This course will introduce students to one of the leading and strongest currents of literary criticism currently practiced in the U.S. and globally: Marxian cultural theory. Based on the philosophical and theoretical interventions to European thought of Karl Marx, Marxian cultural theory attends to the literary, aesthetic and cultural ramifications of Marx’s foundational understanding of the historically distinct emergence of both modernity and urban industrial capitalism.
At the broadest level, Marxian cultural theory produces nothing less than a total re-presentation of the literary and/or cultural object. Beginning with Marx before moving on to his intellectual inheritors, we will ask, firstly: What was unique of about the rise of modernity and industrial capitalism? Why did Marx argue that modernity required a wholesale rethinking of the foundations of European thought? And, lastly what method did Marx innovate and promote as a corrective to the forms of thought he argued were foundationally unsound and critically and practically useless? The second aspect of the course will then present to you a set of methods for understanding and thinking about/theorizing literary production developed by Marxian scholars in the twentieth century. We will pay close attention to both how these methods understand literary and cultural production and also why these scholars ague that under the conditions of capitalist modernity literary and cultural production becomes an essential, foundational and indissociable aspect of modern life and society. By the end of the course we will be able to perform the following action: offering a Marxian interpretation of a literary object.