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Karl Marx Case Essay Sample

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Post-structuralism holds that there are many truths, that frameworks must bleed, and that structures must become unstable or decentered. Moreover, post-structuralism is also concerned with the power structures or hegemonies and power and how these elements contribute to and/or maintain structures to enforce h ierarchy. Structuralism is used in literary theory, for example, “…if you examine the structure of a large number of short stories to discover the underlying principles that govern their composition…principles of narrative progression…or of characterization…you are also engaged in structuralist activity if you describe the structure of a single literary work to discover how its composition demonstrates the underlying principles of a given structural system” (Tyson 197-198). Whom Does it Benefit?

Based on the theories of Karl Marx (and so influenced by philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel), this school concerns itself with class differences, economic and otherwise, as well as the implications and complications of the capitalist system: “Marxism attempts to reveal the ways in which our socioeconomic system is the ultimate source of our experience” (Tyson 277). Theorists working in the Marxist tradition, therefore, are interested in answering the overarching question, whom does it [the work, the effort, the policy, the road, etc.] benefit? The elite? The middle class? And Marxists critics are also interested in how the lower or working classes are oppressed – in everyday life and in literature. The Material Dialectic

The Marxist school follows a process of thinking called the material dialectic. This belief system maintains that “…what drives historical change are the material realities of the economic base of society, rather than the ideological superstructure of politics, law, philosophy, religion, and art that is built upon that economic base” (Richter 1088). Marx asserts that “…stable societies develop sites of resistance: contradictions build into the social system that ultimately lead to social revolution and the development of a new society upon the old” (1088). This cycle of contradiction, tension, and revolution must continue: there will always be conflict between the upper, middle, and lower (working) classes and this conflict will be reflected in literature and other forms of expression – art, music, movies, etc. Carl Jung

Jungian criticism attempts to explore the connection between literature and what Carl Jung (a student of Freud) called the “collective unconscious” of the human race: “…racial memory, through which the spirit of the whole human species manifests itself” (Richter 504). Jungian criticism, closely related to Freudian theory because of its connection to psychoanalysis, assumes that all stories and symbols are based on mythic models from mankind’s past. Based on these commonalities, Jung developed archetypal myths, the Syzygy: “…a quaternion composing a whole, the unified self of which people are in search” (Richter 505). These archetypes are the Shadow, the Anima, the Animus, and the Spirit: “…beneath…[the Shadow] is the Anima, the feminine side of the male Self, and the Animus, the corresponding masculine side of the female Self” (Richter 505). In literary analysis, a Jungian critic would look for archetypes (also see the discussion of Northrop Frye in the Structuralism section) in creative works: “Jungian criticism is generally involved with a search for the embodiment of these symbols within particular works of art.” (Richter 505).

When dealing with this sort of criticism, it is often useful to keep a handbook of mythology and a dictionary of symbols on hand. Formalists disagreed about what specific elements make a literary work “good” or “bad”; but generally, Formalism maintains that a literary work contains certain intrinsic features, and the theory “…defined and addressed the specifically literary qualities in the text” (Richter 699). Therefore, it’s easy to see Formalism’s relation to Aristotle’s theories of dramatic construction. Formalism attempts to treat each work as its own distinct piece, free from its environment, era, and even author. This point of view developed in reaction to “…forms of ‘extrinsic’ criticism that viewed the text as either the product of social and historical forces or a document making an ethical statement” (699). Formalists assume that the keys to understanding a text exist within “the text itself,” (…”the battle cry of the New Critical effort…” and thus focus a great deal on, you guessed it, form (Tyson 118). For the most part, Formalism is no longer used in the academy. However, New Critical theories are still used in secondary and college level instruction in literature and even writing (Tyson 115). Schools of Criticism

