Marxism and Literature: Back to the Basics

Marxism and Literature

Harold Washington Library

6th Floor North Study Room


Reading Schedule:

Text available here.

  • Monday November 18, 2019 6-8 pm
    Reading: “Ideology” (page 55)
  • Monday November 25, 2019 25 6-8 pm
    Reading: “Base and Superstructure” (page 75) and “Hegemony” (page 108)
  • Monday December 2, 2019 6-8 pm
    Reading: “Traditions, Institutions and Formations”, “Dominant, Residual, and Emergent”, “Structures of Feeling”, and “The Sociology of Culture” (pages 115-141)

If you’d like a refresher on fundamental critical theory concepts (concepts like ideology, base and superstructure, or hegemony), but through a critical lens, please join us in reading selected chapters from Raymond Williams’ Marxism and Literature (1977).

“This book is written in a time of radical change. Its subject, Marxism and Literature, is part of this change. Even twenty years ago, and especially in the English-speaking countries, it would have been possible to assume, on the one hand, that Marxism is a settled body of theory or doctrine, and, on the other hand, that Literature is a settled body of work, or kinds of work, with known general qualities and properties. A book of this kind might then reasonably have explored problems of the relations between them or, assuming a certain relationship, passed quickly to specific applications. The situation is now very different. Marxism, in many fields, and perhaps especially in cultural theory, has experienced at once a significant revival and a related openness and flexibility of theoretical development. Literature, meanwhile, for related reasons, has become problematic in quite new ways.

The purpose of this book is to introduce this period of active development, and to do so in the only way that seems appropriate to a body of thinking still in movement, by attempting at once to clarify and to contribute to it. This involves, necessarily, reviewing earlier positions, both Marxist and non-Marxist. But what is offered is not a summary; it is both a critique and an argument.”

Introduction – Raymond Williams

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