Missionary | The New YorkerWilson died in A man may be an excellent Marxist, but if he lacks imagination and taste he will be unable to make the choice between a good and an inferior book both of which are ideologically unacceptable. Especially will he be confused if the author does draw an explicit moral which is the opposite of or has nothing to do with his real purport. And one of his favorite occupations is giving specific directions and working out diagrams for the construction of ideal Marxist books. Such formulas are of course perfectly futile. The rules observed in any given school of art become apparent not before, but after, the actual works of art have been produced.
Introduction to Marxist Literary Theory
English Literature_ Marxism and Literature_ Edmund Wilson
The Humanistic Heritage pp Cite as. Although not only Edmund Wilson and The Partisan Review but even such formalists as Kenneth Burke and Dorothy Van Ghent approached the novel with a leftist political bias and included an ideological component in their critical perspective, Marxist criticism has not had a profound effect on traditional novel criticism in England and America. For both, literature is related to the society that produced it. The two most significant Marxist critics of the English novel, they show both the expected focus on evaluating the degree to which a work mirrors a particular concept of reality. But they are also interested in the infinite variety and creativity of the artist. While the main focus of Marxist criticism is on art as representation of the socio-economic forces and the effects of those forces on human life, that is by no means the exclusive concern of Kettle or even Williams.
Edmund Wilson disliked being called a critic. He thought of himself as a journalist, and nearly all his work was done for commercial magazines, principally Vanity Fair , in the nineteen-twenties; The New Republic , in the nineteen-twenties and thirties; The New Yorker , beginning in the nineteen-forties; and The New York Review of Books , in the nineteen-sixties. Most of his books were put together from pieces that had been written to meet journalistic occasions. He was exceptionally well read: he had had a first-class education in English, French, and Italian literature at Princeton, from which he graduated in , and he kept adding languages all his life. He learned to read German, Russian, and Hebrew; when he died, in , he was working on Hungarian. He was also an extremely fast and an extremely clear writer, talents that, in the magazine business, are prized above many others, and that would have made up for a number of shortcomings if he had had shortcomings to make up for. These strengths, along with an ingrained indifference to material comforts, allowed him, from almost the beginning of his career, to write about only the subjects he wanted to write about.
He influenced many American authors, including F. Scott Fitzgerald , whose unfinished work he edited for publication. His scheme for a Library of America series of national classic works came to fruition through the efforts of Jason Epstein after Wilson's death. Wilson was born in Red Bank, New Jersey. Wilson attended The Hill School , a college preparatory boarding school in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, graduating in At Hill, Wilson served as the editor-in-chief of the school's literary magazine, The Record. From to , he was educated at Princeton University.
Search This Blog. Feb 18, Marxism and Literature: Edmund Wilson. While he wrote extensively on the relationship between political ideologies such as Marxism and Literature, he opposed any pre-formulated critical frameworks, or what he called "a process of lopping and distortion to make [the work] fit the Procrustes bed of a thesis. He studies the influence of Marxism on literature and traces in this essay the history of Marxist literary theory as it was carried out by Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and a number of other critics. Wilson begins the essay with the observation of Marx and his devout follower and collaborator, Engels, on the relationship of art and literature with society. He tells us that Marx was well-versed in literary theories and had drunk deep at the fount of literature.
Their publication may help dispel the mausoleum feel to the comments Wilson receives with every appearance of his own writings or writings about him. The young Wilson of these volumes is very different from a man of letters, the pose Wilson projected in old age. Like H. Mencken, his contemporary, Wilson found in magazines a means to engage and shape a following open to fresh directions in thought and literary expression, especially when delivered by a sleek, new type of publication employing stylish photography, attractive graphic design and an intimate style of address to readers. Today, when leading critics set texts adrift in a sea of signification free of reference and write a pre-literate prose under a post-modernist dispensation, it is good to read someone who writes lucid prose and makes literature come alive as a shared experience, each review a little drama of intellectual ideas upon historical or psychological circumstances of artistic production, all in the vivid, alive style of magazine writing, the path Wilson created by walking it in the period between two terrible World Wars. There are three distinct phases in this intellectual journey: a bohemian phase in Greenwich Village after the first World War, when Wilson introduced modernist literature in its earliest heroic phase to a newly prosperous and more sophisticated American audience; a period in the Hungry Thirties when he rode various leftist currents as a socially engaged writer seeking to firm up his liberalism with an admixture of Marxism; and, finally, starting with his classic study of the historical roots of the Russian Revolution, To the Finland Station , published in , the abandoning of his hopes for culture as an instrument of social change over a period of the remaining decade covered by the two-volume Library of America collection.