Suppose we bear that question in mind in surveying the various schools of criticism. There are many, but could perhaps be grouped as: TraditionalThough perhaps Edwardian in style, this approach — essentially one of trying to broaden understanding and appreciation — is still used in general surveys of English literature. There is usually some information on the writer and his times, and a little illustration, but no close analysis of the individual work or its aims. New CriticismThe poem (the approach works best for poetry, and especially the lyric) is detached from its biographical or historical context, and analyzed thoroughly: diction, imagery, meanings, particularly complexities of meaning. Some explanation of unfamiliar words and/or uses may be allowed, but the poem is otherwise expected to stand on its own feet, as though it were a contemporary production. RhetoricalRhetoric is the art of persuasion, and the rhetorical approach attempts to understand how the content of the poem, which is more than intellectual meaning, is put across.

How arguments are presented, attitudes struck, evidence marshalled, various appeals made to the reader — all are relevant. StylisticStyle is the manner in which something is presented, and this approach concentrates on the peculiarities of diction and imagery employed, sometimes relating them to literary and social theory. MetaphoricalMetaphor enters into consideration in most approaches, but here the emphasis is deeper and more exclusive, attention focusing on the ways that metaphors actually work: metaphors are not regarded as supporting or decorative devices, but actually constituting the meaning. StructuralistHere the writing is related to underlying patterns of symmetry which are held to be common to all societies. Evidence is drawn from sociology and anthropology, and the approach attempts to place the work in larger context rather than assess its quality. Post-structuralistIn contrast to the New Critics approach, which stresses interdependence and organic unity, the Poststructuralist will point to the dissonances and the non sequiturs, and suggest how the poem works by evading or confronting traditional expectations.

Myth Theory

The approach derives from Northrop Frye and attempts to place poems into categories or subcategories into which all literature is divide by archetypal themes — e.g. the myth of the hero, his subjugation of enemies, his fall. The approach somewhat anticipated structuralism, draws on various psychologies, and is less concerned with isolating what is special than showing what it has in common with works in a similar category. FreudianNot only is the diction examined for sexual imagery, but the whole work is seen through Freudian concepts: struggles of the superego, the Oedipus complex, with the repressed contents of consciousness, etc. The aim is illumination of psychic conflicts, not aesthetic ranking. JungianJungians search for recurring poetic images, symbols and situations in poems, but their aim is not to categorize poems as Northrop Frye does but to relate them to larger patterns in society, whether native peoples or high civilizations. HistoricalPoems are placed in their historical context — to explain not only their allusions and particular use of words, but the conventions and expectations of the times. The approach may be evaluative (i.e. the critic may suggest ways of responding to the poem once the perspective is corrected), or may simply use it as historical data.

Biographical’As with the historical approach, a poem may be used to illuminate the writer’s psychology, or as biographic data. No less than the correspondence, remembered conversations, choice of reading matter, the poem is analyzed for relevance to its author. Sociological’Here the focus is on society as a whole, and critics assess the social factors at work in a poem, which may be everything from the attitudes a writer inherits from his social background to the markets which supported his literary efforts. Political’It may be the political movements the poet supported which interest the critic, but more commonly the poem is assessed on political lines: how fairly or effectively it promotes political action or attitudes. Marxist’The poem may be assessed on its political correctness — on its support for workers against capitalist exploitation — but most Marxists praise work that analyses or describes the injustices which Marxist societies aim to overcome. Moralist;Many poets have strong ethical or religious convictions, but the moralist critic usually has a broader interest. Literature has a humanizing or civilizing mission, and the critic values work which furthers that end: promotes tolerance, social justice, sensitivity to individual wishes and talents, etc.

Cognitive Scientific’In contrast to others, which generally possess an humanities orientation, that of cognitive science attempts to relate poems to patterns of brain functioning. The approach is in its infancy, but holds some promise in the fractal self-similarity exhibited by works of art. Testing the Approaches Which approach is best? That which proves the most illuminating is the usual answer. The various approaches are not entirely distinct, and one can aim for a wise eclecticism {21}, incorporating several approaches in the one article. Certainly this adds length and multiple perspectives to the critical article, but are the individual approaches sound in themselves? They may provide more matter to ponder, but that is surely no proof of value. Suppose that the critical approach employed was not only shaky but fatuously offensive. An extreme example might be a Nazi appraisal of German writers which graded them crudely on their genetic makeup, from blonde Aryans (good) to eastern Jews (atrocious). Would we add this approach to the others?

