Reproduction is not an art (some painters find this difficult to understand) but only a craft, albeit sometimes very fine. 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. The psychological thought process and conversations, what one might call the “style” of living of a given class (or class groups which have influenced the work), the general level of the material culture of a given society, the influence of its neighbours, the inertia of the past or the striving for renovation, which can manifest itself in all of life’s aspects – all this can affect the form, can act as a subsidiary factor defining it. 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. More interestingly, other forms of Marxist criticism have imagined that it is “possible to find the material history which produces a work of art somehow inscribed in its very texture and structure, in the shape of its sentences or its play of narrative viewpoints, in its choice of a metrical scheme or its rhetorical device.”11 This is to use symbolic responses to an objective historical situation as a way to read back through to those circum stances, whether in a direct, unmediated form, or perhaps with the added bonus that inscribed in symbolic forms is some hint of the Real or the social unconscious of a given historical period. Marxist Literary Criticism is based upon the ideas of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. In other words, it studies the Marxist approach to literature. Learn More. A writer is able to greater or lesser extent to find for the thoughts, events and feelings of concern to him those modes of expression which reveal them with the greatest clarity and which make the strongest impression on the readers for whom the work is intended. The last time Marxist literary criticism enjoyed a revival was in the 1960s and 1970s when the left had more of a mass, militant presence. Secondly, of course, the critic not only teaches the writer without in any way considering himself superior, but he also learns a great deal from the writer. What other path could it follow? If everything has a utopian content (even if perhaps only in the minimal sense outlined by Williams: “No mode of production and therefore no dominant social order and therefore no dominant culture ever in reality excludes or exhausts all human practice, human energy, and human intention”), then there’s no need to make distinc tions about what to study as especially significant forms of culture.13 Literature is displaced from the center of Marxist critical concern, but in the process culture becomes a space of study primarily for what it reveals about conditions and developments at other, more socially significant levels. Drew Milne, “Introduction Part II: Reading Marxist Literary Theory,” in Marxist Literary Theory: A Reader, edited by Terry Eagleton and Drew Milne (New York: Blackwell, 1996) 27. By AndrewM SILVER, Oak Lawn, Illinois. It can be said that there is only one optimal form which corresponds to a given content. 2 (Minneapolis: U Minnesota P, 1988) 208. It is quite possible that angry voices will be raised at this, saying that no one gave the critic the right to consider himself superior to the writer, and so on. As there is no one form of Marxism, so there is no one form of Marxist Criticism. A difficult task: playing with and against the false autonomy of culture established by bourgeois social life since the late eighteenth century. 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. Articles by Bertell Ollman on Marxism, Marxist theory, dialectics, socialism, communism, class consciousness, class struggle. 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. The conflict between the old and the new continues. The Marxist critic must try to find the fundamental social trend in a given work; he must find out where it is heading, whether this process is arbitrary or not. Theodor Adorno, “Why Philosophy?” in The Adorno Reader, edited by Brian O’Connor (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000) 53. A great deal of benefit can often be extracted from it. Adorno’s worries in “Cultural Criticism and Society” and elsewhere echo those of Marcuse: both worry about the tendency of criticism to be interested in culture because of its links with the spiritual and the transcendent.9 “Man does not live by bread alone; this truth is thoroughly falsified by the interpretation that spiritual nourishment is an adequate substitute for too little bread”; and Marcuse again: “The culture of souls absorbed in a false form those forces and wants which could find no place in everyday life.”10 The challenge for Marxist criticism has been to name or identify alternative or antagonistic forms of life expressed in culture, while keeping the lie also named by culture firmly in mind. 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. Nor does culture hold the attention of Marxist criticism as it once did, and, where it does capture critical attention, the focus is certainly not bourgeois culture alone. The Marxist critic must, on the other hand, be a teacher to the writer in the social sense. It can even be a force which harms or contradicts the content. However we might assess the status of its activities — a distraction from real politics or a contribution to understanding the complexity of social signification and meaning-making without which there can be no politics — we are in new historical circumstances that have pushed Marxist criticism towards new objects of study and modes of intervention. Here we have the same phenomenon as in science. I should like to qualify this. 