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'The Ideology of Modernism"
Transcript of 'The Ideology of Modernism"
Born in 1875 in Budapest
Died in 1971 (in Budapest)
Some Lukacian approaches
"The Ideology of Modernism"
Lukacs argues that critics must pay closer attention to "the answers [literary texts] give to the major ideological and artistic qualities of our time" (759).
'The Ideology of Modernism"
Major Marxist literary theorist
Influential member of the Hungarian Communist Party, and generally a defender of Stalinist orthodoxy
Major works include
The Theory of the Novel
(1920), History and Class Consciousness (1923), and writings on the historical novel and realist fiction.
In particular: "it is the view of the world, the ideology or
underlying a writer's work, that counts" (769)
Wants to set literature within a clear materialist framework and analyze it as both emerging from and reflecting back upon a socio-economic base
For Lukacs, content determines form: the technical innovations of modernism, then, are the manifestations of a particular (bourgeois) experience of coming-apart, of disjointure, and of isolation.
Concrete potentiality: relies on both objective and subjective conceptions of the individual; situates the individual within the "interaction of character and environment" (763)
Abstract potentiality: subjective characterization of the individual; the individual is seen as separate from environment and social interaction
Argues that perspective is of "overriding importance" in artistic production
Perspective is seen in the selection of content: an author demonstrates her perspective on the world by how she limits, or selects, the characters, scenes, images, etc. she decides to present
Modernism, for Lukacs, "drops this selective principle" in order to reach for abstraction, subjectivity and, ultimately, the "universal"
Thus, while a realist writer like Thomas Mann "knows that [the experience he portrays] is typical only of a certain class" and so is sure to mark the experience as such, the "uncritical" modernist writer, Beckett being a prime example, refuses such particularity and instead posits that "this subjective experience constitutes reality as such" (771)
"A little dog followed him,
a pomeranian I think, but I don't think so.
I wasn't sure at the time and I'm still not sure, though I've hardly thought about it" (8)
"It was too far for her, yes, the distance was too great, from one four. By the time she came to the fourth knock she imagined she was only at the second,
the first two having been erased from her memory as completely as if they had never been felt
Not purely a matter of subjectivity, though: the real problem is the aspiration toward universality that is demonstrated by the very structure, which excludes all other realities but the subjective experience of the narrator.
Lorraine Hansberry: the work of the modernist absurd is a
"conversation between white men and themselves"
(cited by Mark Hodin, "Lorraine Hansberry's Absurdity,"
"There's this man who comes every week. He gives me money and takes away the pages.
So many pages, so much money
"He was massive and hulking, to the point of
misshapenness. And, without being black, of a dark colour
"Yet since modernism portrays this distortion without critical detachment, indeed devises stylistic techniques which emphasize the necessity of distortion in any kind of society,
it may be said to distort distortion further
" (Lukacs, 778)
Or, to give Lorraine Hansberry the last, direct and to the point word, it "
offers an occasion for audience to evade rather than confront the source of their pain in social reality, while using a sense of cultural rebellion to disavow such an evasion
"Man, for these writers, is by nature solitary, asocial, unable to enter into relationships with other human beings" (761)