our education teaches us to deify the very people who slaughtered millions of indigenous people to fulfill the odious Manifest Destiny; our religion lulls us into a false stupor of security and indoctrinates us into a repressive, hierarchical state of mind; our literature recreates and celebrates every aspect of the consumer lifestyle; we, in turn, consume this literature and believe its lies! Whew, quite a mouthful! It is difficult for suburban bourgeois (weaned on MTV) to relate to the revolutionary attitude the Marxists (and their rebellious brethren) developed in the early and middle 19th century. Perhaps this is because capitalism has finally won the battle, and we now believe that "everything is ok. Why complain?" But when studying Marxist literary criticism, we must place ourselves in the mindset of the revolutionaries so that we can effectively examine text as they would. Marxism has come a long way since the 1800s, and Marxist critics today certainly take a less dogmatic approach to literature. But at the same time, we cannot disregard the original dogma that sparked the social movement that changed our world. This web site will examine three Marxists: Karl Marx (the father of the workers' movement), Friedrich Engels (Marx's lifelong friend and partner), and Georg Lukacs (one of the "First Disciples," of Marx and Engels). I will attempt to clarify some of the confusing aspects of Marxist criticism, and augment what we have read in Richter, Tyson, and Barry. However, some information on Marxism requires emphasis, and I apologize for any repeated data. While studying Marxist literary criticism one must remember that when Marx and Engels created the foundations of the workers' movement, and wrote the key texts that spread the word, they were more concerned with the actual revolution than with literature. However, Marx and Engels were both intellectuals - so they knew history and they knew art and literature. And of course they could not overlook the important role art and literature play in the development (and support) of a society. Marx and Engels primarily wrote about the approaching revolution, but they also wrote about their philosophy as it relates to literature. They believed that the aristocracy (read Bill Gates) and bourgeois used literature to reinforce and strengthen their position as hegemonic rulers of the world - oppressing the toiling workers! For your further surfing pleasure, I have provided some Internet links to web sites dedicated to Marxism, both its literary and its social issues (Marx would not see a difference between the two, but hey, this is my site, not his!). This web site can be surfed in various ways. Links at the left side of the pages allow you to move around the site at will. Or you can begin on the homepage and work your way through the site by clicking on the chain at the bottom of each page, thereby moving on to the next page in order. First, though, here is a quick history and outline of Marx, Engels and the beginnings of the revolution. (Or, click here to go directly to traditionalist Marxist views on literary criticism.) Karl Marx (1818 - 1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820 - 1895) were both born in the same area in Germany, the Rhine Province. The importance of their upbringing in the Rhineland during this time period speaks for itself: Marx and Engels were heavily influenced by the French Revolution (1789 - 1793). In fact, citizens of the Rhine Province sympathized with, and actually took part in Napoleon's initial victories in Germany. Marx and Engels were also heavily influenced by the Industrial Revolution in England (commonly seen as beginning in 1760 and ending around 1830). The formula of influence here is clear: the oppressed masses threw off the yolk of the Monarchy (the Bourbons and the Orleans - both French dynasties) during the various incarnations of French uprisings only to be re-oppressed by the bourgeois as the Industrial Revolution and Benthamism (or the Manchester school of economics - think Charles Dickens and Hard Times) seized the workers, stripped their rights, and threw them out in the streets, unemployed because of advances in machine production. The time was right for revolution. Marx attended the University of Bonn for a year and then transferred to the University of Berlin, where he began associating with students who shared his revolutionary ideas. While studying law and philosophy in Berlin, Marx was introduced to the writings of Hegel, a monumental step for the young Rhinelander. Soon after, he joined a student club named the Young Hegelians, who, after growing in number and political strength, were forced out of the university system by the Prussian government. Marx's political activism continued, but his studies began to slip. Regardless, Marx submitted his doctoral thesis (a Hegelian analysis of the differences the natural philosophies of Democritus and Epicurus) to the University of Jena. Marx received his degree in 1841. Engels, meanwhile, had served in the Prussian army (1842) and began working at his father's cotton mill