Marxist Literary Criticism is not an easy thing to define, where do I start? I suppose I will start with the beginning: Marxist theory began with a man named Karl Marx (go figure!) and a man named Friedrich Engels during the 19th century. These men were primarily concerned with economics, political, and philosophical issues and worked out explanations of the capitalist theory and mode of production. Marxist Criticism writes from the standpoint of Marx’s philosophical ideas, and from his view of history in which the class struggle is fundamental. Society is broken into two major sections: the superstructure and the base. The superstructure contains an overarching form of social consciousness called ideology, which infiltrates into the base, infecting every mind in society with the ideology of the rich. People are mindless zombies (well, maybe that's a hyperbole) absorbing the information that's floating in and around the material world—"it is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness" (Eagleton 2). Art is an interesting piece of the puzzle because it's part of the superstructure, it's a form of ideology, but it taps into every layer of the cake. In Eagleton's words, "to understand literature, then, means understanding the total social process of which it is part". In other words, analyzing artwork means analyzing the world in which it was created. Fascinating! I love charts and I made a chart to help me understand the hierarchy of society:
|I made this chart using information from Althusser's article.|
While reading the three articles for Critical Theory, my mind kept wandering to social media—what would Marx or Engels say about the accessibility of the world? Is social media degrading our minds into mushier, less aware blobs? Or is it facilitating the discussions we, as people, need to have in order to create social change? I found an article at the Huffington Post that expands on this topic. I, personally, believe social media (twitter, specifically) is an incredible catalyst for discussion and facilitates connections between people who would never join forces if it wasn't for this platform. So, while it might not be the artiest art piece, I decided to upload a postmodern screenshot of my twitter home page as an example of people connecting across the world. I am a feminist and I like to post feminist articles that I find. As a result, another feminist has found and followed me, and she's connected to a whole bunch of other feminists! If it wasn't for twitter, then I wouldn't even know these people exist. Furthermore, there is another site I like called Medium. Anyone can go here and write an article about anything they'd like! All sorts of people write articles: famous screenwriters, scientists, TED Talk speakers, feminists, data analysts, fiction writers, etc. I think Marx and Engels would jump in excitement if they knew about this social platform—it's made by the people and written for the people! Recently, I read an article about the vaccine paranoia and measles outbreak by a person with autism who is upset that people would rather have children die than develop autism (plus, vaccines do not cause autism)—it is great!
In conclusion, Marxism is layered and interesting, interesting because it forces people to evaluate their lives and the role they play in it—even if it's difficult to change. I think the first step towards social change is awareness, awareness about the world and how it works. What do other people think about social media? Is it helpful or detrimental? Is it dangerous to personalize celebrities?
"But they're just normal people! I can be like that! Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy. I'll just emulate everything they do." Unfortunately, no.