Marxist Criticism

Marxist Criticism in English Literature | Marxist Criticism Theory

Marxist Criticism
Marxist Criticism


            “Marxist Criticism” studies the materialist and social character of literature. It was influenced by the politics of Marxism, which is essentially a critique of capitalism. It studies literature in relation to its social, economic, and historical contexts. It examines the relationship between the ideas and values expressed in a work of literature and the ideas and values prevalent in contemporary society. It attempts to study the relation of literature with class struggles and conflict between social groups for economic and political powers. It undertakes an ideological study of literature, in the sense that it examines literature as the direct expression of class interest.

History of Marxism Criticism

            Marxist thought has influenced scholarly development in literary, cultural, and political studies. Karl Mark, the founder of Marxist ideology views literary works as the products of work. Writers are seen as practitioners who emphasize, the role of class and ideology as they reflect, propagate and even challenge the prevailing social order. A Marxist critic considers literary texts as material products that are to be understood in broad historical terms.

            Marxism began with Karl Marx, the 19th-century German philosopher best known for ‘Das Kapital’, the seminal work of the communist movement. Marx was also a literary critic, with his writing on ‘Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe and William Shakespeare. From the first line of his explosive 1848 ‘, The Communist Manifesto’ Marx conceived of human history as the history of struggles between economic classes.

Views Of “Terry Eagleton” in “Marxist Criticism”

                        The English literary critic and cultural theorist Terry Eagleton defines Marxist criticism this way – “Marxist” criticism is not merely a ‘sociology of literature’ concerned with how novels get published and whether they mention the working class. Its aim is to explain the literary work more fully, and this means a sensitive attention to its forms, style, and meanings. But it also means grasping those forms’ styles and meanings as the product of a particular history. There are four such central and essential points that form the basis of Eagleton’s thinking.

 There are as follows:

  • Literature & History
  • Content and form
  • The writer and his commitment
  • Writer as a producer

            The writer has comprehensively defined the above issues in every part of the book ‘Marxism and Literary Criticism’.

            The first point that Terry Eagleton has brought to our notice, pertains to literature and History. The relation between history and literature has not been taken up by the righter in a traditional and restrictive manner but has shown it in a manner that is full of vigour. The originality of the Marxist universal point of view has been represented by him as under.

            “The Originality of the Criticism of Marxist ideology is not its approach to literature, but in its understanding of the revolution of literature.”

            In this way, Eagleton points out the real goal of the historical approach of Marxism toward the fulfilment of literary creations. Further, the writer perceives History with ideologies matters. He propounds the basic concept of Marks and Angles that “Economic powers constitute the framework of the fundamental economic model.” According to him ‘Art is a part of social ideology. He Believes:

            “Every writer is individually a part of the society. He reacts to the whole history from his special point of view. Then he expresses his experience in solid terminology.”

            Terry Eagleton’s second important belief is connected to the material and its form. The writer instead of considering it in an unbiased manner sees it in a historical and scientific manner. The writer’s foremost view is that “form” always keeps intact three complicated elements :

  • The form of literature partly takes its form of historical literature from independent observation.
  • It takes its form from dominating ideological creation.
  • It demonstrates and interprets the special relationship between the writer and the reader.

            Eagleton also considers literature as an art that creates social awareness. Besides he considers it as an industry. In this connection, his views are:

            “The Books are not only
             some meaningful creation
             but there are produced
             by the publisher for
             profit when there are
             sold in the market.”

            The writer further elaborates on this point in the black ground of Capitalism. In this context, the writer compares himself with a labourer, who works for the published in the form of producing goods that can be sold in the market. Consciously he also sends a message that art is not for sale in the market but should be considered as some social work.

            In ‘Criticism and Ideology’ Eagleton argues that a literary text is not merely an expression of ideology. By “Ideology”, he does not necessarily mean political or Marxist Ideology, but the whole systems and theories of representation that would make up the picture of a person’s experiences. Also, he examines various ideologies outside the text and the particular ideology of a text.


            Eagleton clarifies that Marxist criticism has not paid attention to artistic form or formal features of literature. Terry Eagleton has stressed on this point that Art is one of the forces that are capable of social transformation. He also believes that Art is one of the bases for the transformation of History. He recognizes the complicated links between arts and ideology. He asks the writers to absorb both the reality and commitment of art.

            In belief, we can say that the writer Terry Eagleton has calmly studied the subjects of Literature and History, Material and its form. The writers as producers also proposed that the literature should be linked to development in history and also keep in mind the aesthetic values of social condition.

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