in Manchester, England. Engels left England and moved to Paris to begin writing for the revolutionary publication, Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher (German-French Yearbook) in 1844; and it was here that he met Marx. In 1846, Marx and Engels joined the Secret Communist League. In 1848, Marx and Engels wrote Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei (The Communist Manifesto) for the League, which outlines the basic ideas regarding the communist revolution for "working men of all countries." Marx and Engels continued to write and publish various revolutionary newspapers and magazines, two of which are the Neue Rheinische Zeitung (New Rhine Newspaper) (1848 - 1849), and the Politisch-oekonomische Revue (Political Economic Review) (1850). Engels was also involved in various communist uprisings in Elberfeld, the Palatinate and Baden. Ironically, after these revolts were violently suppressed, Engels returned to Manchester in 1850 to work for his father's cotton mill. Though now a part of the industrial machine, Engels continued to support the revolution by assisting international workers' organizations and publishing many books on the plight of the oppressed proletariat (these books are listed on his page). After the German revolts were put down, Marx was expelled from Prussia, France, and Brussels, and so fled to England with his family where he continued his work for the revolution by forming the International Working Men's Association. Marx also contributed to the New York Tribune while assimilating vast amounts of information in the British Museum on political economy. In 1867, Marx published his monumental Das Kapital (Capital: A Critique of Political Economy), Volume I). Capital examines the struggle of the working class throughout history using vigorous scientific approaches (other works by Marx are listed on his page). Engels financially supported his ailing friend until Marxís death on March 14, 1883. After Marx's death, Engels wrote numerous pieces defending Marxism while also moving slowly away from Marxís dogmatic approach to the struggle and to literature. Details of this ideological drift can be found on the Engels page. Engels died on August 5, 1895. Influences Karl Marx loved the Greek classics (art and mythology), Shakespeare (specifically, Timon of Athens), and the German philosopher, Hegel. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770 - 1831) was the primary philosophical influence of Marx's age. Hegel was offered the position of chair of philosophy at the University of Berlin in 1818. Hegel is best known for "offering a metaphysico-religious view of "Absolute Spirit," which draws on pantheistic ideas of the identity of the universe and God, together with theistic ideas concerning the necessary "self-consciousness" of God. The peculiarity of Hegel's view, on this account, lies in his idea that the mind of God is actual only via the minds of his creations, which serve as its vehicle. It is as bearers of this developing self-consciousness of God that those finitely-embodied inhabitants of the universe - ourselves - can be such "finite-infinites'" (Stanford). Richter states that "like his teacher, Hegel, Marx believed that historical transformations occur through a dialectic of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, whereby each historical force calls into being its Other so that the two opposites negate each other and ultimately give rise to a third force, which transcends this opposition" (385). However, Marx disagreed with Hegel on some key issues, which essentially gave birth to Marx's economic determinism. Marx did not believe that spiritual contradictions led to historical changes; rather, Marx believed that economic contradictions led to historic change and conflict. The online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states "Marxists were thought of as taking the historical dynamics of the Hegelian picture but understanding this in materialist rather than idealist categories." Richter adds some insight to this by stating "Marx posited that major historical changes occur not as a result of spiritual contradictions, as Hegel had thought, but because of economic ones. It is in this sense that, as the cliché puts it Marx stood Hegel on his head" (Richter 386). So what does all this have to do with literature? Hegel believed that "art is an aspect of religion (and vice versa) rather than a separate spiritual mode, and the collective expression of a society rather than of an individual voice" (Richter 359). Contrary to this belief, Marx felt that a societyís economic structure (and the dominant socioeconomic class of that structure) determined the creation of art and literature. This belief evolved into what Marx called economic determinism. Marxist Essentials The following section highlights the basics of traditional Marxism: Alienation: Primarily, Marx believed that the "getting and keeping [of] economic power is the motive behind all social and political activities, including education, philosophy, religion, government, the