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. Here, the received category of literature around which institutional practices such as professional organizations and university departments are organized is scrutinized and placed into question. 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. The founder of Marxist criticism, Plekhanov, strongly underlined that this is the real role a Marxist is called upon to play. It is self-evident that this criterion of Plekhanov’s is not an absolute. With what can we contrast this genuine originality of 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. 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. One must also approach the third criterion of a formal nature – the universality of the work – with caution. 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. The intervening thirty years and the end of state socialism have brought about new geopolitical configurations within which Marxisms circulate, and, as such, new criteria with which to assess their political possibilities. Marxism represents the philosophy of Karl Marx, a famous German Philosopher of nineteenth century. By and large, the Marxist critic, without falling into cheerful indulgence, which would be very wrong on his part, must be a priori benevolent. Firstly, given that the Marxist critic must be the writers’ teacher, it follows that he must be an extremely resolute Marxist, an erudite person of irreproachable taste. 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. Western Marxism looks like a defeat if one imagines politics to have to take a certain form — that which characterized Marxist and socialist movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Herbert Marcuse, Negations: Essays in Critical Theory, translated by Jeremy J. Shapiro (London: Free Association Books, 1988) 109 and 110. Criticism of Marxism has come from various political ideologies and academic disciplines. By using Marxist criticism and analysis, we can better understand the socioeconomic status and the role of class, race, and culture in society. 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 … Marxist Criticism. These are reminders of what to do or not to do — to “Always historicize,” for example, or to remember the centrality of class struggle and the determining role of the forces and relations of production to social life and to literary and cultural production. By and large, one should avoid these, however. He is more than this: he is a fighter and a builder. 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. With respect to literature, some forms of criticism have sought to separate out reified forms of culture from other, more revolutionary forms; in many cases this has reflected existing taxonomies, with (say) mass culture being seen as the most ideological, and forms of experimental or explicitly political literature being seen as having escaped instrumentalization and so having special significance (Jameson speaks of modernism in this fashion, even if at other points he insists on the opposite point). This spatial move is also a temporal one — it suggests (questionably) that literature and other cultural forms once lived out the political promise of their semi-autonomy from social life, before collapsing into the undifferentiated murk of instrumentality. They can often lead us to profound conclusions, and, in any case, greatly enrich the treasure-store of our knowledge of life’s phenomena. Nevertheless, I thought it might be useful to take the subject head-on, however briefly — a sketch with inevitable gaps, but one that could offer a starting point to the project of filling in the bigger picture. Although Marxist literary criticism makes use of more traditional literary analysis techniques, … And finally, this question: Are sharp and bitter polemics to be allowed? It is a well-known fact that the most abstract of scientific problems can, when solved, sometimes turn out to be the most fruitful. Shakespeare: A Marxist Interpretation, Aleksandr Smirnov 1936 Literature and Ideology, James Farrell 1942 Not that the Marxist critic must shout: “Be watchful!” This is not an appeal to government bodies; it is an objective assessment of the value for our construction of some work or other. 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. And in these cases when a writer is considered an alien element, way to the right, or when one of our writers is accused of some deviation or other, then the whole affair seems somewhat dubious. Proletarian Poetry, Aleksandr Bogdanov 1923 On Being the Right Size, JBS Haldane 1928 The Work of Art, Andre Malraux 1935. One of the real limits of Western Marxism was that despite its best intentions to do other wise, it, too, tended to treat culture as in the end semi-autonomous from politics, and so as a space necessitating a careful mapping by those whose political commitments demanded a search for alternative social forms and imaginings. It is pointless to criticise unless the criticism produces some good, some kind of progress. 