Literature – the art of the word, the art which is closest to thought – is distinguished from other forms of art by the greater significance of content as compared with form. The best critic is one who can look on the writer with admiration and enthusiasm, and who, at any rate, is well disposed towards him. Marxist critics should identifythe ideology of the work and point out its worth and deficiencies. Where are we then left? Theodor Adorno, “Why Philosophy?” in The Adorno Reader, edited by Brian O’Connor (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000) 53. Translator: Y. Ganuskin; In our constructive effort there must be as little malice as possible. In a general analysis of an epoch, for example, the Marxist critic must strive to give a complete picture of the entire social development of that epoch. But, as mentioned above, the criterion of universality must be treated with great care. The utopia which is supposed to go hand-in-hand with reification is divided spatially, with utopia being displaced from the West to the rest. We must vehemently reject such protests. Yet it is, in fact, precisely as a result of co-operation between important writers and gifted literary critics that truly great literature has always arisen and will continue to arise. Inadequacies of this kind cannot fail to be noticed. We once again emphasise, therefore, the exceptional demands which the epoch is making on the Marxist critic. In this sense, the critic has every right to speak about the inadequacy of the literary digestion of the content by the author if this content, instead of flowing freely in the work of art in images of brilliant molten metal, sticks out of this stream in large, cold lumps. By and large, the Marxist critic, without falling into cheerful indulgence, which would be very wrong on his part, must be a priori benevolent. Admittedly, sometimes biting sarcasm and tirades are torn out of the critic’s heart. Such a building is unthinkable without an objective evaluation of the facts. In trying to teach the writer usefully, the Marxist critic must also teach the reader. There are, it seems to me, three primary forms or modes of intervention that Marxist literary criticism has taken, especially since the 1920s, begin ning with the early work of Adorno, Benjamin, Bloch, Lukács, and others. Generally, when there are not many arguments but a multitude of various scathing remarks, comparison, mocking exclamations, and sly questions, then the impression may be gay but not at all serious. It should, however, be noted that we have gone too far the other way, our writers concentrating their attention on an easier task – writing, for a cultured circle of readers at a time when, I repeat, literature for the good of the workers and peasants, provided it is talented and successful literature, must be especially valued. Firstly, in such cases we do not as yet have any true criteria; secondly, hypotheses may be of value here – the most daring hypotheses – for we are concerned not with a final solution to the problems, but with posing the problems and analysing them. Glorious is the writer who can express a complex and valuable social idea with such powerful artistic simplicity that he reaches the hearts of millions. This is an ongoing process; the three approaches to literature or culture that I described above continue to describe much of what is done under the name of Marxism. To a large degree, literary criticism has absorbed Marxism’s methodological pointers and grasps the implications of its larger critique of literary institutions, even if it hasn’t acted on them (here, the institutional instinct for self-preservation kicks in). Marx viewed history as a series of struggles between … There are numerous modes of Marxist criticism related to one another through a theoretical family resemblance and perhaps a shared, general political outlook. In Marxism and Literature, Williams remarks that “‘Marxist criticism’ and ‘Marxist literary studies’ have been most successful … when they have worked with the received category of ‘litera ture’, which they may have extended or even revalued, but never radically questioned or opposed.”3 Adorno on Mann, Lukács on Scott, Jameson on Gissing, Schwarz on Brás Cubas: each of these analyses might introduce new … Most Marxist critics, who were writing in what could chronologically be specified as the early period of Marxist literary criticism, subscribed to what has come to be called "Vulgar Marxism." Based on the socialist and dialectical theories of Karl Marx, Marxist criticism views literary works as reflections of the social institutions out of which they are born. Marxism shifts towards philosophy, and becomes an “ever increasing academic emplacement”; its central focus is on culture and aesthetics, particularly of the bourgeois kind; and it becomes “Western,” which is to say, “utterly provincial and unin formed about the theoretical cultures of neighbouring countries.”16 For Anderson, this strain of Marxism is also characterized by a consistent pessimism as it develops “new themes absent from classical Marxism — mostly