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Richard L. W.

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P. N. MEDVEDEV THE FORMAL METHOD IN LITERARY SCHOLARSHIP: A CRITICAL INTRODUCTION TO SOCIOLOGICAL POETICS (1928) Medvedev, P. N. The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship: a Critical Introduction to Sociological Poetics. Trans. Albert J. Wehrle. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1978. Rev. Ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1985. Part 1: The Object and Tasks of Marxist Literary Scholarship Chapter 1: The Study of Ideologies and its Immediate Task Specification as the Basic Problem of the Study of Ideologies Here, Medvedev argues that literary scholarship is one branch of the study of ideologies (3). Marxism is devoted to the study of ideologies (in the form of a general definition of ideological superstructures, their function in the whole of social life, their relationship to the economic base, . . .) (3), but the detailled study of the distinctive features . . . of each of the branches of ideological creation science, art, ethics, religion, etc. is still in the embryonic stage (3). The scholar picks his way at his own risk (3) through the shifting and hazy area (3) located between the general theory of superstructures and their relationship to the base and the concrete study of each specific ideological phenomenon (3). The result is that either the specificity of the phenomenon suffers (3) (such as a work of art) or an immanent analysis . . . takes account of specificity but has nothing to do with sociology (3). Medvedev is of the view that each area has its own language, its own form and devices for that language, and its own specific laws for the refraction of a common reality (3) and Marxism is not inclined to level these differences (3). But the specificity of art, science, ethics, or religion naturally should not obscure their ideological unity as superstructures of a common base (3) or that they follow the same sociological laws of development (4). Medvedev advises that on the basis of Marxism itself a specific method should be developed . . . adapted to the characteristics of the different ideological areas (4) but this must proceed on the basis of a grasp of the characteristics and qualitative peculiarities of ideological systems (4) more generally. Marxism should not utilise the definitions (4) offered by West European scholarship (4) and derived either from idealist philosophy of culture [kulturphilosophie] (4) or the various branches of positivist research (4) because to do so would be to adjust the base to fit the definitions when, in fact, the definitions must be deduced from the base (4). In the case of the latter (positivism), they are either understood naturalistically, mainly on the basis of biology, or they are atomised into insipid positivistic empirical data which are lost in a wilderness of senseless detail (4), while in the case of the former (idealism) they are estranged from all empiricism and locked into a self-contained idealist kingdom of pure ideas, pure values, and transcendental forms (4) and, because they are not material and historical (4), they are helpless before the ideological phenomena. The Crises of the Idealist Philosophy of Culture [Kulturphilosophie] and Humanistic Positivism Even in the West, Medvedev avers, there is deep dissatisfaction (4) with the extremes of both idealist disengagement from reality and the absurdities of positivism and naturalism

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(4), both being incapable of philosophical synthesis (4). It was in the light of this that European formalism (5) (what has come to be called Russian Formalism) began to develop at the end of the nineteenth century, equally hostile to the positivism of the previous epoch and to the idealist philosophical aesthetics, with its gross generalisations and disinterested view of the concrete phenomena of art (5). Idealism, what Medvedev refers to as neo-Kantian cultural philosophy (5), is represented by the Vossler school . . . which attempts to adapt idealist philosophy to concrete problems of linguistics and the history of language (5) as well as other philosophers, some of whom are influenced by Phenomenologists like Edmund Husserl and so-called philosophers of life like Henri Bergson, who attempt in literary history to rationally master the concrete and specific reality and historicity of the literary phenomenon without forfeiting general principles and ties with a unified world view (5). On the other hand, there are positivists whose work is infused with the empirical desire to proceed from the concrete and specific problems and requirements of art scholarship itself, rather than from the general requirements of a philosophical system (5). Where previously the desire was to make ends meet in abstract thought about the world (5), the tendency now is to penetrate, by means of a single concept, into the world of concrete things and living historical events in their uniqueness and individuality (5). In short, the will to system has obviously been replaced by the desire to master the concrete world of things and events without losing their living and meaningful unity (5). The Problem of Synthesising Philosophical World View and the Concreteness and Objectivity of Historical Study Here, Medvedev suggests that only the solid principles of dialectical materialism (6), and not some semi-mystical philosophy of life (6), can solve the twin crises of idealism and positivism (6) by uniting a wide synthesis and general philosophical orientation with a mastery of the material diversity and historical generation of ideological phenomena (6). It is only in this way that it is possible to fill the gap between the general doctrine of ideological superstructures and the concrete elaboration of particular problems (6), between specification (6) and sociology (6). The