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Unit 5: Commodification of the Medieval Period

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1 Unit 5: Commodification of the Medieval Period
Part II “The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof” from Marx, Capital

2 For Today. . . Has everyone filled out the sign-up sheet?
Discuss possible date change for final Hand back papers Feel free to make an appointment with me to discuss your paper Discuss Abrams, “Marxist Criticism” Discuss Marx, “The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof” View the last few scenes of Shrek

3 Coming soon. . . The deadline for turning in the URL and the hard copy of your revisions has been extended to Thursday, March 13th. The hard copy of your revised paper, as well as the original, will be due IN CLASS on March 13th. The URLs will be due by midnight.

4 Guidelines for the presentations. . .
Three to five minute presentation of your website Navigate through the website and explain any unique features, including hotspots, images, additional pages, hyperlinks Share with the class your thesis statement, as well as two or three particularly interesting points that support your thesis Conclude by stating your thoughts about the preparation of the project in general

5 Abrams, “Marxist Criticism”
As Abrams states, Marxist Criticism is based on the “economic and cultural theory of Karl Marx ( ) and his fellow-thinker Friedrich Engels.” Concerned with notions of: Material production How the mode of material production changes class structures in society Dominant vs. subordinate classes and their struggle for “economic, political, and social advantage” “Human consciousness is constituted by an ideology—that is, the beliefs, values, and ways of thinking and feeling through which human beings perceive, and by recourse to which they explain, what they take to be reality.” Ideology is a result of the “position and interests of a particular class” in a given economic structure

6 Abrams, “Marxist Criticism”
How does this apply to literature? “[. . .]a Marxist critic typically undertakes to explain the literature in any historical era, not as works created in accordance with timeless artistic criteria, but as ‘products’ of the economic and ideological determinants specific to that era.” Abrams then goes on to give various examples from various Marxist critics with their own unique take on these theories

7 Abrams, “Marxist Criticism”
Effects on our understanding of New Media: “[. . .]changing material conditions in the production of the arts” have revolutionized the way we think about a work of art Before photography, radio, cinema, or the internet, art was solely in the purview of the elite, who treated it as an object of reverence Art now allows for interaction with the audience, reproducibility, etc. Examples???

8 Marx, “The Fetishism of Commodities”
Marx is critiquing the way that the bourgeoisie view the economy. From Bourgeoisie: “(in Marxist theory) the class that, in contrast to the proletariat or wage-earning class, is primarily concerned with property values.”

9 Marx, “The Fetishism of Commodities”
Marx’s discussion of the fetishism of commodities is a way to explain why the bourgeoisie misunderstand the way in which capitalism works. From Fetish: “An object that is believed to have magical or spiritual powers, especially such an object associated with animistic or shamanistic religious practices.” So fetishism refers to the way in which we attribute a material object with magical or spiritual powers.

10 Marx, “The Fetishism of Commodities”
Commodities are weird. . . Remember that an object becomes a commodity if it satisfy’s our wants. A commodity has both use value and exchange value. Commodities gain exchange value through market exchange.

11 Marx, “The Fetishism of Commodities”
The value of these goods comes about not from their usefulness, but from their ability to be exchanged for other things. Because of this, labor gains value because it allows for this exchange to occur If it wasn’t for someone making the object, it couldn’t be exchanged Labor now becomes something that can be bought and sold.

12 Marx, “The Fetishism of Commodities”
When looking at our economy, we don’t see relationships between laborers, we see relationships between things How much of product A can we get for product B We lose sight of the labor that went into producing the object

13 Marx, “The Fetishism of Commodities”
Marx then gives examples from other economies, one of which is a medieval economy, to show that not all economies hide the social relations of labor. He also presents a scenario where he imagines what a community of free individuals could accomplish if the goods are shared according to the amount of labor that went into making them.

14 Marx, “The Fetishism of Commodities”
In a capitalist society, we are no longer the masters of production, production has mastery over us. . . It seems as if commodities appear on their own, independent of the people who produce them. Without us, commodities would have no value. We give commodities value through our labor.

15 How does Marx’s notion of commodity fetishism apply to the commoditization of the medieval?

16 Practical Applications. . .
Media makes it concrete, makes it something that can satisfy our wants and needs. . . But what kind of labor goes into producing these media objects??? And what kind of objects are produced as a result of the popularity of the original object?

17 Shrek Beyond the production of DVDs, consider, for example, the production of Shrek merchandise: Fiona/Shrek costumes Plush dolls Games

18 Shrek The magical quality we attribute to these objects leads to an obscuration of the labor that went into making it and of its materiality Everyone wants these objects Not just applicable to the medieval, but also other things as well Tickle Me Elmo

19 So this is how we can use Marx to examine cinematic media and its offshoots—the products that result from the object’s popularity. . .

20 But how does Marxist Criticism in general apply to literature?

21 Practical Applications. . .
Consider the notion of labor. . . How are class systems represented within various examples of literature? A Marxist reading of Shrek, for example, would consider the ideologies inherent in the presentation of the subject matter and the social systems represented: Kings Princesses Lords Peasants

22 Shrek For example, consider the souvenir shop in Lord Farquad’s castle: Shrek is poking fun at Disney and the sale of plush toys to capitalize on the popularity of its films At the same time, Shrek itself is guilty of much the same thing

23 Coming full circle. . . We began this class by evaluating the way in which we perceive the medieval period We then considered the way in which new media influences our understanding of the medieval We also considered issues of gender and the way in which men and women interact with each other and among themselves in both the medieval and successive periods We conclude by thinking about the way in which the medieval is presented today, through the use of media, and what that means in terms of our understanding of a capitalist economy

24 For Tuesday. . . Discuss expectations for the final exam
Web Authoring Project Presentations Even if you are not presenting on Tuesday, you are still expected to come to class. Last Moodle post due this Sunday. . .

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