If we say emphatically not, then we must accept that critical approaches need support that we can independently assess. And this innocuous request raises the ominous problems of truth and meaning. These are real and important. If literature had no truths to convey, there would be nothing to distinguish it from recreation or entertainment. Governments might support the arts to keep a restless society off the streets, but truth would remain the province of science, where bureaucrats went for information to back policy decisions. But in fact art, logic and science all have truths, different and no doubt wary of each other, but not fundamentally at loggerheads. Art aims at fullness and fidelity to human experience, and therefore includes the wider social spectrum. No doubt, to return to Germany, we could argue that our example would not happen in practice. The Nazi article would not in any way clarify our responses to German writers. But suppose it did? A critic appealing to nationalist sentiments might very well have been plausible to his contemporary audience. We ourselves might even find some merit in the judgements.

Unless we were very insensitive to Jewish problems in thirties Germany, and lumped all German writers together, we would not be able to help noticing differences in setting and outlook which had a material bearing on the writing. It might be a fearfulness or hopelessness in the outlook or actions of the main protagonists, and we should have to ask ourselves whether the work presented a true view of humanity, or was simply an historical aberration. Wider issues always obtrude, and we have either an ethos to defend, or to find a theory independent of time and context. The latter was one hope of radical theory, which undercut the varied and apparently successful criticism of the nineteen fifties and sixties by adopting the approaches of philosophy and science. Not only cutbacks in university tenure, or the end of the publishing boom, {22} but an unexamined belief in its right to exist, led to the downfall of traditional literary study. Of course it is possible to argue for a liberal, pluralist, democratic approach, but the argument leads through to philosophical, political and sociological matters, and here the radical critics seized the armoury. The New Critics had dismissed the larger context of literary criticism, and the moralists carried little weight. The radicals demanded that poetry represent its age, and that age they viewed through the spectacles of left-wing and continental philosophic concerns. Their arguments, though perhaps not the tactics, were certainly needed.

Approaches do matter, and they must justify themselves before a wider tribunal if art is to be more than make-believe. Hence the Theory Section of this guide. A descriptive critic may simply note the characteristics of the new poetry capturing academic interest, {23} even its declining readership, but the practising poet needs to examine the theories underlying and supporting new work. If simply faddish and incoherent, then the poems are unlikely to possess any lasting value. Is Criticism a Sham? ;But does criticism really work? Do we analyze carefully and consult our books on theory before responding to a work? Not usually. Impressions come first. But we then have to think why and how we are responding in a certain way. Is the poem strained, hackneyed, overworked, etc.? And if so, by what criteria? In setting out thoughts on paper, and then attempting to substantiate them, we are honing essential skills. Perhaps a good deal of academic criticism is suspect. The goal is already known: certain authors are to be esteemed, and criticism has simply to find additional support.

Often the canon intervenes crudely. Literature is divided into essential writers (which all students must read, and other works be compared to), the acceptable (enjoyable but not to be taken too seriously) and the bad (which no one will confess to liking). The canon is consulted, and reasons found for praising or condemning the writer concerned. Literary guides are replete with examples, and argument is often puerile — the dismissive sneer, the appeal to the knowledgeable, right-thinking majority, the comparison of a poor poem by the despise author with a good one by the favoured. But the inanities only underline the need for sharper and independent reading skills. Background and temperament ensure that there will be some writers we shall never like, but we do not have to concoct false reasons for our own tastes. Practical Critiquing ;Now a change of tone. Suppose we look at criticism in practice, at what a young poet might be told, who’s pleased with his poem, and doesn’t need analysis to know it’s good. Tactfully and more modestly than in these notes, we might have to say: But have you checked — got a colleague to read it through, asked a tutor, presented the piece at a poetry workshop?

