English 166

Special Topics: Marxism and Literature

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2019 Gonzalez, Marcial
MWF 2-3 106 Wheeler

Book List

Berger, John: Lilac and Flag; Eagleton, Terry: Marxism and Literary Criticism; Melville, Herman: Billy Budd, Sailor and Other Stories; Olsen, Tillie: Yonnondio: From the Thirties; Plascencia, Salvador: The People of Paper

Other Readings and Media

Course Reader


In the early 1990s, the Marxist literary theorist Fredric Jameson responded to critics who were at once proclaiming the emergence of a capitalist “new world order” and asserting the death of Marxism.  Jameson wrote: “It does not seem to make much sense 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.”  Two-and-a-half decades later—and with the political, economic and environmental contradictions of the “new world order” now in plain sight—students of literature will certainly benefit once again from reassessing the appropriateness of Marxism not only for the critique of social systems and political practices, but for the study of literature and culture, as well. This course will provide the opportunity for such a reassessment by focusing on the ways that Marxist social thought in the past century has contributed to theories of literature and culture. To be clear, this is not a comprehensive course on Marxist theory, which would be impossible to teach in a one-semester undergraduate course. At most, the course will introduce some of the basic concepts employed by Marxist critics in the study of literature and some of the debates among Marxist scholars surrounding those concepts. The goal of the course is to provide a general introduction to the range of Marxist analysis and critique in contemporary literary and cultural studies. Most of our reading will be compiled in a course reader. We will read some classical works of Marxist scholarship as well as some contemporary critical works. We’ll also ground our study of Marxism by reading and discussing selected works of literature. The course will require a substantial amount of reading and writing. Class participation is also required.

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