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E 341 (23)

Marxist literary theory, base/superstructure

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E 341
Aparna Gollapudi

6 November Marxist Literary Theory th Based on the ideas about social organization of two mid-19 century German thinkers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (Communist Manifesto, 1848) Structuralists/post structuralists: understand the world determined by the nature of language. Our consciousness too is structured by the nature of linguistic systems. Freud/psychoanalysis: inner psychic conflicts, unconscious, infantile experience shapes our consciousness. Marxism, on the other hand, is a “materialist philosophy” – i.e., our consciousness is determined by the material conditions of our existence. Where we live, work, what we eat, what our economic situation is fundamentally determines consciousness. There is, then, a tendency to “economic determinism” in Marxist theory. Marxism also – like Feminism – has an agenda of social change. It seeks not just to understand the world around but to change it. If Feminism often focuses on “images of women” and considers how gender determines literary creation, Marxism focuses on how different classes are represented and how socio-economic conditions influence literary creation. After Industrial Revolution – does not feel as if workers are doing “own” work – not as personal Reify – make more abstract rather than concrete Class not just about having money, about having time The most basic formulation of social organization in Marxist thought Society is divided into two realms: the base and the superstructure Base: the realm of labor, the “material realm of production, distribution, and exchange.” Superstructure: realm of culture, the “world of ideas, art, religion, law, and so on” Eg. A book: for instance participates in the ‘superstructure’ – sphere of ideas, art, etc. But, it also participates in the ‘base’ – it is a material object that is a result of the relations of production, distribution, consumption The relationship between base and superstructure Superstructure or culture/ideas are shaped by the processes of the base or the means of production, distribution, consumption etc. For eg.,
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