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Marxist Theory

Introduction to marxist literary criticism

Stephanie Fillion

on 21 September 2014

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Transcript of Marxist Theory

What does socioeconomic status have to do with it?
Marxist Literary Theory
Marxist literary theories tend to focus on the representation of class conflict as well as the reinforcement of class distinctions as they are presented in a work of literature. Capitalism and its influence on class distinction are central to Marxist literary theory.
What is Marxist Theory?
Let's define some terms...
the shared beliefs and values held in an unquestioning manner by a culture. It governs what that culture deems to be normative and valuable. For Marxists, ideology is determined by economics. A rough approximation: "Tell me how much money you have and I'll tell you how you think." Ideology is central to the creation of societal norms.
Definitions (cont.)
the economic ideological base which values private ownership and profit for individuals
Capital (Bourgeoisie)
Labor (Proletariat)
employers, owners, major investors (top 10%)
employees, workers (bottom 90%)
the difference between the value of production and what a worker is paid by the owner
placing lower classes and people of color on edges of society socially, economically, and politically
the results of capitalism on the worker; the separation between the worker and others due to exploitation on the job.
often used to describe the way in which people are turned into commodities useful in market exchange.
For example, some would argue that the media's obsession with tragedy (e.g. 9/11, death of Princess Diana, movie theater shooting in Colorado) make commodities out of grieving people.
Another example would be people "selling out" or "cashing in" on their talent, looks, or intelligence (musicians, artists, actors, models)
Discuss using the terms we have learned today:

1. Should "payday loans" companies be shut down by the government?

2. Are sweatshops good or bad?

3. Should capitalism continue to dominate as our economic ideology?
Examining a text through a Marxist lens does not mean you are a communist or that you are anti-capitalism. It just means that you are taking a closer look at how social class influences the literature we are reading.
So, what does this have to do with English class?
What is the economic status and social class of a particular character?
How does a character's economic status and social class affect what happens to him/her?
Who is in power? Whose voices are heard/ignored?
How do characters move across social classes and how does the move impact their lives? Do they have a particular commodity they use to "trade" up?
Do the struggles or conflict in the story come as a result of economic disadvantage, alienation, exploitation, or oppression?
What ideologies are espoused in the text?
The Marxist literary critic asks:

"My mom bought be the iPhone 6 in silver and I wanted the gold one!"

"The store wouldn't accept $100s and that's all I had on me!"

"I can't believe U2s new album just showed up on my phone for free! Thanks Apple for ruining my life.
Full transcript