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Marxist Literary Theory And Criticism Essay

1718 words - 7 pages

Marxism is a revolutionary movement aiming at creating a world of equal social classes, in which the Bourgeoisie and Proletariat are equally sharing the means of production and property. Karl Marx's theory is purely socio-economic, however Marx and his friend Engels wrote some personal observations and comments on contemporary and ancient literature, sporadically through their socio-economic books and articles or their letters.Literature, in all its forms, to Marx, is part of the superstructure that is formed by the Base. Literature, along with the other conventions and institutions in the Superstructure, express and promote the ideology of the Base. The Ideology preserves and works on maintaining the Status Quo of the Base. Literature then is a mirror of the society, promoting the ideology of the Base and is not involved or used to change this social reality. However, later Marxist critics viewed literature as being a major dynamic tool used by both classes to express and stimulate their beliefs.Engels believe that a work of art should mirror the society, regardless of the picture it portrays, whether with or against the beliefs of the author. In a letter to the author of Die Alten und die Neuen (The old ones and the new), Minna Kautsky, he little expressed appreciation of the literary value of the novel; however he emphasized on the content of the novel:You obviously felt a desire to take a public stand in your book, to testify to your convictions before the entire world. This has now been done; it is a stage you have passed through and need not repeat in this form. I am by no means opposed to partisan poetry as such. Both Aeschylus, the father of tragedy, and Aristophanes, the father of comedy, were highly partisan poets...I think however that the purpose must become manifest from the situation and the action themselves without being expressly pointed out and that the author does not have to serve the reader on a platter -- the future historical resolution of the social conflicts which he describes (Engels)This notion of promoting Marxism or Communism through art lead to the invention of Socialist-Realism, a term suggesting that an artist should commit him/herself to the Proletariat and their cause. However the artists did not follow Engels's advice by not expressing one's ideas and ideals explicitly, but rather implicitly. Those artists were called the smithy poets, whose works had a good content (regarding the Marxist beliefs) but had a very low literary value. Socialist-Realism however required Optimism, meaning to write progressive novels that would lead people into believing in the Communist cause and revolting against the repressive powers. But little of these works affected the masses the way they were supposed to; while other works that are written for other purposes and by disbelievers in Marxism affected the masses and lead some individuals to believe in Communism (Dostoyevsky's works and Tolstoy). (Cuddon 492)The earliest Marxist...

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