Concreteness and Materiality of the Ideological World Here, Medvedev critiques the idealist position by arguing that all the products of ideological creation works of art, scientific works, religious symbols and rites, etc. are material things, part of the practical reality that surrounds man (7). Their meaning and values are embodied in material things and actions (7). He is of the view that philosophical views, beliefs (7) do not exist within man, in his head or in his soul. They become ideological reality only by being realised in words, actions, clothing, manners, and organisations of people and things (7), that is, in some definite semiotic material (7). Medvedev emphasises the organic, essential, and deep (7) connection of all ideological meaning, no matter how ideal or pure, with concrete material and its organisation (7). Medvedev also critiques the individualism of positivism by arguing that much scholarship has tended to focus to this point on the individual physiological and . . . psychological processes of the creation and comprehension of ideological values (7), ignoring the fact that this is rooted in processes of social intercourse (7) and apart from which it cannot be studied. Bourgeois criticism in particular sets ideological meaning . . . abstracted from concrete material against the individual consciousness of the creator or perceiver (7). Bourgeois theories and philosophies of culture (7) are centred around the

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terms meaning and consciousness, while idealist philosophy, indebted to Kant, posits a transcendental consciousness . . . between the individual consciousness and meaning, the role of which is to preserve the integrity and purity of abstract ideas from disturbance and dissolution in the living generation of material reality (7). In both cases, a persistent deafness and blindness to concrete ideological reality has become established (8). We are taught to imagine ideological creation as some inner process of understanding, comprehension, and perception, and do not notice that it in fact unfolds externally, for the eye, the ear, the hand. It is not within us, but between us (8). Two Sets of Immediate Problems in the Study of Ideologies Medvedev contends that the Marxist study of ideology (8) must proceed from the principle of the material and completely objective nature of ideological creation (8) for ideology exists completely in the external, objective world and is completely accessible to a unified and essentially objective method of cognition and study (8). Its meaning exists not in the soul, not in the inner world, and not in the detached world of ideas and pure thoughts, but in the objectively accessible ideological material in the word, in sound, in gesture, in the combination of masses, lines, colours, living bodies, and so on (8). Whatever a word might mean, it is first of all materially present, as a thing uttered, written, printed, whispered, or thought. That is, it is always an objectively present part of mans social environment (8). Its material presence is not a physical or completely natural presence (8). Rather, it establishes a relationship between individuals of a more or less wide social environment, a relationship which is objectively expressed in the combined reactions of people: reactions, in words, gestures, acts, organisations (8). There is no meaning outside the social communication of understanding, i.e. outside the united and mutually coordinated reactions of people to a given sign. Social intercourse is the medium in which the ideological phenomenon first acquires its specific existence, its ideological existence, its ideological meaning, its semiotic nature (8). Ideological phenomena are not objects of individual use, contemplation, emotional experience, or hedonistic pleasure (8), for which reason subjective psychology (8), physics and biology are inadequate for the study thereof. Medvedev contends that the Marxist study of ideology (9) is confronted with two sets of basic problems: (1) problems of the characteristic features and forms of organised ideological material as meaningful material; (2) problems of the characteristics and forms of the social intercourse by which this meaning is realised (9). The Problem of Organised Ideological Material Here, Medvedev is concerned with the primary problem in the first set (9) which is the general characteristics of organised ideological material (9) as opposed to physical, natural bodies (9), the instruments of production (9) and consumer goods (9). Naturalistic positivism and mechanical materialism (9) seek to reveal a natural mechanical regularity everywhere (9), for example, in the Neogrammarian theory of sound laws and the pragmatic doctrine of culture as the adaption of the human organism to a purely natural environment (9). Utilitarian positivism (9) conceives of ideological objects by analogy with instruments of production (and partly with consumer goods) (9) insofar as they have only an external purpose, and the technical organisation of their physical form is adapted to that purpose (9). This gives rise to all sorts of theories explaining the origin of various forms and styles on the basis of the techniques of particular industries (textiles, pottery, and so on) (10). Such a view ignores, however,