in a speculative manner.”17 “Where the founder of historical materialism moved progressively from philosophy to politics and then economics,” Anderson writes, “the successors of the tradition that emerged after 1920 turned back from economics and politics to philosophy.”18. Based on the theories of Karl Marx (and so influenced by philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel), this school concerns itself with class differences, economic and otherwise, as well as the implications and complications of the capitalist system: "Marxism attempts to reveal the ways in which our socioeconomic system is the ultimate source of our experience" (Tyson 277). They also cause hostile literary emanations to appear side by side with proletarian and kindred literature, however, and by this I mean the only consciously and specifically hostile elements, but also unconsciously hostile elements – hostile in their passivity, pessimism, individualism, prejudices, distortions, etc. The form of a given work is in fact determined not merely by its content but also by other elements. All forms of reticence, of isolation, all forms intended for a small circle of specialised aesthetes, every artistic convention and refinement should be rejected by Marxist criticism. If the first mode of Marxist criticism introduces more complex forms of literary analysis into existing forms of criticism, the second aims to shatter the self-certainties of literary analysis by insisting on the ways in which culture and power are necessarily bound together, perhaps especially so in the constitution of literary criticism as a practice. These points are, of course, directed at Marxist criticism in general and not just at Marxist literary critics, who were in relatively short supply before Lukács (despite Plekhanov and Lenin and Trotsky’s writings on art and literature). But this can often be explained by the pedantic way in which such help is offered. Although our country has much less of a contrast between individual classes than any other, it is still, nonetheless, impossible to consider it entirely classless. “Culture for Marxism is at once absolutely vital and distinctly secondary: the place where power is crystallized and submission bred, but also somehow ‘superstructural’, something which in its more narrow sense of specialized artistic institutions can only be fashioned out of a certain economic surplus and division of labour, and which even in its more generous anthropological sense of a ‘form of life’ risks papering over certain important conflicts and distinctions.”7 This tension lies at the heart of most forms of Marxist criticism that deal with culture as opposed to economics, politics, or the social. Marxist criticism flourished outside the official line in various European countries. The Marxist critic must not prize only works which are devoted to the problems of the moment. To a certain extent, however, all this refers likewise to literary works of purely topical interest. We are in the sphere of a struggle of ideas. By this is meant not only specific Marxist training but also specific talent, without which there can be no criticism. How, then, do we relate these approaches to literature and its potential end(s)? It is a well-known fact that the most abstract of scientific problems can, when solved, sometimes turn out to be the most fruitful. Sometimes a distinction is made between the tasks of a literary critic and those of a literary historian; this distinction is based not so much on an analysis of the past and present, as, for the literary historian, on an objective analysis of the origins of the work, its place in the social fabric and its influence on social life; whereas for the literary critic, it is based on an evaluation of the work from the point of view of its purely formal or social merits and faults. Without denying the special importance of current problems it is completely impossible to ignore the tremendous significance of issues which at first sight appear too general and remote but which, in fact, on closer inspection, do exert an influence on social life. But of course on should not deny the value of the works which are not sufficiently intelligible for every literate person, which are addressed to the upper stratum of the proletariat, to the sophisticated Party members, to the reader who has attained a considerable level of culture. With the significant role that literature has to play under such conditions, Marxist criticism, too, bears a very considerable responsibility. In her recent book, Marxist Literary Criticism Today (Pluto, 2019), Barbara Foley aims to emphasise the continuing value of a Marxist analysis of literature and culture, and introduce core concepts–historical materialism, political economy, ideology critique–to a new generation seeking to comprehend the ongoing class struggle. In the second place, the form may simply be weak, i.e., with a new, interesting intention, the writer may not possess the vocabulary, construction of the phrase, of the entire story, chapter, novel, play, etc. By AndrewM SILVER, Oak Lawn, Illinois. The critic