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Criticism for Dummies: Marxism

The Marxist Approach to literature. By: Joseph Yalenkatian, Danny Scharar, Alec Noggle, & Markie Henderson (Reed - Period 4)

Joseph Yalenkatian

on 23 January 2013

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Transcript of Criticism for Dummies: Marxism

Criticism for Dummies:
Marxist/Critical Theory/Sociological Approaches Marky Marx & The Frankfurt Bunch MARXISM Chapter 1 Welcome Dummies to the World of... Karl Marx
Super funky German philosopher
Wrote the Communist Manifesto with Friedrich Engels in 1848
The manifesto laid out the basic ideals of communism and the everlasting war between the classes (Bourgeoisie vs. Proletariat)
His teachings influenced the rise of the communist party in the Soviet Union and the P.R.C.
His works also influenced the creation of the Marxist criticism for literature. Ze
Thinkers Chapter 2:
Marxism & You In order to perform a Marxist critique you will first need a piece of literature.

In order to find one there are several places you may look, including but not limited too:
A book store
The library (how about that!)
The internet
A neighbor’s bookshelf
The trunk of a 2001 Toyota Carrola The Steps! Published Marxist Critiques
on Literature Marx’ most famous work
Argues that the rich minority (Bourgeoisie) has too much power over everyone else (Proletariat)
Says the free trade system forces the working class to be the Bourgeoisie’s subjects
Argues for a Communist society
In this community the Proletariat’s interests would be of chief importance, instead of the Bourgeoisie The Communist Manifesto Marxism is based upon the materialist interpretation of society and its history along with its economic state. It deals with the social changes and classes, to be more specific, the class relations of society (social structure).

As the nature of the times evolve, so to does the methodology and the structure of the Marxist school of thought and literary criticism. The Marxist Approach Neo-Marxist Approach
Began in the Frankfurt School with German philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud.
Neo-Marxism refers to the extending and broadening of ideas not included in Marx's original definition of Marxism.
Critical Theory
Designated term of the traditional philosophy thought up by the Frankfurt School.
School of thought which focuses on the observation and critique of culture and society. This is accomplished through the aspects of historical phases and sociology.
In order for critical theory to be applicable, it must meet 3 criteria:
Must explain what’s wrong with the current social reality.
Identify what must be changed in society.
Provide, what must be considered normal, ways to achieve social transformation successfully. The Marxist Approach While reading, pay attention to terms/ideas that are similar to Marxism:
Social Structure: How is society separated from each other? Is there an evident division between the classes?
Tension in the Society: Is there conflict between the social classes?
Wealthy vs. Poor
Socialism: Does the government control all aspects of a centrally planned economy? Recognizing a Marxist Approach A Further Look Born November 28, 1820, in Barmen, Prussia
Lifelong co-worker with Karl Marx
Co-authored The Communist Manifesto along with many other works on Marxism
He translated many of Marx’s works into English and helped Marx with research for books
He financially supported Marx with the research to write Das Kapital and he edited the 2nd & 3rd volumes after Marx’s death. Friedrich Engels Born on August 27, 1770, in Stuttgart, Wuürttemberg
Most important representative of classical German philosophy & major figure in German idealism
Influenced Marx and Engels
His method was idealist and its main point was “the elaboration of a world outlook that was more materialist than any previous one”.
His use of historic references was what distinguished him from other philosophers. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel Born January 22, 1891, in Ales, Sardinia, Italy
Founder of the Italian Communist Party in 1921
Renowned for his development of the idea of Hegemony and
Hegemony: class alliance where one class assumes a leadership position over the other classes and guarantees certain benefits to maintain power over the whole society
He emphasized the role of the party by the formation of a class instead of simply representing a class Antonio Gramsci Born April 13, 1885, in Budapest, Austria-Hungary
Philosopher, writer, & literary critic
Influenced the mainstream of European Communist thought during the first half of the 20th century
Main contribution:
Formulation of a Marxist system of aesthetics that opposed political control of artists & defended humanism
Wrote more than 30 books & hundreds of essays Born April 14, 1934, in Cleveland, Ohio
American philosopher/Marxist political theorist
Even considered as neo-Marxist
Best known for his contemporary cultural trends analysis
Written extensively on “post-modernism”
It is the cultural expression of the modern period of capitalist development. Frederic Jameson Born on October 16, 1918, in Birmendreïis, French Algeria
1948 – Joined the Communist Party in Paris
Generally regarded as the primary advocate of the modern structuralism and main proponent of the “mature Marx” idea. Louis Althusser Born September 19, 1914, in Brooklyn, New York
American socialist activist & author
Joined the Young People’s Socialist League in his teenage years
Later becoming a young affiliate of the Socialist Party of America
Joined the Free Speech Movement
Known for his writings regarding Marxism
Editor of Marx-Engels Cyclopedia
(3 Volumes)
Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution
(5 Volumes) Hal Draper Georg Lukacs STEP 1: STEP 2: STEP 3: STEP 4: Once said literature is acquired there are several steps to performing the critique.