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the fact that the work of art is the result of a definite and purposeful artistic volition, which manifests itself in a struggle with practical purpose, raw material, and technique (Riegl, qtd. in Medvedev, 10). Much scholarship is convinced that [t]echnique has no creative role (10) in this, [a]bility . . . no formative influence on artistic volition. All change and development in the history of the arts is due to changes in artistic volition and has nothing to do with the growth and perfection of artistic ability (10). However, Medvedev argues that the notion of artistic volition (and of the opposition between volition and technical ability [10]) is unacceptable to Marxism, as is, at the other extreme, the positivistic (i.e. naturalistic / utilitarian) emphasis on artworks as instruments of production (10). By the same token, the comparison of ideological objects with consumer goods (11), together with hedonistic theories (11) of ideology, is widespread in bourgeois scholarship: the conception of a work of art as an object of individual pleasure and experience is essentially the expression of a tendency to equate an ideological phenomenon to a product of individual consumption (11). Medvedev argues that an ideological object (e.g. a work of art) should be differentiated from subjective psychic and physiological processes (11) for it is an object of intercourse. It is not the individual, subjective psychic states it elicits that are important . . . but rather the social connections, the interactions of many people it brings about (11). He claims that participation in the perception of an ideological product presupposes special social relationships (11). The poets audience, the readers of a novel, those in the concert hall these are collective organisations of a special type, sociologically distinctive (11). This is why the art work considered as an object of individual consumption (11) is anathema to Marxism. Meaning and Material: the Problem of their Interrelationship Here, Medvedev argues that it is necessary to establish precise and concrete definitions between separate ideologies: science, art, etc. (12). This differentiation is to proceed not on the basis of their abstract meanings (12), as the idealists would argue, but from the standpoint of their concrete material reality (12) and their social meaning as realised in forms of concrete intercourse (12). There is a deep and organic (12) connection between meaning and its material body (12). For example, the meaning of art is completely inseparable from all the details of its material body (12), that is, from the very constructing of the body-sign (12), the individual reality of the object, with all the uniqueness of its features (12). In the case of science, however, though there cannot be meaning apart from material here either (12), this material is basically relative and replaceable in nature (12) in that [s]cientific meaning is easily transferred from one material to another and is easily reproduced and repeated (12). Moreover, meaning itself varies among the separate ideologies (12) in that ideological works have different functions within the unity of social life (12). The aggregates of all the actions and interactions elicited and organised by ideological meaning are also different (12) which explains the various relationships of ideologies to the surrounding reality and the special laws for the refraction of reality that are proper to each ideology (12). The Problem of the Forms and Types of Ideological Discourse Here, Medvedev turns his attention to the second set of problems mentioned earlier. He argues that it is harmful to understand ideological intercourse simplistically, as a number

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of people gathered in one place, as in a concert hall or at an art exhibition. Such direct intercourse is just one variety of ideological intercourse (13). In the sciences, forms of scientific intercourse (13), forms of cognitive intercourse (13), which are deeply lodged in the economic base (13), shapes the forms which science takes. The organised collective response to nature that is fundamental to humanity determines the forms by which nature is known, from those of simple daily life to the complex methods of scientific study. The mutual orientation of people defines each act of cognition, and the more complex, differentiated, and organised this mutual orientation is, the deeper and more important is the resulting comprehension (13). In the arts, the forms of artistic intercourse are no less complex and subtle (13), ranging from the intimate audience of the drawing room lyric to the immense multitude of the tragedian or novelist (13). The audience, in short, as a defined collective organisation, is a constitutive aspect of the determination (13) of the art work in question. The Concept of the Ideological Environment and its Meaning Here, Medvedev turns his attention to another very important problem (13), that of the ideological environment (13). The ideological environment, which forms a solid ring around man (14), comprises objects-signs of various types and categories: . . . words in the multifarious forms of their realisation (sounds, writing, and the others), . . . scientific statements, religious symbols and beliefs, works of art, and so on (14). Mans consciousness lives and develops in this environment (14) and, for this very reason, [h]uman consciousness does not come into contact with existence directly, but through the medium of the surrounding ideological world (14). This ideological environment is the realised, materialised, externally expressed social consciousness of a given collective (14), which is determined by the collectives economic existence and, in turn, determines the individual consciousness of each member of the collective (14). The individual consciousness can only become a consciousness by being realised in the forms of the ideological environment proper to it (14). The ideological environment is the environment of consciousness. Only through this environment and with its help does the human consciousness attain the perception and mastery of socioeconomic and natural existence (14) which is constantly in the active dialectical process of generation. Contradictions are always present, constantly being overcome and reborn (14). However, Medvedev points out that though these processes are common to all sociohistorical junctures, for each given collective in each given epoch of its historical