as a commentator, as the person who warns of poison which may taste sweet, as the person who cracks a hard shell to reveal the pearl inside, as the person who discovers the treasure buried in the shadows, as the person who dots all the i’s, who makes generalisation on the basis of artistic material – this is the guide who is essential now, at a time when so many valuable but as yet inexperienced readers have appeared. Many of the points that Anderson makes with respect to Western Marxism seem characteristic of Marxist criticism today: it is largely divorced from political parties or even from social movements (though perhaps not at its anarchist edges); its practitioners are primarily university-based and generally accepted there as one variant of a multiplicity of critical ap proaches; and they are interested in philosophy more than in (say) the nitty-gritty of re-establishing an international party operating above and beyond parochial nationalisms. Excursions of that kind into tangible realities turn philosophy into the refuse of history, with the subject-matter of which it is confused, in the manner of a fethisistic belief in culture per se. Rather, it has emerged, aptly, as a series of responses to concrete political exigencies. What, then, is the general criterion for evaluation here? The critic who uses such a method to settle his personal accounts or deliberately to slander someone, is a villain; and such villainy, sooner or later, always comes to light. One of the major schools is Marxist literary criticism. AndrewM SILVER, Oak Lawn, Illinois 8 articles … What’s still left out of the picture is how and why certain forms of culture might be seen to escape the instrumentalization that worried the Frankfurt School. And finally, this question: Are sharp and bitter polemics to be allowed? It is impossible, however, to ignore the specialised task of the analysis of literary forms, and the Marxist critic must not turn a blind eye to this. The Marxist critic needs to be very skillful and extremely sensitive. It can even be a force which harms or contradicts the content. Here we have the same phenomenon as in science. 1. They, in turn, should be socially interpreted. Anderson writes that while Gramsci dealt extensively with Italian literature in the Prison Notebooks, he “took the autonomy and efficacy of cultural superstructures as a political problem, to be explicitly theorized as such — in its relationship to the maintenance or subversion of the social order.”21 In this sense, we are all Gramsci now, with the difference being that the political problem with respect to culture today is, in fact, its lack of autonomy and efficacy, its equivalence with the political in a manner that leaves conceptions of its function as ideological or anti-ideological unhelpful and beside the point. This is a form of metatheory: a view of the status and practice of the literary in general which focuses more on social form than on aesthetic content; it is something akin to a history of ideas traced out within materialist philosophy. This paper highlights the major tenets of Marxist literary criticism. To judge whether a writer is right, whether he has correctly combined the truth and the basic aspirations of communism, is by no means easy; here, too, perhaps, the correct judgment can be worked out only in the clash of opinions between critics and readers. When the question is properly phrased, such objections become completely invalid. While political reflections on the category of literature and culture itself have contributed to the practice of literary criticism, they have just as frequently pushed critical analysis in other directions — towards sociological approaches to literature and culture (the latest of which is exemplified by the work of Franco Moretti) or to the study of numerous other modes of cultural expression and practice. Anger is not the best guide in criticism and often means that the critic is wrong. We will write a custom Essay on Marxist Criticism on The Lottery by Shirley Jackson specifically for you for only $16.05 $11/page. Herbert Marcuse, Negations: Essays in Critical Theory, translated by Jeremy J. Shapiro (London: Free Association Books, 1988) 109 and 110. Even in the field of evaluating the social content of a work, however, everything is far from simple. Generally speaking, sharp polemics are useful in that they keep the reader interested. But for the other forms of criticism he discusses, from social realism to Ideologiekritik, the marks on the page that are the typical focus of literary criticism are the main things to be assessed and analyzed. How does the Marxist critic carry out his sociological analysis? As the reader can see, these formal elements, which contradict a direct formula – in every masterpiece the form is determined wholly by the content, and every literary work aspires to become a masterpiece – are by no means divorced from social life. While there remains nothing like a new international socialist party, the palpable sense of having to frame one’s political imaginings and activities in a global context ensures that