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Showing posts from December, 2006

Marxist Criticism (3)

Walter Benjamin, for a while associated with Adorno, took a contrary view to him and was pro-Brech. He surveyed the importance of technology in 19th and 20th century urban and industrialized society, and also the enormous development of the media. As a Marxist he is interested in ‘mass culture’ and in the way in which culture is packaged and consumed by the masses. In his view the media – in close contact with reality – have the power to eliminate the ritual and bourgeois elitism of art and literature and give it a kind of political ‘freedom’. He is more concerned with technique and with artistic forces at work than with the correct position of art and literature socially and economically. So, the emphasis is on the relation of a work of art to the ever changing conditions of production of art itself. In his essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” he suggests that modern technological innovations (e.g. the cinema [especially], radio, photography and the gramophon…

Marxist Criticism (2)

A key figure is the fist major Marxist critic, namely the Hungariar, Georg Lukacs (1885-1971). He developed the critical theory of ‘reflection’, seeing literary works as reflections of a kind of system that was gradually unfolding. In his view, the novel, for instance (and he had much to say about this genre), revealed or ought to reveal underlying patterns in the social order and provide a sense of the wholeness of existence with all its inherent contradictions, tensions and conflicts. Like many Marxist critics he was mainly concerned with content; hence his adverse comments on writers who were preoccupied with form, technique, literary ingenuity and innovation. Lukacs created his own idea of realism and failed (or declined) to see that modernist writers were also capable of realism—albeit of other and different kinds. Hence his disagreement with the modernist techniques of Brecht (and with Theodor Adorno, too), another Marxist and a didactic dramatist who was at pains to show social…

Marxist Criticism (1)

Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) were primarily concerned with economic, political and philosophical issues and worked out explanations of the capitalist theory and mode of production. They did not develop an ‘aesthetic’ of culture or literature, although they did say quite traditional things about Greek art which suggest that Marx himself believed in the relative autonomy of art (cf. Marx’s Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy, 1857, and Hans Robert Jauss’s article in New Literary History, titled The Idealist Embarrassment). However, Marxist principles and attitudes and modes of thought and inquiry have been adapted to create a Marxist theory of literature: what it has been, and what it might and, perhaps, should be. The Marxist critic (who tends to be primarily interested in content) writes from the definite standpoint of Marx’s philosophical ideas, and from his view of history in which the class struggle is fundamental, or in terms of socio-histor…