Readers are perverse creatures, and will cavil in strange ways. Anticipate. Criticize the piece yourself, in your own time, from all angles, before the wounding remarks bring you up short. Remember that evaluation is not a handing down of judgments, but a slow acquisition of essential writing skills. Appraisal needs honesty and independent judgment, plus a whole battery of techniques that literary critics have developed over the centuries. The better libraries will have long shelves devoted to literary criticism, which you must read and absorb. Indeed you must put pen to paper yourself, and write your own notes and essays. As in everything literary, perception develops with your ability to express and reflect on that perception. What are the techniques of poetry analysis, and which are worth acquiring? Even on a simple poem you will find a wide range of comments, many of them perplexing if not downright daft. Which critics can you trust for sensible and enlightening comment? You must make your own judgments.

That is the nature of literary criticism. Moreover, until you can appraise the various critical attitudes, weighing up the strengths and shortcomings of each approach, you are not evaluating but just borrowing undigested material for the student essay. That may win you good grades, but it won’t help with unfamiliar work, or develop the skills needed to rescue your own productions. Writers and critics develop at their own pace, and the more precocious are not always the more lasting. Talented authors commonly write from something buried deep within, from something that is ungraspable but troubling, and which seems not to fit any of the established criteria. Progress in such cases is bound to be slow, and perhaps should be if the issues are being properly addressed. But you’re not working against a stopwatch: you have a lifetime to appreciate the great writers, and to understand what you are attempting yourself. :Suggestions1. Start with the literary criticism of poems you know and love. You will be more engaged by the arguments, and start to understand how criticism can open unsuspected levels of meaning and significance.2.

Read literary criticism of contemporary work and, if at all possible, of poems similar to your own, which will at least help you anticipate the reception likely from editors and workshop presentations.3. Research has moved from literary criticism to literary theory, which is not written for ready comprehension. Nonetheless, you will need to know where critics are coming from, and therefore the theoretical bases of their remarks. 4. Don’t despise the elementary grounding provided by schoolbooks. University texts have much to do with academic reputations and tenure, but those for younger students aim more to help and encourage.5. Be severe but not over-severe with your creations. You enjoyed writing them, and that pleasure must still be on the page to enthuse, challenge and enchant your readers. The merely correct has little to commend it.6. Use a checklist. For example: title — appropriate to subject, tone and genre? Does it generate interest, and hint at what your poem’s about? subject — what’s the basic situation?

Who is talking, and under what circumstances? Try writing a paraphrase to identify any gaps or confusions. shape — what are you appealing to: intellect or emotions of the reader? What structure(s) have you used — progressions, comparisons, analogies, bald assertions, etc.? Are these aspects satisfyingly integrated? Does structure support content? tone — what’s your attitude to the subject? Is it appropriate to content and audience: assured, flexible, sensitive, etc.? word choice — appropriate and uncontrived, economical, varied and energizing? Do you understand each word properly, its common uses and associations? See if listing the verbs truly pushes the poem along. Are words repeated? Do they set mood, emotional rapport, distance? personification — striking but persuasive, adds to unity and power? metaphor and simile — fresh and convincing, combining on many levels? rhythm and metre — natural, inevitable, integrate poem’s structure? rhyme (if employed) — fresh, pleasurable, unassuming but supportive? overall impression — original, honest, coherent, expressive, significant? Conclusions

Why practise criticism at all? Because it’s interesting, and opens the door to a wider appreciation of poetry, particularly that in other languages. It’s also unavoidable. Good writing needs continual appraisal and improvement, and both are better done by the author, before the work is set in print. Most academics write articles rather than poems, but there seems no reason why their skills should not deployed in creating things which by their own submission are among the most demanding and worthwhile of human creations. Nor should poets despise professional literary criticism. In short, the approaches of this section should give poets some of the tools needed to assess their work, and to learn from the successful creations of others.

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