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Chemistry LibreTexts

Marxist Literary Theory

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  • This week, we will stay within the Romantic Era of writing but move onto going deeper into the Marxist Literary Theory.

    Marxist Theory

    Click through the slide below for an overview of Marxist Theory. You will go through the background of Marxism and then center on the theory and literature. 


    What do Marxist literary critics do with texts? What questions do they ask?

    • They explore ways in which the text reveals ideological oppression of a dominant economic class over subordinate classes. In order to do this a Marxist might ask the following questions:
      • Does the text reflect or resist a dominant ideology? Does it do both?
      • Does the main character in the text affirm or resist dominant class values?
      • Whose story gets told in the text? Are lower economic groups ignored or devalued?
      • What values does it reinforce and what values does it degrade?
      • Are values that support the dominant economic group given privilege? This can happen tacitly, in the way in which values are taken to be self-evident.
      • What social classes do the characters represent?
      • How do the characters from different social classes interact?
    • They look at the conditions of production for the work. For example, they ask:
      • What were the economic conditions for publication of a work?
      • Who was the audience? What does the text suggest about the values of this audience?
      • What is the social class of the author?

    What other approaches resemble Marxist literary criticism?

    • Marxist literary criticism often shares with feminist criticism a desire to challenge the power structures in contemporary society. For feminist, the issue is a marginalized gender; for Marxists, the issue is not gender but economic power, leading to political power.
    • Marxist literary criticism can also be viewed as a type of cultural criticism, in that it seeks to analyze a discourse (of power) that makes up one of the discourses that determine a text's historical meaning.


    Works Cited

    Assumption College. 29 Oct. 2013