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COOCH BEHAR PANCHANAN BARMA UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH EM 18 OF MA 4 TH SEMESTER 2020 Dr Saunak Samajdar Marxism Lecture 7 MARXIST LITERARY CRITICISM
Marxism Along with psychoanalytical, feminist, and cultural criticism, Marxist literary criticism exemplifies what the French philosopher Paul Ricouer terms a “hermeneutics of suspicion. ” Because all these theories suspected older values and institutions to be unjust and skew. These are approaches that concern themselves not with what the text says but what it hides.
introduction 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. ” THAT IS , MARXIST CRITICISM AIMS AT UNCOVERING THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC HIDDEN FORCES BEHIND ANY CREATIVITY
Reminding you of what has been explained in the classroom The Marxist approach to literature is based on the philosophy of Karl Marx, whose major argument was that whoeve controlled the means of production (the factories, for example ) in a society, controlled the society and its culture and values.
He believed that the means of production (i. e. , the basis of power in society) should be placed in the hands of those who actually operated them. That would call for a revolution, to retrieve the ownership of labour by the labour.
Reading from a Marxist Perspective To read a work from a Marxist perspective, one must understand that Marxism asserts that literature is a reflection of culture, and that culture can be influenced by literature. Marxists believe literature can instigate revolution. But literary critics like us , who are not activists at all but literary analysts only, see another more important thing: literature is shaped by social forces, and to understand any aspect of a text, we need to be informed by the political economic and historical contingency of that text.
4 Main Areas of Study in Marxist literary critic 1. Difference between NATURAL , MATERIAL and SPIRITUAL 2. IDEOLOGY 3. Class Conflict 4. HEGEMONY
CLASS: A society is shaped by its forces of production. Those who own the means of production dictate what type of society it is. The two main classes of society are: 1. the bourgeoisie (who control the means of production and wealth) and 2. the proletariat (who operate the means of production and are controlled by the bourgeoisie).
CLASS Since the bourgeoisie own the means of production—and, therefore, control the money— they can manipulate politics, government, education, art, and media. Capitalism is flawed in that it creates commodification of everything (a desire for possessions, not for their innate OR SUBSTANTIAL usefulness, but for their ATTRACTIVE social value OR FETISH). Display of material objects is the most common way of showing off one’s wealth.
Class Commodification is one way the bourgeoisie keep the proletariat oppressed. Whenever the proletariat manages to acquire some sort of status symbol, the bourgeoisie concocts a new one; thus, the proletariat continues to struggle, never able to “catch up. ”
Class Conflict A Capitalist society will inevitably experience conflict between its social classes. The owners and the workers will have different ideas about the division of the wealth generated, and the owners will ultimately make the decision. This constant conflict, or dialectic in the MATERIAL domain, is what instigates change.
Class Conflict AND Ideology Marx called on the proletariat to reject the social structure engineered by the bourgeoisie, the rules that would keep the proletariat subservient forever, and form their own values. Such a course would be the only way to escape the oppression, for the proletariat could never defeat the bourgeoisie on its own terms. For the workers to win, they must establish new terms. THAT WOULD IMPLY A REPLACEMENT OF EXISTING IDEOLOGY BY A NEW IDEOLOGY.
Ideology The bourgeoisie present their political, economic, and social structures as the only reasonable values. To stay in a society and subscribe to its values is therefore like a guaranteed obedience. This generates the docile worker. The only real social division is class according to classic Marxism. Any other group identity like race, gender, nationality etc are, created by the ideology of the bourgeois to distract and confuse the proletariat.
Art, Literature, & Ideologies • Art and literature among the vehicles by which the bourgeoisie impose their value system on the proletariat. The arts can make the current system seem attractive and logical, thus lulling the workers into an acceptance of it. • Works of art and literature are enjoyable, so the audience is unaware of being manipulated.
Art, Literature, & Ideologies • The bourgeoisie control most artistic output because, whether through patronage or sponsorship, they are the entity that funds the arts and entertainment. Since the bourgeoisie materially support the writers and the painters— owning the means of production as well as serving as primary consumers—the artist must be careful not to offend bourgeois values. • Any artist who wishes to criticize the bourgeoisie must do so in a subtle way (satire, irony, etc. ).
Characteristics of Marxism Workers' revolution: the means of achieving human emancipation and enlightenment The actual mechanism through which such a revolution might occur and succeed
Hegemony: reminding what has been taught in the class-room 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. ” It creates a strategic and indirect mastery of the dominant section of society over the mass, through seductive methods like cultural leadership.
Recurrent Terms in Marxism 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, Princess Diana, JFK Jr. , the murders at Columbine High School in Colorado and Newtown Connecticut) make commodities out of grieving people. The media expresses sympathy but economically thrives on these events through ratings boosts.
Ideology 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.
Main Ideas in Marxism Ideology: Consciousness and perceptions within a society Often controlled by the ruling class Determined according to what is in the ruling class's best interests Confuses the alienated groups Creates false consciousness Example: commodity fetishism (perceiving labor as capital ~ a degradation of human life) as a form of ALIENATION
Marxist Literary Criticism A loose term describing literary criticism informed by the philosophy or the politics of Marxism Terry Eagleton (Marxism and Literary Criticism, 1976) Not merely a 'sociology of literature', concerned with how novels get published and whether they mention the working class Aim: �To explain the literary work more fully �A ensitive attention to its forms, styles and meanings �Grasping those forms, styles and meanings as the product of a particular history
Marxist Literary Criticism Goals: An assessment of the political "tendency" of a literary work (determining whether its social content or its literary form are "progressive“) Applying lessons drawn from the realm of aesthetics to the realm of politics
Marxist Film Theory Sergei Eisenstein: Shunning narrative structure by eliminating the individual protagonist Telling stories where the action is moved by the group Story told through a clash of one image against the next (whether in composition, motion, or idea) The audience is never lulled into believing that they are watching something that has not been worked over
Dear students, for your academic inquiry related to this lecture, contact me at [email protected] com DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT AN ENTIRELY ORIGINAL WORK, RATHER A STUDY MATERIAL IN LIEU OF THE LECTURES OF CLASSROOM THAT ARE NOW SUSPENDED DUE TO CORONA PANDEMIC.