Research Seminar: Marxist Literary Theory
Jameson, F.: Marxism and Form: Twentieth-century Dialectical Theories of Literature; Adorno, et. al., T. : Aesthetics and Politics; Sartre, J-P.: Search for a Method; Vološinov, V. N.: Marxism and the Philosophy of Language; Williams, R.: Marxism and Literature; Derrida, J.: Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International; Althusser, L.: For Marx; a course reader
Recommended: Lukács, G.: Realism in Our Time (out of print)
In the early 1990s, literary theorist Fredric Jameson responded to journalists who were at once proclaiming the emergence of a rejuvenated capitalist "new world order" and asserting the death of Marxism. "It does not seem to make much sense," he wrote, "to talk about the bankruptcy of Marxism, when Marxism is very precisely the science and the study of just that capitalism whose global triumph is affirmed in talk of Marxism's demise." What we can infer from Jameson's comments is the idea that historically Marxism has been useful not only for the critique of social systems, but for the study of literature and culture, as well. Two decades later—and with the political, economic and environmental contradictions of the "new world order" now in plain sight—critics might benefit once again from reassessing the appropriateness of Marxism for the study of literature and culture. This course will provide the opportunity for such a reassessment by focusing on the ways that Marxist social thought in the past ninety years has contributed to theories of literature and culture. We will attempt to understand and theorize the relation between the material conditions of social life and aesthetic forms. The goal of the course is to provide a broad introduction to the range of Marxist analysis and critique in contemporary literary and cultural studies. In the first part of the course, we will read several classic works of Marxist theory to ground our study historically. In the second part of the course, driven partly by student concerns and interests, we will analyze the compatibility of Marxist literary theory with feminism, critical race studies, and postcolonial studies.
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