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Marxist Criticism By Luis Alberto Cabrera Presentation Outline: Beginning and basics of Marxism Main influences on early Marxist thinking Marxist Criticism:

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Presentation on theme: "Marxist Criticism By Luis Alberto Cabrera Presentation Outline: Beginning and basics of Marxism Main influences on early Marxist thinking Marxist Criticism:"— Presentation transcript:


2 Marxist Criticism By Luis Alberto Cabrera

3 Presentation Outline: Beginning and basics of Marxism Main influences on early Marxist thinking Marxist Criticism: general Marxist Criticism: Main Streams Leninist-Marxist criticism Engelsian-Marxist criticism Contemporary Marxist criticism: Louis Althusser ' s influence What Marxist critics do Questions about Marxist criticism Works Cited

4 Beginnings and Basics of Marxism Marxist criticism is the literary theory based on the socialist - dialectic doctrine of the German philosopher Karl Marx (1818-1883) and sociologist Friedrich Engels (1820-1895). They called their economic theories 'Communism', according to their believe in the state ownership of industry, transport. Rather than private ownership. Marx and Engels proclaimed the advent of Communism in their work Communist Manifesto, published in 1848. Marxism has as objective to abolish social classes in the society, based on both: the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange. Marxism also aims to give an explanation to societal phenomena employing a material-rationalist philosophical approach, rather than a spiritual methodology based on a supernatural being.

5 Different to other philosophies which only try to understand the world Marxism both: intends to transform it and foresee the advent of the progress as a fruit of the different social class struggle. Marxism analyses and combat the modern industrial Capitalism, a system which allows the exploitation of the man for another man, or the exploitation of a social class for another. A result of this unfair system is the laborers are in a state of alienation, which means that they are dishonored and obligated to do monotonous tasks which don’t allow them to improve their situation. But also, alienated workers have suffered the process of reification, which according to Marx's main work, Das Kapital is related to the way the owners of the capital think about the workers: people without any dignity, working force or simple labor things. This is also one of the main claims to the economist, that they see people as cold facts and numbers.

6 Main Influences on Early Marxist Thinking Marx and Engels own social-political experiences and the works of Friedrich Hegel, influenced early Marxist philosophy. Specifically, Hegel’s idea of dialectic (which holds that opposing forces or ideas bring about new situations or ideas). Also French revolution thinking and concepts exerted great influence on the theoretical basis of Marxism. Due to, Marxist inverted and combated some French revolution mean concepts. Namely, the ideas of the early economic theory which states that the pursuit of individual economic self-interest result, will produce economic and social benefits to the entire society. Marx inverted this idea, stating that only in the collective pursuit of economical development will bring about social benefits to the whole society. Which is no possible in a capitalist system.

7 Marxist simplest model of society, establishes a society without social class, constituted by both: a base (means of production, distribution and exchange) and a superstructure or a cultural world of ideas, law, art, religion, and so forth. Marxists believe that cultural manifestation is determined or shaped by the nature of the economic base. Therefore, regarding culture, traditional Marxist philosophy is centered in an economic determinism.

8 Marxist Literary Criticism: General Point of View Even though, Marx and Engels did not produce a theory of literature. Nevertheless, their perspective toward literature and art is evidently undogmatic. Namely, they preferred the good art, free from economic circumstances. As cultured and highly-educated Germans, they felt reverence for 'great' art and literature typical of their class, and desire to highlight the difference between art and propaganda. Nonetheless, Marxist literary critics, holds that the author's social class and predominant ideology (values, tacit assumptions, viewpoint, half realised allegiances, and so on)are more influent on what is written by a member of that class.

9 Therefore, the authors are no seen as autonomous-inspired beings, whose talent and creativity allow them to produce original and timeless art oeuvres, rather, Marxist perspective seems authors as determined by their social contexts. Traditional Marxist criticism usually deals with history in a very generalized way. Namely, it discusses both: clashes of large historical forces and conflicts between social classes. Notwithstanding, contrary to general believe, it seldom discuses about a specific historical event and relates it to the analysis of a particular work.

10 Marxist Criticism main Streams Marxist criticism Classical Streams: Leninist-Marxist criticism Insists on the need for art to be explicitly committed to the political cause of the left Engelsian-Marxist criticism Stresses: the necessary freedom of art from direct political determinism.

11 Leninist-Marxist Criticism Is the result of 1930s Soviet society's reaction, where the State started to control cultural manifestations such as art, literature and so forth. As a result, liberal views were considered illegal and Lenin's writing point of view was imposed. According to Lenin's outlook, literature must become a Party tool, or a Party literature. To put it simply, Literature must become in an element of the democratic party labors. As a consequence, any type of literary experimentation or innovation was forbidden. Authors inside or abroad the soviet government and who had an affective position toward communist ideas, intended to follow the Moscow line, Leninist perspective or vulgar Marxism. As a consequence, literature and economy were considered elements in a closed relationship, or cause and effect and writers were trapped in the intellectual limits of their social-class position.