arts, science, technology, the media, and so on" (Tyson 50). And because of this, the workers become, at the most basic level, alienated. In his book, Marx, Engels and the Poets, Peter Demetz states "the laboring man [according to Marx] is subject to a triple alienation: first, he alienates himself into the object he produces, which glares at him coldly...; second, he alienates himself through the act of production itself, for labor "belongs only externally to the worker, "and he alienates himself from the human race, for whatever advantage he has over the animals as a conscious producer becomes a degrading handicap" (62). This oppression, and the alienation it causes, transcends all levels of our lives, including literature. Religion: Marx took Hegel's theory of religion (that "religion was revealed as the fatal self-projection of mankind, for mankind though its concept of God had alienated itself from its own essence" (Demetz 59)) even further saying that religion, and its institutions, were merely puppets of the upper classes, and that religion was used to keep the lower classes in line by promising them a better life in heaven if they accepted the hierarchical, oppressive economic paradigm in this life. The commonly used phrase "religion is the opiate of the masses" derives from this ideology. False Consciousness: Another key idea to Marxists is false consciousness. False consciousness basically means that "an ideal functions to mask its own failure...in the case of the American dream, then, the question for Marxist analysis is, "How does the American dream enlist the support of all Americans, even those who fail to achieve it, in promoting the interests of those is power?" (Tyson 55). Capitalism: Essentially, capitalism, by its very nature, is designed to oppress the lower classes. Politics, religion, education, law, and culture exist in the Superstructure, which sits on top of the Base (a line designating, essentially, the poverty line). The elite (the aristocrats and bourgeois) of the society exist above the Base; the Proletariat exist at or below the Base. The elite posses surplus capital. The elite can re-invest this surplus to obtain more capital. The lower classes are not able to reinvest any capital because they use ALL their capital to survive. The Superstructure rests upon, but also reinforces, this exploitative system of economics. Capitalism develops a system in which the vast majority of people do not benefit from the profits of labor. The revolution in Europe began to take shape as soon as the cottage industries began falling victim to feudal lords, and then to the rising bourgeois (or merchant class) in the cities in the mid 1300s. European workers began their struggle with the capitalist system when the value of their products was no longer self- determined, but determined by the elite and the merchants. In turn, the workers' only commodity became their labor, a commodity that was all to often cheaply bought. Labor was again undermined when the Industrial Revolution displaced workers whose jobs were now accomplished by a machine. Economic Determinism: Economic determinism is another important theory Marx developed. Essentially, the theory of economic determinism states that since capitalism is based on private ownership, this implies that the minimum amount of property someone could own is ZERO. The maximum amount of property someone could own is EVERYTHING; there are no limits. Also, assuming that humans need a certain amount of capital to live (food, shelter, clothing), unless you fall into the category that owns everything, you have a good change of not having enough capital to survive. Therefore, the oppressive, capitalist system permiates every aspect of your life; it controls you, and creates conflict at every level. You are either oppressed, or an oppresser. This, in turn, will undeniably influence your creativity; in fact, your creativity is a result of the conflict this system creates. Classism and Commodification: Also important to remember are classism and commodification. Basically, classism is "an ideology that equates one's value as a human being with the social class to which one belongs: the higher oneís social class, the better one is assumed to be because quality is 'in the blood,' that is, inborn" (Tyson 55). Commodification "is the act of relating to objects or persons in term of their exchange value or sign-exchange value" (Tyson 59). People commodify when they buy expensive cars so they can impress people while driving around the drill field with their stereos booming. These then are some features of Marxism we should keep in mind when reading literature as a proletariat. So letís put on our green overalls and black ski cap and get to WORK! Marx and Literature Up to this point, we have been discussing the basics of Marxism as it applies to society: how the structure of society reflects the upper classes repressing the workers. But how does Marxism work in literature? First, letís examine Marxís view of the birth of the novel. The Birth of the Novel: History, to Marx, is the continuing struggle of