Friday, February 3, 2012

Marxist Literary Theory Made Easy

Marxist literary theories tend to focus on the representation of class conflict as well as the reinforcement of class distinctions through the medium of literature. Marxist theorists use traditional techniques of literary analysis but subordinate aesthetic concerns to the final social and political meanings of literature. Marxist theorists often champion authors sympathetic to the working classes and authors whose work challenge economic equalities found in capitalist societies. In keeping with the totalizing spirit of Marxism, literary theories arising from the Marxist paradigm have not only sought new ways of understanding the relationship between economic production and literature, but all cultural production as well. Marxist analyses of society and history have had a profound effect on literary theory and practical criticism. (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Here's a comic example of Marxist literary theory in action:
(http://orgtheory.wordpress.com)

Speaking of comics and sf lit:

(http://socialismoryourmoneyback.blogspot.com)

According to Terry Eagleton (the latest, greatest Marxist literary critic): "Marxist criticism is not merely a 'sociology of literature', concerned with how novels get published and whether they mention the working class. Its aim is to explain the literary work more fully; and this means a sensitive attention to its forms, styles and meanings. But it also means grasping those forms, styles and meanings as the product of a particular history."

So how would you use Marxist literary theory to critique a text? How is the book itself a product of history? What social and material conditions existed at the time of its creation? Why was it necessary? Eeekk, it's like Robert Heinlein's "All You Zombies--" with creations swallowing creations, birthing creations . . . but I digress.

So as you read novels or watch movies, think about how the story reflects different socio-economic classes. For works of science fiction and fantasy:  How do economies on different planets, alternative histories, or realities work? Who gets left out? How are economic systems organized? What is wealth? What is currency? What is progress? How are workers portrayed? Is there economic equality/inequality? What makes a dystopia or a utopia and how is that related to economic wealth and/or equality?  You can ask these seem kinds of questions about any text, visual or written.

7 comments:

  1. The way that Marxist theory is used to critique literature does not change even if the content of the book changes. There is always an underlying economic struggle(or lack of struggle) that shapes the story. Whether it is a moonbase near jupiter funded by massive amounts of taxpayer dollars or a time traveller that is his/her own mother/father/son/daughter that is funded by a wad of cash the characters are always motivated or limited by money. In Heinlein's "All you Zombies.." the unmarried mother is enticed by the money in order to be seduced by himself. If she was not in a state of poverty the story may(it is impossible to resist yourself) never have been possible.

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  2. I have never heard of the Marxist theory before. I am very interested in his philosophy, this seems like a very unique way to analyze texts. Marxism is a neat way of looking at things, i enjoyed reading about it. Everybody has different views on the economic struggles and it is always nice to read from other perspectives. If one imagines a society where Honda civics are less common than Ferraris, they start to appreciate how things are now. Hard working people deserve the satisfaction of success and they should be a motivation for other people. The struggle described in Marxist theory is present in society, but the economy only reflects on a certain perspective.

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  3. What is wealth? What is currency? It is an idea. the reason for the plethora of socioeconomic and political theorizing and indoctrination is a result of in the box thinking about currency and the idea of money and wealth. To solve the problem you need the mathematical concept of infinite divisibility and a quantum computer to process it. This idea should be combined with the concepts behind bit-coin and the concept of the British pound in the 12th century which was a pound of gold was equal to a pound note. In other words us the technology available and make the value of the money the weight. "All things remaining equal"this would allow for the first time in the history of man that a currency would exist with infinite divisibility and zero inflation. In other words, there would be enough money for all but dividing would not cause it to lose any of its purchasing power.

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  4. The Marxist literary theory sheds an impressively bright light on classics works of literature, specifically those within the genre of utopian/dystopian science fiction. One novel that immediately comes to mind is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. In his novel, Huxley introduces a society in London which has achieved scientific advancements which allows it to produce its citizens in a laboratory in masses through the “Bokanovsky’s Process,” and “predestine” the citizens for their respective working class through the practice of “eugenics.” According to the Marxist literary theory, the “predestination” of certain citizens to low, or high, working castes is the highest example of the proletarian struggle to succeed against the bourgeoisies. In Huxley’s work, it is the government in London which plays the role of bourgeoisies by choosing the work the citizens will perform all their lives—before the citizens are born! For Marx, the situation portrayed in Brave New World would ideally consist of a struggle between citizens and government, but for Huxley, the real shock is the citizens’ submission to the government’s wishes. This gives Huxley’s work a very twisted interpretation, in deed.

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  5. Marxist theory has been highly distributed among many pieces of literature and widely reflected upon as the proper solution. Whether this type of theory could work on a real society is solution that may never be answered or to be discussed another day. Marxism is also shown on a Sci-Fi series known as Mass Effect in which aliens of different planets have different roles and work for progress in which distribution of economic wealth is fairly displayed but luxury is.The distribution of goods that others contain is not fully shown which causes trouble between workers and high class members.

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  6. This article ties in nicely with synthesis essay number three currently being scribbled out. An symbol relating to the spider cartoon is university. College and university can be interchangeably used and will be in this entry, but do have key differences. College is viewed as the great equalizer due to it's capacity to elevate an attendees socioeconomic status, but this is guaranteed nowhere on the endless brochures. Performing this climb hurts the liver and wallet, but can provide a lifestyle entirely out of the class once reared in, or at least that's what they want you to think. So many fail so that a few succeed, but without a system like that too many would succeed. Overpopulation of our planet is doing this; too many doctorates in one area can make that degree worthless. Even though attending college will leave the graduate in debt and jaundiced, everyone should try because the others benefit from your lost funds.

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  7. Marxist theory is more than a way to view literature; it is lens to be applied to the societal forces that separate humans by class conflict. Conflict theory is the larger sociological paradigm that seeks to view society, and its problems, by the inequalities that Marx detailed in his philosophy. These class and wealth inequalities are not significant in their effects on wealth alone - as wealth and currency are social constructs, and progress is entirely subjective. The key here is that Marxism is tied to Capitalism alone. An economic system that distributes wealth more equally would be moot for a Marxist lens. With that taken into consideration, the Marxist "way" of looking at literature and other media is completely necessary in order to fully understand its value in a historically contextual way. One can often understand the person who created media based on their reflection of class conflict, or lack thereof, in relation to Marxism. Do they see the poor as the scapegoat of social problems, or the rich? One must ask these types of questions in order to be a critical and informed viewer unclouded by social construction's attacks on holism.

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