development this environment is a unique and complete concrete whole, uniting science, art, ethics, and other ideologies in a living and immediate synthesis (14). Every act of his consciousness and all the concrete forms of his conduct outside work (manners, ceremonies, conventional signs of communication, etc.) are immediately oriented in the ideological environment, are determined by it, and in turn determine it, while only obliquely reflecting and refracting socio-economic and natural existence (14). This concept of the concrete ideological environment (14) is very important to Marxism for in addition to purely ideological creation, a whole series of very important social acts are directly aimed at the development of this environment in its concrete totality. The politics of social upbringing and education, cultural propaganda, and educational work are all forms of organised influence on the ideological environment which presupposes a knowledge of its laws and concrete forms (14). Idealist philosophy of culture had the damaging effect of replacing the living connections between all ideological formations in the concrete and materially expressed

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ideological horizon with systematic extraspatial and extratemporal connections of abstract meanings (15). By contrast, for the positivist humanities (15), there was no such thing as a unified ideological environment. It was atomised into a trivial empiricism of separate and unconnected facts. And the more isolated and meaningless the individual fact, the more solid and positive it seemed (15) (Medvedev is thinking here of positivist linguistics and the Neogrammarians history of language or positivist classical archaeology [15]). It was a futile desire (15) to reduce ideological creation to natural laws (15) and, in so doing, show disregard for the social unity of the ideological world and its laws of development (15). Naturalism and pragmatism (15) ignored the socioeconomic environment (15) and the ideological environment (15) in making the human organism adapt itself directly to the biological environment (15). Medvedev points out that Marxists have a tendency to move too quickly and too directly from the separate ideological phenomenon to conditions of the socioeconomic environment (15). This economic reductionism loses sight of the fact that the separate phenomenon is only a dependent part of the concrete ideological environment and that it is directly determined by this environment in the most immediate way (15), for which reason it is naive to think that separate works which have been snatched out of the unity of the ideological world, are in their isolation directly determined by economic factors (15). This is why it is ridiculous to think that a poems rhymes and stanzas are fitted together according to economic causality (15). (15). Medvedev concludes the chapter by stating that it is his intention to focus the next chapter on the tasks of literary scholarship (15). Chapter 2: The Immediate Tasks of Literary Scholarship The Reflection of the Ideological Environment in the Content of the Literary Work Medvedev beings this chapter by underlining that all the branches of literary scholarship (theoretical poetics, historical poetics, literary history) (16) are based on an understanding of ideological superstructures and their relationship to the base (16). One factor, though, has played a fateful role in the history of the scholarly study of literary phenomena (16) that has led historians and theoreticians away from literature and its direct study (16): the relationship of literature to other ideologies, its unique position in the totality of the ideological environment (16). Literature occupies a special place in the surrounding ideological reality (16) in that it takes the form of organised philological works which have their own specific structures (16). The literary structure, like every ideological structure, refracts the generating economic reality . . . in its own way (16). However, at the same time, in its content, literature reflects and refracts the reflections and refractions of other ideological spheres (ethics, epistemology, political doctrines, religion, etc.) (16-17), that is, in its content literature reflects the whole of the ideological horizon of which it is itself a part (17). Literature does not take its ethical and epistemological content from ethical and epistemological systems . . . but immediately from the very process of generation of ethics, epistemology, and other ideologies (17). Literature often anticipates developments in philosophy and ethics (ideologemes) . . . in an undeveloped, unsupported, intuitive form (17). It penetrates into the social laboratory where these ideologemes are shaped and formed. The artist has a keen sense for ideological problems in the process of birth and generation (17). He senses them in statu nascendi (17): the generation of ideas, the generation of aesthetic desires and feelings, their wandering, their as yet unformed groping for reality, their restless seething in the depths of the so-called social psyche the whole as yet undifferentiated flood of

