, , , ,

Literary Marxism and the Politics of Exclusion

Nestled within an intellectual enclave shielded from the tumult of real-world politics, I encounter the doctrines of literary Marxism. Luminaries like Eagleton espouse their ideologies, engendering an apolitical sanctuary. A plea for methodological rigor arises, challenging canonic constraints and advocating a transformative praxis, shaping our evolving discourse.


min read


Enveloped within the precincts of an intellectual sanctuary, I find myself shielded from the relentless and inhospitable vicissitudes of the real-world political milieu, ensconced by the intricate tapestry woven by literary Marxism. In this enclave, luminaries of intellectual pedigree, such as Eagleton, Jameson, and Lentricchia, espouse their Marxist ideologies, expatiating upon their doctrinal tenets to a discerning audience comprised of cognate literary Marxists. The ensuing discourse within this hallowed academic bastion serves not only to affirm but to perpetuate the ostensibly apolitical proclivity that imbues both the realms of “literature” and “Marxism,” confining the ambit of literary criticism to the demesnes of literature itself, whilst circumscribing Marxism within the confines of its internal dialogue. Thus, politics finds itself relegated to the peripheral precincts of the literary critic’s intellectual purview.

A pervasive redolence of nostalgia and despondency saturates the discursive milieu within this intellectual crucible, accentuating the grim verity that methodological inquiries transpire within the fragmented expanse of diverse disciplines and fields. Nevertheless, prevailing currents in contemporary intellectual parlance openly eschew such methodological endeavors, perilously tiptoeing towards an outright repudiation thereof. If we delineate methodological endeavors as the meticulous scrutiny of the underlying structural substrata of diverse fields and the discursive emanations they propagate, a stark realization emerges: the current zeitgeist vociferously spurns such virtuous undertakings.

Discourse, with meticulous rigidity, determines the assemblage of participants within the conversational fold and subtly orchestrates exclusions, clandestinely fostering a sense of impregnability within the precincts of fields, disciplines, and their respective discourses, erecting an invisible edifice of exclusionary import. This insidious mechanism, deeply ingrained in the collective psyche, bestows upon fields, disciplines, and their attendant discourses an aura of inviolability. As individuals ascend to positions of intellectual ascendancy within their respective spheres, they invariably become entangled in the construction of a canon—a formidable impediment to their own methodological and disciplinary inquiries. Thus, the curricular edification proffered within the expansive realms of university literature departments, in the present epoch, fixates almost exclusively upon monumental works canonized within rigid dynastic formations, their perennial grandeur attended to by a dwindling coterie of subservient acolytes.

In contemplation of the extant state of affairs, a palpable disquietude courses through the sinews of my entire being. While I accord due recognition to the imperative of engaging with canonical works and according them their merited standing within the broader literary panorama, it becomes imperatively necessary to scrutinize the circumscribing nature of canon formation. In fixating upon a circumscribed corpus of texts, we, unwittingly, expose ourselves to the perils of stagnation and the petrification of literary discourse, concurrently segregating alternative voices and perspectives that bear the potential to assail prevailing paradigms. The canon, once a fount of inspiration and intellectual exploration, has metamorphosed into an ominous barrier that stifles the germination of creativity and obstructs the evolution of literary criticism.

The transformative potency of a scrupulous examination of entrenched structures and discourses has been borne out in the crucible of my personal experiences. By dismantling preconceived notions and embracing a methodological paradigm that interrogates the very foundations upon which our disciplines are predicated, we engender an intellectually vibrant milieu that incorporates diverse voices and engenders a sentiment of inclusivity. By rekindling the flame of literary criticism and navigating the intersection of literature, Marxism, and politics through an unyielding crucible of critical inquiry, unbridled by trepidation in the face of challenging extant orthodoxies, we might yet embark upon a trajectory that transcends self-imposed constraints and actively contributes to the shaping of the discourse within our ever-mutating world.