the oppressed lower classes attempting to free themselves from the bonds of tyranny and assert their self-determined future in an equal society. With this as a given, we could travel as far back in history as records would allow to begin this section. However, that would be a daunting effort. Let us begin then with the struggle to throw off feudalism. In his book, Marxism, Ideology and Literature, Cliff Slaughter states "the flowering individualism [which began the downfall of feudalism]...was characterized by Marx as a 'historically justified'...because it reflected the contemporary necessity of progress...to overthrow the feudal order. While it was true that the individuals who carried through this struggle, and their descendants, must be differentiated into exploiters [bourgeois] and exploited [peasants], individuals had to be freed from feudal ties if modern industry and the modern proletariat, the prerequisites of a social revolution which could end class society and provide the material conditions for true individual liberty, were to be created" (9). In other words, the first step toward true freedom in Europe came when the lower classes overthrew feudalism; however, the emerging bourgeois also had much to do with this revolutionary process. This new social class used the novel to support and maintain their dominance. Slaughter continues by stating "[Marx asked] is not the novel form then a spontaneous literary reflection of the appearance of capitalist life...the product of the aggregate of self-interested individual actions?" (12). Whereas the epic represents what Marx called the 'natural conflict' and tragedies reflect characters "confronting the awesome necessity of the break from the limitations of gentile society and its kinship-bound solidarity," novels "[are] a product of the men thrown into struggle by the specific contradictions of the given social formation. In their literature and art men do not produce some mysteriously congruent copy of the social structure; rather they express the content of the fundamental struggle with nature and with their own nature which that society, at its particular stage of development, carries forward or inhibits, or does both at the same time" (Slaughter 23). In other words, novels represent the universe centered on the hero and that characterís struggle "inner turmoil...against the break-up of the normality of relations between the individual and his world," caused by the capitalist system as shown in the explanation of alienation above. Given this level of alienation, Marx believed that people viewed themselves in one of the following four categories "(1) a romantic-reactionary yearning for some lost idyllic, organic past order, (2) disillusion, pessimism and despair or impatience, indiscriminate rage and violence, (3) a philosophical resignation to what is taken to be 'the human condition,' or (4) a confused combination of or oscillation between any of these; alternatively, they may seek, against these moods, a revolutionary theory and practice to overturn the existing social order" (Slaughter 11). So what does Marxism consider to be good contemporary literature? Since the novel is merely a reflection of bourgeois ideals, and so supports capitalism, "serious literature rejects the bourgeois formula for freedom, and the hostility of capitalism and commercialism" (Slaughter 14). In a sense, realism, and its view of the world as it 'really' occurs, plays into this formula. But one walks a thin line here, because true literature to Marx would not realistically reflect, say my life, because I live in, and support a capitalist society. A Marxist story would run along these lines: Keep in mind that I am not the main character! Coming from the middle-class suburbs, I am ignorant of the class struggle. While at Tech, I volunteer at a soup kitchen for the unemployed textile workers in the area. The main character is rallying the group into a communist organization. They are planning a revolution. Finally, seeing their plight, and the misery of the workers as they fall victim to the capitalist system, I join their ranks. However, I never really quite fit in because of my bourgeois upbringing. In the end, I am killed by the police (thus representing the death of the bourgeois system) as the workers march on Richmond to overthrow the state legislature. Marxist Criticism: I will not spend an exorbitant amount of time on this section because these web sites are meant to augment what we read in our texts. A relatively good explanation of Marxist criticism can be found in Tyson, Barry, and Richter. However, to give you a better sense of what Marxist criticism would do with a piece of literature, I have included a link to a Marxist critique of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales I just wrote for my Canterbury Tales course with Dr. Tony Colaianne. The basic premise of the paper is that the Three Estates system (from the feudal era) is thrown into turmoil as the bourgeois becomes more and more powerful. Upon first reading The Canterbury Tales one might think that it is a