the “Westernness” of Western Marxism has now dissipate — though, in part, this is because of the global circulation and re-purposing of Western Marxism in places around the globe (university-based Marxists even in Russia, Eastern Europe, and China are Western Marxists in terms of the archives they draw upon and their broad interest in culture over politics and economics). This is his relation to the past of Russian and world literature, and this is how he must be related to contemporary literature. These modes of Marxist criticism have changed in content, but less so in form — though the conditions under which they are practiced and carried out have changed, a fact not always reflected within newer practices of Marxist criticism, which make use of (say) the old insistence on the relation of literary form to social form even while the former has declined in importance and the latter has been reshaped in response to new forces and historical circumstances. Alien and hostile phenomena in the sphere of literature, even if they are of some benefit in the above-mentioned sense, can of course be extremely harmful and poisonous and be dangerous manifestations of counter-revolutionary propaganda. The Marxist critic can begin modestly, he can even start off by making mistakes, but he mist remember that he will have to climb a long, steep staircase before he reaches the first landing, and even then he must look upon himself only as an apprentice. It must not be mixed with class hatred. A work of literature always reflects, whether consciously or unconsciously, the psychology of the class which the writer represents, or else, as often happens, it reflects a mixture of elements in which the influence of various classes on the writer is revealed, and this must be subjected to a close analysis. And what must this progress be? If a Marxist cannot objectively sense the ties between the phenomena which surround him, then he is finished as a Marxist. This is obvious. The Marxist critic appears here as a scientific sociologist, who is specifically applying the methods of Marxist analysis to a special field – literature. Culture is an object of suspicion as a result of its structural function and, indeed, its very existence, but is also a field which requires critical study — and not just because of its ideological function (to which Eagleton points here), but because it is also imagined as a space in which the crystallization of power can be interrupted or halted, and submission turned into autonomy and genuine self-expression. But from a genuine, all-round Marxist we demand still more – a definite influence on this environment. I should like, as a corollary, to touch on two more questions. With what can we contrast this genuine originality of form? The writer who illustrates in his works points of our programme which have already been fully developed is a bad artist. Thus the Marxist critic takes first of all as the object of his analysis the content of the work, the social essence which it embodies. This article is more than 6 years old. Terry Eagleton, “Introduction Part I” in Marxist Literary Theory: A Reader, edited by Terry Eagleton and Drew Milne (New York: Blackwell, 1996) 14. 2 (Minneapolis: U Minnesota P, 1988) 208. Literature reflects class struggle and materialism: think how often the quest for wealth traditionally defines characters. Marxist criticism examines a literary effort from the standpoint of the assumptions that it makes and the values that it displays regarding such issues as power, class, race and culture rather than elements of artistic style, form, quality of writing, plot or other yardsticks more commonly used in literary criticism. Pope says he is not a Marxist, but defends criticism of capitalism. In the case of a really great literary work, there are too many aspects to be weighed, and it is too difficult in this instance to use any kind of thermometer or scales. The form must correspond to the content as closely as possible, giving it maximum expressiveness and assuring the strongest possible impact on the readers for whom the work is intended. Marxism, a body of doctrine developed by Karl Marx and, to a lesser extent, by Friedrich Engels in the mid-19th century. All this must be pointed out by the Marxist critic. The conflict between the old and the new continues. A genuine work of art should, of course, be new in content. A writer can be enthralled by previously used forms, and although his content is new, it is poured into old wine-skins. Not only this, Karl Marx was the first literary critic who represented Marxist’s school of thought. A writer is valuable when he cultivates virgin soil, when he intuitively breaks into a sphere which logic and statistics would find hard to penetrate. Marxist criticism which places wagers on the utopian dimension of this or that novel or genre — “serious” science fiction, for instance — seems to forget the second mode to which I’ve pointed concerning the political and economic conditions of possibility of literary writing and criticism, with the effect being a curious, uncritical acceptance of (for