Step 1 - It is necessary to know the social class of the author. This will provide insight into the background of the piece and the perspective in which it was written.
For example, if you are reading a piece of writing by Ernest Hemingway it will become pretty clear that the novel is written by a person who has a keen understanding of life in the upper class due to his upbringing and adventurous life. Step 2, analyze what the consequences are of the work finding success.
Who does the work benefit?
Who does it hurt?
If you are reading a piece that that portrays the wealthy as evil and the poor as the hero, the work would then benefit the poor. Step 3 look for the values or themes of the overall work.
Does the text have a specific value it set of values that favor one class over the other?
For example you would look to see how the novel treats materialism. Step 4, analyze the character’s class. Look at how characters from different classes interact.
Is one class superior to the other? Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Written at time of Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution gives birth to large working class
The monster, which is also created, represents the working class (proletariat)
The monster, like the workers, is poor and trying to find a place in society
The monster, like the working class, has great power that the bourgeoisie fears
Mary Shelley had radical political views which influenced her view on classes and ultimately her writing. Propaganda style cover Animal Farm by George Orwell
Written at the end of World War II to warn against Stalin and totalitarianism
Animals represent working class and Mr. Jones represents ruling class
Mr. Jones doesn’t compensate his workers well and squanders his money on luxury
Old Major, who actually represents Karl Marx, says all animals are equal and must overthrow Mr. Jones
Animals, led by Old Major, work together and rebel in order to try and create a classless society, Marx’ goal Author George Orwell Author Mary Shelley http://www.public.asu.edu/~hiroshi/eng400/frankenstein/project/student/allisonessay.html http://www.bookrags.com/essay-2005/10/13/6651/9476/ Cover of an American board game.
Another caption: "To prepare for life in Capitalist America - an education game for kids from 8 to 80" Joseph Yalenkatian Danny Scharar Alec Noggle Markie Henderson Reed-Period 4 Danke for reading:

Marxist/Critical Theory/Sociological Approaches Table of Contents Chapter 1 – Marxism?
Definition and characterization of the Marxism.
Origins of Marxism.
Recognizing and applying Marxism.
Ze Thinkers who originated and contributed to Marxism.

Chapter 2 – Marxism & You
Procedural list on how to execute Marxism in literature.
Examples of Marxist critiqued literature:
Frankenstein & Animal Farm