critique of the classist system in which Chaucer lived. However, upon closer examination, it is obvious that Chaucer is not critiquing the dominant social paradigm; rather Chaucer is setting the stage for the ascension of his own social class, the bourgeois or merchant class, into the Estates system by questioning the accepted societal order. Chaucer does not advocate an overthrow of the system because that would jeopardize his own class; rather, Chaucer wants people to question the Three Estates system, with all its oppressive ideology, only enough to allow for change. This change is the establishment of a Fourth Estate: the bourgeois. A good explanation of the paper can be obtained from the introduction section. Chaucer's Bourgeois Message in the Canterbury Tales. Many critics of Marxism claim that because of its Hegelian roots (rather dogmatic and rigid in structure), Marxism is itself too dogmatic and rigid. The Viennese critic Hermann Bahr said that Marxism was "from a critical method for ordering experience into a dogmatic axiom as a substitute for experience..." and that its methodology reminded him of a "tin vending machine." Bahr stated "as soon as one deposits the shabbiest ten-penny question in the top, unfailingly a long chapter of Marxist wisdom comes out at the bottom; a first- rate, reliable mechanism that never fails" (Demetz 141). To this end, as Friedrich Engels continued to study the class struggle and write about socioeconomic issues, he developed a more flexible, a more complex approach to Marxism. Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) Friedrich Engels is often eclipsed by the monumental figure of Karl Marx. Also, Engels is often perceived as possessing the same views on class struggle, as well as sharing Marx's views on aesthetics and literary criticism - this in not the case. In Marx Engels and the Poets, Peter Demetz states "Marx and Engels are not identical twins...but rather distinct personalities of a unique stamp; their literary tastes exhibit nuances just as important as those of their theoretical formulations" (116). The most dramatic difference between Engels and Marx regarding literary criticism is that "Engels never even remotely suggested that he regarded realism as the only fruitful method of art; even less did it occur to [Engels] to proclaim realism as the only permissible mode of proletarian literature" (Demetz 128). Essentially, Engels grew far less dogmatic in his approach to literature after Marxís death. Nowhere is this more obvious than in his correspondence with Marxist writers in the early 1900s - one such example I will use here to show how Engels views a text according to the more dogmatic approach to Marxism. Margret Harkness, an acquaintance of Engels, wrote a novel called A City Girl (1887) in which a poor working class woman from London falls in love with a janitor. She, however, falls victim to the selfish advances of a rich suitor and becomes pregnant. With the help of the English Salvation Army, she survives the ill-fated delivery of her child (who dies) and is reunited with her true love, the janitor. Miss Harkness asked Engels to review her book, which she claimed was "A Realistic Story." Engels praised Miss. Harkness for her subject matter; however, he points out that "the working class figures as a passive mass, unable to help itself and not even making any attempt at striving to help itself...[is] not quite realistic enough...all attempts to drag it [the proletariats] out of its torpid misery come from without, from above (the English Salvation Army)" (Demetz 132). Later in his life, however, Engels moves away from this dogmatic approach: "Engels warns the younger generation not to confuse the ideas of his deceased friend, to whom he ascribes in retrospect a rather tolerant sensibility, with the rigid dogmatism of Hegelian philosophy. Marx's theories, Engels stresses, are to be used merely as a 'guide to study,' by no means as a crude 'lever' for ideological construction out of touch with historical and social realities...the younger generation must begin anew to study individual phenomena in their characteristic elements: 'All history must be studied anew...the conditions of existence in the various forms of society must be investigated individually before one attempts to derive from them the political, legal, aesthetic, philosophical, religious and so on, ways of viewing things that correspond to them'" (Demetz 140). In other words, Engels is saying that materialism may not be the monumental and only factor that Marx thought it was. Engels was more flexible in his approach: "[the] materialistic method turns into its opposite when it is not used as a guide to historical study but rather as a prefabricated pattern according to which one adjusts the historical facts" (Demetz 141). In fact, Engels goes on to outline a new superstructure we must consider when approaching society or literature: "(1) primary political forms, such as the class struggle; (2) secondary elements, such as legal forms; (3) 'the reflexes' of the conflict 'in the minds of those