12 Engelsian-Marxist Criticism Emerged from 1930 in the exile of some authors, under suppressed works or underground form. These writers were denominated the Russian Formalist criticism, nevertheless their work is not Marxist in all the sense of the work. The most main representatives of these authors are Victor Shklovsky, Boris Tomashevsky, and Boris Eichenbaum. Their main concepts about literary criticism involve the needing for close formal approach of the literary work. Namely, they believed that the language of literature has its own and specific procedures and effects, and is not just a version of ordinary language.

13 Shklovsky's concept of 'defamiliarisation' or 'making strange' (expounded in the essay 'Art as Technique', holds that one of the main effects of the language in literature is the achievement of making the familiar world, to look as a world totally new for us. A world which we are seeing for the first time and therefore we can reevaluate. Shklovsky's Defamiliarization, therefore, makes a clear distinction between the reality and the literary work verbal representation. As a consequence, the literary work is not conceived as a copy of the reality in a documentary way.

14 Influence of Engelsian-Marxist Criticism Some Formalist, writers remained in Russia e.g. Mikhail Bakhtin. Others went abroad, e.g. the linguist Roman Jakobson (1896-1982). Jacobson continued his work in Prague, founding the prestigious Prague Linguistic Circle. In America Jakobson was influential in the 'New Criticism which departs from formalist ideas. Other Russian Formalists influenced the Frankfurt School of Marxist aesthetics in Germany. They practiced a form of criticism which tried to combine Freud and Marx, as well as some aspects of Formalism.

15 Contemporary Marxist Criticism Louis Althusser The French theorist Louis Althusser (1918-1990) is one of the Marxist critic who has exerted more influence in the contemporary Marxist literary thinking. His contribution is evident in a number key terms, notions and concepts that he has made known. For instance: overdeterminism, repressive structures, relative autonomy, decentering, ideological structures, etc. His Engelsian announcements, do not censure Marxist tendency to imprison art and literature with economics. Nevertheless, it is intended to release literature in a high degree. Due to both: his innovative perspective and reformulation of the Marxist vision of literature, Althusser could be considered a revisionist of Marxism.

16 Main Althusser ' s Concepts Is a system (possessing its logic and proper rigour) of representations (images, myths, ideas or concepts according to the case) gifted with an existence and an historical role at the heart of a given society. Ideology Implies that there is no overall unity: art has a relative autonomy and is determined by the economic level only 'in the last instance‘. Decentering Designates an effect which arises from a variety of causes, that is, from several causes acting together, rather than from a single (in this case, economic) factor. Overdeterminism Claims that in spite of the culture-economics connections, art has a degree of independence from economic forces. Relative autonomy Are institutions like the law courts, prisons, the police force, and the army, which operate, in the last analysis, by external force. Repressive structures Are groups such as: political parties, schools, the family, and art (including literature) which oster an ideology, ideas and attitudes concerned to the aims of the state and the political status quo. Ideological structures

17 What Marxist Critics do? 1.They divide the literary work content in: overt (surface) and covert (hidden). Then they make a relation between the hidden subject of the literary work with elemental Marxist topics such as class struggle, clashes of large historical forces, conflicts between social classes and so forth. 2.They make a relation between the literary work context and the social- class status of the writer, supposing (similar to psychoanalysts) that the author is not conscious of what he or she is saying in the text. 3.They also try to explain the fundamental qualities of a whole literary genre, based on the main social issues of the époque in which the text was produced. For instance: they can state that a novel is a the speaking of a certain social class, the tragedy is the way of expression of the monarchy, whereas ballad speak for the working class.

18 4. Similarly, they make a relation between the text and the social conjectures of the time in which it is consumed. 5. Marxist critics also tend to politicize the literary form. Namely, they state that the political circumstances are the determiners of the distinct literary forms. For example: For some critics, the sonnet formal and metrical form, is a counterpart of social stability, order and good manners.

19 Questions about Marxist criticism What are the main streams of Marxist criticism? What are the main differences between them? Which is the main contributions of the Engelsian-marxist criticism? Which are the main characteristics of the Leninist-marxist criticism? What is the meaning of the concept defamiliarisation? Do only Marxist employ the Marxist literary criticism or it is an approach employed for all kinds of critics? Are there any relationship or similarity between the Marxist criticism and the Psychoanalytic criticism?

20 Works Cited Barry, Peter. Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2009. Print. Bertens, Hans. Literary Theory: the Basics. London: Taylor & Francis, 2008. Print. "Marxist literary criticism." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 11 Feb. 2014. Web. 12 April 2014.

21 Thank you very much for your attention!

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