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generating ideology is reflected and refracted in the content of the literary work (17). Literature always represents man, his life and fate, his inner world, in the ideological purview. Everything takes place in a world of ideological quantities and values. The ideological environment is the only atmosphere in which life can be the subject of literary representation (17). Life, the aggregate of defined actions, events, or experiences, only become plot, story, theme, or motif once it has been refracted through the prism of the ideological environment. Reality that is unrefracted and . . . raw is not able to enter into the content of literature (17). The literary devices one chooses always reveal the purely ideological values which shape its structure (17). If we imagine man in a pure, absolute, ideologically unrefracted reality (17), nothing of the plot or motif will remain (17). Every plot is the formula of ideologically refracted life. This formula is composed of ideological conflicts, material forces which have been ideologically refracted (17). These ideological values (17) include [g]ood, evil, truth, crime, duty, death, love, victory, etc. (17) and differ depending on whether they belong to the ideological purview of a feudal lord, a member of the big bourgeoisie, a peasant, or a proletarian (17), that is, because of the class of the person who holds them. Medvedev contends that [d]ifferences in plot follow from differences in values (17), arguing that ideological refraction, cognitive, aesthetic, political, or religious refraction, is an obligatory and irrevocable preliminary condition for the worlds entrance into the structure and content of literature (18). He repeats: reality that has already been ideologically refracted is shaped artistically (18). The Three Basic Methodological Errors of Russian Criticism and Literary History Here, Medvedev contends that the content of literature reflects the ideological purview, i.e. other nonartistic, ideological formations (ethical, epistemological, etc.) (18). However, in reflecting these other signs, literature creates new forms, new signs of ideological discourse (18). These signs are works of art, which become a real part of the social reality surrounding man (18). Literature does not merely reflect other ideologemes in that they become in themselves valuable and unique phenomena of the ideological environment (18). Literary works have their own independent ideological role and their own type of refraction of socioeconomic existence (18). The two types of reflection (18) should be distinguished: the reflection of the ideological environment in the content of literature (18) and the reflection of the economic base . . . common to all ideologies (18) in that literature, like the other independent superstructures, reflects the base (18), leading to a double orientation of literature in reality (18). The mistake has been threefold: firstly, to limit literature to reflection alone (18), lowering it to the status of a simple servant and transmitter of other ideologies (18) and thereby ignoring the independently meaningful reality of the literary works, its ideological independence and originality (18); secondly, to take the reflection of the ideological purview to the direct reflection of existence itself (18) and not the ideological horizon, which itself is only the refracted reflection of real existence (18): in short, to reveal the world depicted by the artist is not to penetrate into the actual reality of life (18); and, thirdly, to reify and dogmatise basic ideological points reflected by the artist in his works, thus turning active and generating problems into ready theses, statements, and philosophical, ethical, political, religious, etc. conclusions (19). The artist has nothing to do with prepared or confirmed theses (19) which show up as alien bodies in the work, as tendentious prosisms (19), the proper place of which is in scientific systems, ethical systems, political programmes, and the like (19). The result is that literature, an independent and unique ideology, was equated with other ideologies

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and vanished in them without a trace. Analysis squeezed the literary work for poor philosophy, superficial sociopolitical declarations, ambiguous ethics, and short-lived religious doctrines (19). The living generation (19) of ideologies is thereby turned into dogmatic structure (19). Literary Criticism and Content The reader-critic is most often drawn into the flood of generating ideology the artist has revealed to him (19) and thereby recognise themselves, their problems, their own personal ideological process of generation (their quest), and will recognise the contradictions and conflicts of their own constantly alive and involved ideological horizon (19). In any given ideological horizon, there may be found several mutually contradictory truths, . . . several diverging ideological paths (19). To choose one of these truths or paths as indisputable (19) or self-evident (19) is to write a scholarly thesis (19), or join some movement (19) or party (19). Even here, though, diverging paths will present themselves [s]uch is the dialectic of real life (20). The more the literary work captures this process, the more it will interest the reader-critic who will be wrong, in turn, if he imposes a thesis on the artist, a thesis in the sense of the last word, and not as the generation of an idea (20) for there is no philosophy in literature, only philosophising, no knowledge, but only the process of cognition (20). Bad critics overlook the real generation of art in the given work, that is, the fact that the artist only asserts himself in the process of the artistic selection and shaping of the ideological material (20) which is no less social and ideological than epistemological, ethical, political, etc. (20). The Tasks of Literary History with Regard to Content The critic should seek to reveal the very mechanics of ideological generation (20), penetrating the ideological environment to the class struggle (20), to the real socioeconomic being of the given social group (20). He must seek out the social life . . . expressed in the specific language of literature (20). It is not, however, to draw direct conclusions about the social reality of a given epoch from secondary ideological reflections in literature (21) in the manner of quasi sociologists (21) who are guilty of naively projecting (21) heroes or events directly into life (21). The Reflection of the Ideological Horizon and Artistic Structure in the Literary Work Here, Medvedev turns his attention to characterisation as