taking part in it'; and finally (4) the 'further development of these reflexes to complete systems of dogma.' In contrast to Marx, Engels thus unfolds in the intellectual superstructure a finely organized system of differentiated spheres" (Demetz 145). Engels continued to revise this superstructure to the point of even questioning economic determinism. As Engels developed his Marxist ideology, he felt that "economic impulses are incapable of creating new intellectual phenomena; they are merely able to determine changes and continuations of intellectual traditions. This reduction of the economic aspect is supported by Engels' new conception of reality as a richly complex cosmos of differentiated spheres of an intellectual and economic kind, in which complexity triumphs once more over the linear differentiation of matter and intellect" (Demetz 145-6). To Engels, these spheres exist more autonomously than Marx would have thought. Until his death in 1895, Engels continued to revise and develop Marxism, while at the same time, defending Marx's approach to society and literature as a base, a crticial touchstone. This evolving pattern of Marxism leads nicely into the next Marxist critic, Georg Lukacs, one of the "first disciples" of Marx and Engels. Georg Lukacs (1885-1971) I will forgo any biographical information on Lukacs as Richter provides adequate information on the critic's life. Lukacs primarily wrote against the literary quality of modernism using two essentially Marxist strategies: that a mere reflection of the world around us does not accurately represent reality, and that inner contradictions caused by class struggle (rather than anything else) cause the development of history. As reflected by his essay, The Ideology of Modernism, Georg Lukacs "reject[s] the 'naturalism' of the...recent European novel, he returns to the old realist view that the novel reflects reality, not by rendering its mere surface appearance, but by giving us 'a truer, more complete, more vivid and more dynamic reflection of reality...[that] the literary work reflects not individual phenomena in isolation, but ëthe full process of life.' However, the reader is always aware that the work is not itself reality but rather is 'a special form of reflecting reality'...a 'correct' reflection of reality, therefore...involves more than the mere rendering of external appearances" (Selden 76). In other words, Lukacs "rejects such merely 'photographic' representation (76). Lukacs also works off of the theory in Marxism (rooted in Hegelian ideology) that states, "development in history is nor random or chaotic, not is it a straightforward linear progression, but rather a dialectic development. In every social organization, the prevailing mode of production gives rise to inner contradictions which are expressed in class struggle" (Selden 77). I have attempted to break down Lukacs' essay, The Ideology of Modernism, into an outline that, to me, seems a littler easier to digest. All the quotations are from The Ideology of Modernism in Richter. Modernism is not the enrichment, but the negation of art" because, 1. "Exaggerated concern with formal criteria, with style and literary technique" are proliferated by the bourgeois modernist critics. These elements DO NOT differentiate modern literature from traditional literature (and its oppressive ideologies) because, 2. Of the "static and sensual" nature of the modernist novel. The novel reveals the realized intention of the work, not the "writer's conscious intention." In other words, regardless of what the author was trying to do, the modernist novel, in its form and content, reveals its bourgeois roots by, 3. Attempting to posit a solitariness as a human condition, rather than a condition of any social influence or historical exploitation (or alienation caused by those elements). Also, 4. That retreat into any form of psychopathology is an inaccurate and particularly bourgeois example (that leads to no solution) of man's alienation (counter to the Marxist view that the solution to alienation is not nothingness, but revolutionary action). Also, Lukacs believed Freud was mistaken by "believ[ing] he had found the key to the understanding of the normal personality in the psychology of the abnormal" (hmm, sound familiar?). Also, 5. That modernist angst itself was a particularly bourgeois ailment. And, 6. "Modern allegory and modernist ideology...deny the typical (proletariat) [perspective]. And finally, 7. That modernist "atheistic bourgeois intelligentsia,"...is not typical and its approach is off target because "modern atheism is characterized...by the fact that unbelief has lost its revolutionary élan [and that] religious atheism shows that the desire for salvation lives on worshipping the voice created by godís absence...if there is a God here, it can only be the God of religious atheism." In other words, the NEED for God has not been relinquished; the opiate of the masses still has a major influence even in its absence (unlike Marxism that posits that when society is truly free and equal, the need for religion, and its