Chapter 3 – Hamlet: The Class Based Struggle for Power, Pride, and Payback
Essay on Marxism applied to William Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Appendixes –
Annotations from Hamlet using Marxism
MLA Works Cited Pages for Ch. 1 & 2 AND Ch. 3 Chapter 3: Works Cited - Ch. 1 & 2 "A Marxist Perspective: The Animal Farm”
http://teebeecee.wordpress.com/2010/09/06/a-marxist-perspective- the- animal%C2%A0farm/. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Jan. 2013.
Allison, T. Matthew. "The Frankenstein Project." The Frankenstein Project.
Arizona State University, n.d. Web. 06 Jan. 2013."Marxists Internet Archive." Chary, Frederick B. "Gyrgy Lukcs." Dictionary of World Biography. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999. N. pag. Print.
"Critical Theory." (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). N.p., 08 Mar. 2005.
Web. 07 Jan. 2013. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/critical-theory/>.
Heilbroner, Robert. "Socialism." : The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. N.p.,
n.d. Web. 07 Jan. 2013. <http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/Socialism.html>.
Marx, Karl. The Communist Manifesto. Harmondsworth Eng: Penguin Books,
Marxists Internet Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Jan. 2013.
Neupane, Santosh. "B. A. Notes." : A Marxist Reading of The Great Gatsby. N.p.,
12 Dec. 2010. Web. 06 Jan. 2013.
Patchett, Ann. "Marxist Criticism Is Always Concerned with the Class Struggle in
History. Essay | Marxist Criticism Is Always Concerned with the Class Struggle in History."BookRags. BookRags, n.d. Web. 06 Jan. 2013.
Thomas, Barry F. "Karl Marx." World Philosophers and Their Works. Pasadena,
CA: Salem, 2000. N. pag. Print. Works Cited - Ch. 3 Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. New York:
Pocket, 1988. Print.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. New
York: New American Library, 1963. Print. Appendixes Annotations MLA Works Cited Hamlet: The Class Based Struggle for Power, Pride, and Payback
Throughout time, it has become evident that power can corrupt a person, their moral integrity, their decision making, and most importantly their relationships with
people around them. Very few pieces of literature exhibit the corruption that follows power better than William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Hamlet deals with the interaction of classes and the continuous struggle to attain and maintain control. According to Karl Marx and the ideals of Marxism, the possession of too much power can lead to this corruption. Hamlet is characterized by the interaction of members of classes and the constant struggle for power which is perfectly suited for a Marxist critique.
Karl Marx was a German philosopher born in 1818 who developed the idea of Marxism. Marxism is based upon the materialist interpretation of society and its
history along with its economic state. It deals with the social changes and the class relations of society, also known as social structure. Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto with his co-writer, Friedrich Engels in 1848. The work laid out the basic ideals of communism and the long lasting social war between the classes. This “war” was focused primarily on the Bourgeoisie vs. the Proletariat. The “oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on … a fight that each time ended … in a revolutionary re-constitution of society at large” (Marx 3) and the masses will rise up against the Bourgeoisie. Regarding literature, Marxist criticism is the criticism of literature or art from the point of view of socialist or communist ideology. The main ideas to look for include the social structure of the text, the presence of tension/conflict between the social classes, and the existence of a central government controlling all aspects of the economy. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the tension between the classes grows as the story progresses. With characters facing tensions in society to gain power and deceiving and plotting against each other, the sense of corruption in the play evolves.
The characters in Hamlet are often faced with social class tensions. Hamlet’s struggle for power is through the personal aspect. Hamlet focuses more on the
personal characteristics and traits of people. He believes that nobility has been diminished, especially with the marriage of his mother and uncle, claiming that his mother has sinned by marrying such a vile man. Hamlet believes that aristocracy has no significance in life because it will not have any significance after death. Interrogated about a murder he later commits in the play, the prince merely remarks that “your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable service” (IV.iii.24-26) because proceeding death, each individual possesses the same qualities, lifelessness and without nobility. In the beginning of the play, Hamlet states that for his friends Denmark “is nothing either good or bad” but in his eyes, “it is a prison” (II.ii.233). He sees the world as a prison and Denmark is the worst prison of all. The young prince views himself at the status of a prisoner. Though he is the wealthy son of a former king, he is trapped in the struggle between his uncle and himself for power over Claudius by seeking revenge for his father’s death. However, due to Hamlet’s tendency to overanalyze, he is unable to commit the murder when the time presents itself. This becomes one of his greatest regrets. Despite being of higher nobility than Ophelia, Hamlet is still