However, I remain acutely cognizant of the intrinsic impediments that confront the aspiring iconoclast in challenging the reigning paradigm. The process of dismantling entrenched structures demands indomitable valor, unwavering persistence, and collective action. In earnest, I aspire to contribute to this transformative endeavor by endeavoring to disrupt canonical boundaries and amplify the voices of those historically marginalized. Through methodological investigations that dare to assail the very foundations of our disciplines, we harbor the potential to cultivate a more inclusive and politically perspicacious artistic domain—one that transcends its own self-imposed constraints and actively contributes to shaping the larger discourse of the world we inhabit.

This discourse, at its essence, orbits around the pivotal concept of ideology. Whether it manifests in political, cultural, or literary vestments, ideologies exercise a potent sway over our perceptual faculties, configuring our apprehension of the world and circumscribing the bounds of what is deemed acceptable and desirable. In the precincts of literary Marxism, the confluence of literary scrutiny and Marxist theorizing accentuates the intrinsic ideological dimensions inherent in both domains. However, the act of confining these disciplines to an environment devoid of tangible political engagement begets a circumscribed understanding of ideology.

A cardinal tenet of Marxist ratiocination resides in the recognition that ideology operates as a mechanism of social control, serving the vested interests of the ruling echelons while veiling the inherent contradictions and exploitative proclivities of capitalist societies. In tandem, literature emerges as an arena wherein dominant ideologies are propagated, contested, or subverted. By segregating literary analysis from active political involvement, we hazard neglecting the transformative potential latent in literature as a catalyst for societal metamorphosis.

Furthermore, the intellectual discourse encompassing methodological investigations begets profound philosophical contemplations pertaining to the nature of knowledge, truth, and the construction of reality. The wholesale repudiation of methodological rigor in favor of an anti-methodological stance mirrors a broader skepticism concerning the attainability of objective and universal knowledge. Nonetheless, the rejection of methodological rigor does not obliterate the existence of underlying structures, systems, and power dynamics that mold our intellectual landscapes, as perspicacious philosophers have perennially contended.

The principle of silent exclusion endemic to discursive engagements unveils the latent prejudices and constraints permeating our cognitive frameworks. It accentuates the imperative of introspection and the continual reassessment of our disciplinary demarcations. It is imperative to apprehend the perils of complacency and resist the allure of canonization, which poses a risk to the advancement of knowledge and the incorporation of multifarious perspectives. The very act of canon formation entails a discerning curation that privileges certain works over others, thereby perpetuating a hierarchical evaluative schema that might inadvertently fortify existing power structures.

Upon reflection, I ardently advocate for a methodological approach unafraid to scrutinize the underpinnings upon which our disciplines repose and to interrogate deeply ingrained norms. By embracing a philosophy of praxis—an active and symbiotic engagement with theory and practice—we possess the means to traverse the intricate labyrinth of literature, Marxism, and politics more efficaciously. This necessitates a conscientious recognition of the ideological dimensions intrinsic to literary works, a discerning analysis of the power dynamics in play, and an unwavering commitment to transmuting both our comprehension of literature and the sociopolitical realities it mirrors.

The convergence of literature, Marxism, and politics begets a locus that demands profound philosophical exploration into the nature of ideology, power dynamics, and the epistemological contours of knowledge. By acknowledging the inherent ideological dimensions underpinning literary criticism and Marxism, we transcend the circumscriptions of an apolitical discourse and probe literature’s potential to effect societal change. Through methodological investigations and critical introspection, we possess the wherewithal to challenge the limitations imposed by the canon and instigate a more inclusive and politically attuned approach to literary criticism and the broader realms of knowledge and societal transformation.

Terry Eagleton, “Literary Theory: An Introduction” (United Kingdom)
Fredric Jameson, “Marxism and Form: 20th-Century Dialectical Theories of Literature” (United States)
Frank Lentricchia, “After the New Criticism” (United States)
Louis Althusser, “Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays” (France)
Raymond Williams, “Marxism and Literature” (United Kingdom)
Georg Lukács, “Theory of the Novel” (Hungary)
Fredric Jameson, “The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act” (United States)
Mikhail Bakhtin, “The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays” (Russia)
Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (Germany)
Ernst Bloch, “The Principle of Hope: Volume 1” (Germany)