exploitative structure, will disappear). My hope is that this outline helps clarify Marxist literary criticism as seen by Lukacs. I will now briefly present an overview of Lukacs' theories as they developed during his life. In the beginning of his philosophic studies, Lukacs was heavily influenced by Neo-Kantianism. However, like Marx and Engels, Lukacs "turned to Hegel for a more total view of human life" (Demetz 200). Because of his political obligations, Lukacs spent many years away from philosophy and literary criticism. These hiatuses are marked by three distinct periods: The Heidelberg Period, The Doctrinaire Period, and The Octogenarian Period. The Heidelberg Period: This period of Lukacs' life is marked by his belief that "the theory of any genre coincides with its history, which in true German fashion, he believes begins with the inimitable art of Greece. At this point, Lukacs feels that "the novel, as a late product of the mind, seems more liable to degradation than any other genre…it is not the writer's craftsmanship that is ultimately decisive but the philosophical basis of the work" (Demetz 203). Like Hegel (and German idealism), Lukacs also believed that "the individual…symbolically represents and incarnates an important moment in the philosophy of history and receives an ontological blessing from a power far beyond individuality…Lukacs has touched upon the question of the representative type that will turn into one of the central issues of his middle period" (204). Next, we move on to The Doctrinaire Period. The Doctrinaire Period: This stage is called the Doctrinaire Period because Lukacs' philosophy evolved into a more hardline, traditional Marxist ideology. Lukacs' theories, however, were also heavily influenced by his joining the Hungarian Communist Party in 1918, and falling under the control of Stalin, who was a strict Leninist: "Lukacs bases the literary norm of his doctrinaire period on a crude motif from Lenin's epistemology. Like Lenin in his conflict with the philosopher Ernst Mach, Lukacs insists upon a fundamental dualism of objective, real, external, and internal world that together form a unified and knowable universe" (Demetz 207). He also developed arguments against "naturalism" and "formalism:" "naturalism is blind because it lacks intellectual form; formalism is empty because it lacks material appeal to the senses" (Demetz 208). Lukacs undergoes some dramatic changes in this dogmatic approach to literature during his final stage: The Octogenarian Period. The Octogenarian Period: The Octogenarian Period is marked by more flexible approaches to literature. This change reflected personal reflection following Stalin's death and the ascension of Krushchev to the head of Soviet Russia (Demetz 217). For example, Lukas published Realism in Our Times in 1958 in order to "retain traditional realism as the most productive middle course between the aberrations of 'naturalism' and the degeneration of socialist realism into the schematic propaganda literature [of Soviet]…henchmen" (217). Trying to coalesce radical members of the revolution and more traditional party members, Lukacs "stresses the unifying elements of intellectual tradition than its contradictions, and tends to by-pass Hegel and Marx in the quest for an unexpected and belated alliance with Aristotle" (219). This attempt was less than successful as Demetz states: "unfortunately, Lukacs often continue[d] to judge many works of art on the basis of their author's theories and dulls his sensitivity to the possibility that the work may contradict theoretical intent" (226). Lukacs died in 1971. Lukacs states "It is necessary, in considering the Marxist view of literature, to make a critical appraisal of the developments of the theory and practice of Marxism itself, within which views of literature having evolved" (Slaughter 6). Lukacs "refused to recognize the literary possibilities of modernist writings. Because he thought the content of modernism was reactionary, he treated modernist form as equally unacceptable" (Selden 77). Bahr, Ehrhard, and Ruth G. Kunzer. Georg Lukacs. New York: Frederick Unger 1972. Barry, Peter. Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1995. Bennett, Tony. Outside Literature. London: Routledge, 1990. Demetz, Peter. Marx, Engels, and the Poets: Origins of Marxist Literary Criticism. Chicago: Chicago UP, 1967. Feenberg, Andrew. Lukacs, Marx and the Sources of Critical Theory. New Jersey: Rowman and Littlefield, 1981. Jameson, Frederic. Marxism and Form. New Jersey: Princeton UP, 1971. Richter, David. The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Boston: Bedford, 1998. Selden, Raman, and Peter Widdowson. A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory. 3rd ed. Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 1993. Slaughter, Cliff. Marxism, Ideology and Literature. London: Macmillan, 1980. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/contents.html Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today. New York: Garland, 1999.
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