in love with her. In Act I, Scene iii, Laertes and Polonius warn Ophelia of Hamlet’s intentions. Hamlet alone is “subject to his birth” (I.iii.18) and if he were to marry beneath his social status, his subjects would view the marriage as dishonorable. Hamlet’s allegiance to love lies not in his personal affections alone but also in the opinions of the masses. They advise her to be weary and doubtful of what he says to her because he may not truly be in love. Polonius enters and bids farewell to Laertes who is about to embark on a trip to France. Polonius then reinforces Laertes’ sentiments and forbids Ophelia from interacting with the prince ever again. This display of parental control exhibits reveals the restrictions of class interaction and how the class lines are drawn. Despite the fact that Polonius and Ophelia are considered high class individuals, since Ophelia is not in the same noble class as Hamlet, the two may not be together. In Hamlet’s society, class structure means everything. When vying for power and nobility, social positions define a person and the relationships between members of different classes are viewed as taboo.
The interaction between Gertrude and Claudius is detested by Hamlet. Claudius replaces his brother’s position as king and weds his sister-in-law. Claudius utilizes
the tragic death of his brother to justify his marriage with Gertrude. With a personal tragedy, he takes political power of the kingdom. Claudius and Hamlet’s interaction is defined by an underlying hatred of the other. Claudius feigns concern for Hamlet’s mental wellbeing, but in actuality is just eager to get rid of Hamlet. Yet again, Claudius puts family off to the side to gain control of the kingdom so that he may maintain his position of power. For Claudius, power is his main concern until Act III, scene iii where he repents for his sins and realizes that his brother’s murder was a terrible mistake. It is in this moment that Hamlet realizes he cannot attain his personal goal of revenge while Claudius is praying and that he must wait for a better, unsacred time. Hamlet leaves. Still, at the end of his prayer Claudius comes to the realization that he is insincere and that though he prayed, his “thoughts remain below” (III.iii.96). After Hamlet murders Polonius, Claudius sends Hamlet to England in order to remove suspicions regarding the death. Claudius seems to care about Hamlet’s deteriorating mental state; nonetheless he sends a letter to England ordering the death of Hamlet. This reveals that Claudius’s political wishes for power trump his personal need for repentance and family. Hamlet, on the other hand, is more focused on his personal lust for vendetta than any political gain, and his hesitance for achieving his goal shows that he still maintains a certain level of moral supremacy. This, however, is lost once he murders Polonius.
As the news of Polonius’ death spreads throughout the kingdom, Laertes returns to Denmark to avenge his father’s death. Laertes has a personal struggle with his
father’s death which results in his objective of gaining political power for the people of the kingdom, the common good. Claudius’ main role is to be on damage control for any problems that arise which may jeopardize his reign as king. His main concern at this point is the fact that Laertes has gathered many citizens of Denmark to overthrow his sovereignty. The state of being of Denmark seems to be reflective of the leaders. King Hamlet was a morally good persona and he oversaw Denmark in a prosperous era. King Claudius, though, is morally corrupt and Denmark’s power and prosperity began to wane. Laertes is now in the most morally pure phase since Hamlet committed the murder of Polonius. This causes the people to side with Laertes which puts Claudius on the defensive. With Laertes being a part of the high class, but not considered nobility, gives an advantage with the public. When asked of Laertes’ father whereabouts, Claudius states that Polonius is dead and Gertrude immediately interjects by explaining “but not by [Claudius]” (IV.v.123). Unintentionally, Gertrude states the innocence of Claudius. This calms Laertes but he still wishes to seek revenge permitting Claudius to devise a plan to kill Hamlet using a poisoned sword in a duel. The uprising almost sparked by Laertes displays how the common people interact with those who lead them. Just as Karl Marx observed, it is the duty of the common man to destroy a government that commits injustices. Claudius however, is very successful at easing tensions with Laertes and shifting the blame towards Hamlet.
William Shakespeare’s Hamlet can appropriately be critiqued in a Marxist approach due to the play’s use of class structure and class tensions. The interactions
between the characters depict the struggle for power with Hamlet, Claudius, and Laertes. The nobility, Bourgeoisie, has been a source of too much power and finally falls to pieces. Unlike others, Hamlet’s struggle in power is personal. He does not yearn for royal power, but for power over Claudius to avenge King Hamlet’s death. Claudius goes after political power over the kingdom with no regard for personal relations. Laertes, on the other hand, struggles for both aspects of power to acquire revenge for Polonius’ death. Life is often plagued by self-interests for personal political gain; it is the duty of the individual to counteract these evils by acting for the morally right reasons. Act I, Scene iii Act II, Scene ii Act III, Scene iii Act IV
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