instance) writerly aims and intentions, and of the category of the literary more generally. Marxist criticism not only can, but must indicate the inner merits of such works in the past and present, at the same time condemning the frame of mind of the artist who seeks to cut himself off from reality by such formal methods. Tolstoi spoke out strongly for this. The founder of Marxist criticism, Plekhanov, strongly underlined that this is the real role a Marxist is called upon to play. Here, Marxism piggybacks on received definitions of literature and literary study in a manner that defines it as a theoretical approach to texts — one of a handful which can be substituted for one another depending on context or even an individual critic’s analytic sensibilities. But there is only one conclusion to be drawn from this: it is necessary to learn. The Marxist critic’s special attention and wise assistance are needed here. A great deal of benefit can often be extracted from it. 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. Marxism has at the core of its theory and practice the analysis of history and of the shifts that take place within it; it assumes that the economic is (“in the last instance”) of prime importance in how human social life is organized. Is it really, people ask, a critic’s business to say whether this or that writer is politically suspect, is politically unsound or has political failing? They can often lead us to profound conclusions, and, in any case, greatly enrich the treasure-store of our knowledge of life’s phenomena. He determines its connection with this or that social group and the influence which the impact of the work can have on social life; and then he turns to the form, primarily from the point of view of explaining how this form fulfils its aims, that is, serves to make the work as expressive and convincing as possible. See Fredric Jameson, “Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture.” Social Text 1 (1979): 130-48. Approach the text with an eyefor how the characters interact.Marxist thought relies onrelationships betweenindividuals, and even thoseaspects of relationships that aresocial can be part of a Marxist critique. But the man who distorts the very essence of Marxist criticism because he is afraid to declare aloud the results of his objective social analysis, must be labeled as careless and politically passive. Marxist literary criticism need not make reference back to Marx (who liked Shakespeare but didn`t discuss literature in relation to historical materialism); it certainly doesn’t deal with a stock set of questions or topics — say, class or labour, in the way sometimes imagined in introductory texts on literary criticism. We have no desire to intimidate anyone with our theses. He writes that “the hidden hallmark of Western Marxism as a whole is that it is a product of defeat.”19 This criticism comes at a moment in which actually-existing socialisms — even given their very real flaws and their distance from Marxist theory — presented a viable alternative to forms of liberal democratic capitalism and unionism remained a strong movement across the world. Equally, the subsequent history of Marxist aesthetics has hardly comprised the cumulative unfolding of a coherent perspective. 2 marxist philosophy Marx's study of capitalism was grounded in a philosophy that is both dialectical and materialist. Marxist criticism is distinguished from all other types of literary criticism primarily by the fact that it cannot but be of a sociological nature – in the spirit, of course, of the scientific sociology of Marx and Lenin. Marxism represents the philosophy of Karl Marx, a famous German Philosopher of nineteenth century. Marxist criticism views literary works as reflections of the social institutions from which they originate. They are revealed not only in the prevailing moods of individual groups and people, but also in admixtures of every kind. It is indeed very important to know the attitude of one’s foes, to make use of eyewitness accounts coming from a background different from ours. In addition, the martial spirit of the Marxist critic as a revolutionary leads him to express his thoughts sharply, but at the same time it should be mentioned that to camouflage the weakness of his arguments with polemical brilliance is one of the critic’s greatest sins. I ask Jaswinder Blackwell-Pal, a 22 year-old English and drama student at Goldsmiths College, London, who has just finished her BA course in English and Drama, why she considers Marxist … Learn More. What is Marxist Theory in Literature Marxist theory or Marxist criticism is one of the theories that can be used in literary criticism.This theory is based on the ideologies of Karl Marx, a German philosopher who criticized the inherent injustice in the European class/capitalist system of economics operating in the 19 th Century. A Tale of Two Cities from Marxist Perspective A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is a novel that covers the period in English and French history from 1757 to 1793. 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