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Marxist Criticism


Marxist Criticism * Georg Hegel (1770-1831): The human mind begins with a thesis (say, past tense in English is -ed ) that may produce an antithesis (a disproof ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Marxist Criticism

Marxist Criticism
  • Georg Hegel (1770-1831) The human mind begins
    with a thesis (say, past tense in English is
    -ed) that may produce an antithesis (a
    disproof, such as went) and, thus, lead to a
    synthesisa new understanding (some verbs are
    irregular). This synthesis then becomes a thesis
    itself, which may find a new antithesis, leading
    to a new synthesis, and so on. The end result of
    this process is absolute knowledge. This process
    can be said to be dialectical.

  • Karl Marx (1818-83) Philosophers have only
    interpreted the world, in various ways the
    point, however, is to change it.
  • Marx took Hegel's idealistic dialectic and made
    it material dialectical materialism. He thought
    that class struggle was the real history of
    consciousness in progress.

  • History is the history of class struggle Freeman
    and slave patrician and plebeian lord and serf
    etc. Capitalism's opponents are the bourgeoisie
    and the proletariat private ownership of the
    means of production vs. the workers who sell
    their labor to this capitalist system of
    production. The end result of this process is
    either a revolutionary reconstitution of society,
    or the common ruin of the contending classes.

  • Society consists of an economic base, or
    infrastructure, and a superstructure. The
    superstructure comprises everything cultural
    (religion, politics, law, art, education, etc.).
    This superstructure is determined by its
    infrastructure (slave-based, feudal, capitalist,

Colorado (
North Korea, 2011 c. David Guttenfelder
  • How does capitalism reproduce and maintain
  • consumerism
  • surplus value (production succeeds in exploiting
    more labor time than is actually paid for)
  • the infra- and superstructures (above)

  • The dominant culture owns the means of
    production therefore, its ideas and values are

  • Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) Why do the
    exploited classes of capitalist society go along
    with the ruling ideology when it is not in their
    best interest to do so?
  • founding member of Communist Party in Italy,
    imprisoned by Mussolini

Antonio Gramsci
  • Theory of hegemonyto persuade the whole of
    society that a prevailing ideologythe very one
    that protects the dominant classis really the
    only natural and normal way of thinking
  • put another waythe pervasive, weblike system of
    assumptions and values that shape the way things
    look, what they mean, indeed what reality is for
    the majority of people in a culture

  • Literary criticism not just aesthetic but
  • Art should be an instrument of political action
  • What does art tell us about a society (or, to
    reduce the question, its economic
    infrastructure)? Does it reinforce or run counter
    to the prevailing ideology (the network of
    conventions, values, and opinions to which the
    majority of people uncritically subscribe)?

  • The Marxist critic looks at class systems
    reflected in texts
  • Looks for commodification (turning people,
    things, services, art into an economic good) and
  • Looks at a literary work as a material product to
    be understood in broadly historical terms
  • A literary work is first a product of workissues
    of production/consumption

  • Asks, Is economics the motivation for the
    characters' actions? Is the socialist theme more
    important than the text as a piece of art?
  • There are a wide variety of Marxist critics, with
    discrepancies in their viewpoints.

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