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. The Marxist critic appears here as a scientific sociologist, who is specifically applying the methods of Marxist analysis to a special field – literature. If anything, the shift from economics to philosophy that Anderson describes seems to have been reversed in recent years. A genuine Marxist critic – an integral type, so to say, of such a critic – must be a teacher, especially of the young writer or beginner. Writhers infected by the formalists, those typical representatives of bourgeois decadence, have been known to try to adorn and embellish their honest and weighty content with various tricks, thereby ruining their work. We have hitherto confined our attention mainly to the sphere of Marxist criticism as a function of literary scholarship. This is his relation to the past of Russian and world literature, and this is how he must be related to contemporary literature. Terry Eagleton has written that “Nobody is much bothered by materialist readings of Titus Andronicus … but a materialist theory of culture — a theory of culture as production before it is expression — sounds, in the spontaneously idealist milieu of middle-class society, something of a category mistake or a contradiction in terms.”6 The most important intervention made by cultural criticism in the twentieth century — and not just in Marxism, but in the work of scholars from Thorstein Veblen to Pierre Bourdieu — was to desacralize and demy thologize ideas of literature and culture, highlighting the social and political violence which shaped the consecration of these categories into practices immediately associated with transcendent value; the insistence on culture as always already a form of production is only the beginning of this effort. Marx and Engels used their theory to challenge the dominant ideology of the time by providing another lens through which people could view reality, society, and self.… Vol. "Marxist Literary Criticism, Then and Now. It originally consisted of three related ideas: a philosophical anthropology, a theory of history, and an economic and political program. We are a long way from that today, of course, but years of neoliberal austerity have nevertheless provoked a search for real answers, leading to a greater level of openness to left ideas than has been the case for years. In the first case our opponents will be wrong; in the second they will be closer to the truth. 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. From this point of view, new content in every new work demands new form. With dialectics, changes and interaction are brought into focus and emphasized by being viewed as essential parts of whatever institutions and processes are undergoing change and interaction. Already in the “Reification” essay we find him introducing the idea that revolutionary cultural expressions can be found only in those places whose conditions of possibility — formal, but not yet real, subsumption into global capital — allow for forms of cultural production that don’t obey the inexorable logic of affirmative culture. 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. 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. Marxist criticism, like other historical critical methods in the nineteenth century, treated literature as a passive product of the culture, specifically of the economic aspect, and, therefore, of class warfare. The most insistent and vigorous historicism through most of the twentieth century has been Marxism, based on the world of Karl Marx (1818-1883). If literature and culture were simply the space of ideological expression, if ideology was simply false consciousness or a blunt substitute for religion, they wouldn’t create such headaches and problems for Marxist criticism. In essence, Marxists believe that a work of literature is not a result of divine inspiration or pure artistic endeavor, but that it arises out of the economic and ideological circumstances surroundin… “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. 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. It is these circumstances which make the weapons of art – particularly literature – extremely important at the present time. Let us first of all approach this from the point of view of content. 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. Even in the field of evaluating the social content of a work, however, everything is far from simple. In perhaps its most simple and basic form, Marxist criticism has taken the form of a series of methodological criticisms and challenges to existing forms of criticism. The second particular criterion, which proceeds from the general one as defined above, concerns the originality of the form. 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. Marx and Engels produced no systematic theory of literature or art. This is said not as an insult to the writer, but partly almost in his praise. But this can often be explained by the pedantic way in which such help is offered. In 20th century, literary criticism has witnessed influences from many schools of critical inquiries. Anderson’s characterization of Western Marxism is meant to sound alarm bells about the draining of energies from what he would have under stood (in 1976 at least) as a “proper” form of politics. Source: A. Lunacharsky: On Literature and Art Progress Publishers, 1973; How, then, do we relate these approaches to literature and its potential end(s)? Life presents many burning problems to this party of the population which plays an immensely important role in the construction of socialism; and of course these problems should not be left without an artistic answer simply because they have not yet faced the vast masses or because they cannot yet be worked out in universal form. Plato's Idealism, Dmitry Pisarev 1861. 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. It is impossible, however, not to count on the gigantic rising wave of our broad culture, on the fountain of talented literature which is springing up everywhere; it is impossible not to believe that the present – not entirely satisfactory – state of Marxist criticism will very soon improve. 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