an aspect of the literary form of a text. Characters are not, once abstracted from the literary structure in question, a social type (21) but only the ideological refraction of a given social type (21) in the social consciousness of a definite social group (21). A character is first and foremost a structural element of a literary work (21), that is, of a definite genre type (21) which performs a definite artistic function . . . in the plot, then in the theme . . ., in the thematic problem, and, finally, in the construction of the work in its totality (21), and not an ethical and philosophical ideologeme (21) per se. The character is both an ethical, philosophical ideologeme (22) and a dependent structural element of the artistic whole (22). It is true that extraartistic ideological meaning (22) is brought into the literary work via its attempt to depict a particular social type. But, without losing its meaning, the ideologeme, in entering the artistic work, enters into a chemical, not mechanical, relationship with the features of artistic ideology. Its ethical, philosophical spirit becomes an ingredient of poetic spirit, and its ethical-philosophical responsibility is absorbed by the

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totality of the authors artistic responsibility for the whole of his artistic statement (22). The purely artistic intentions (22) of the work in question completely permeate the ethical-philosophical ideologeme (22) which is constitutive of a particular character who is accordingly as much determined by the laws of development (22) that inhere in the plot as it is by social and historical forces external to the work. Because oxygen combines with hydrogen to form water (H20), it is necessary to use a definite chemical method and laboratory procedure . . . to extract oxygen from water (22). By the same token, it is difficult, without some analogous method, to separate the ethical-philosophical ideologeme from the artistic ideologeme that combine chemically (to use Medvedevs earlier metaphor) to form a character. Medvedev believes that the major task of the Marxist historian or theoretician of literature does not involve the isolation of the extraartistic ideologeme but the sociological definition of the artistic ideologeme itself, i.e. the sociological definition of the work of art (23). To this end, extraartistic ideologemes are studied from the standpoint of their artistic functions (23) in the text in question as a whole. The artistic structure (23) as well as the artistic function of each of its elements are in themselves no less ideological and sociological than the aesthetic, philosophical, or political ideologemes present (23), but the artistic ideology is primary (23) vis a vis its reflected and twice-refracted extraartistic ideologemes (23). The extraartistic ideologeme, in chemical combination with the artistic construction, forms the thematic unity of the given work. Thematic unity is a particular mode of orientation in reality, proper to literature, which allows it to control aspects of reality which are inaccessible to other ideologies (23), something requiring special methods (23) of study. The Content of Literature as a Problem of Aesthetics and Poetics Here, Medvedev pauses to survey what he calls decadent theories of artistic creation (24), epitomised by Hermann Cohen, and Richard Haman, among others, all of whom fall far short of the materialist principles which has to this point been adumbrating. The Problem of Distancing and Isolation Here, Medvedev discusses the tension between the distancing and isolation of the work of art and its content (25) and the inclusiveness of art (25) which he has been examining to this point. He advances the view that there is in fact no contradiction (25). This is because what is distanced in art is not abstract physical qualities . . . but . . . the various phenomena of social reality and history (25). In other words, reality per se cannot enter into the work of art as such precisely because it is at best reflected (25), for which reason there is always a certain distance between the art work and social reality. However, socio-historical phenomena enter the work of art as social meaning (25), that is, in terms of the ideological evaluations (25) which are realised in the form of plot, theme and other motifs. As an element of the artistic work (25) (the latter being itself a specific social reality no less real and active than other social phenomenon [25]), any literary device in turn rejoins reality (25). From this perspective, art forms part of social reality . . . in a different social category (25). This is why the reality of a novel, its contact with actuality, and its role in social life cannot be reduced to a mere reflection of reality in its content. It is part of social life and active in it (26), its place in social reality (26) being no less important than that of the social phenomena it reflects (26). Later, Medvedev puts it this way: the literary work is doubly connected to the ideological environment through the reflection of the latter in its content and through direct

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participation in it as one of its individual parts (28). Hence, Medvedev speaks of the immanent reality of literature (26) as opposed to that other reality which is merely reflected in it (26) even as he urges that we should not deny, as in Russian Formalism (26), the latters presence in the artistic work (26). Only Marxism, he feels, can coordinate the specific reality of literature with the ideological horizon reflected in its content (26): Marxism, given the totally sociological nature of all ideological phenomena, including poetic structures, with their purely artistic details and nuances, removes the danger of the fetishisation of the work, the danger that the work might be transformed into a meaningless object and artistic perception into the hedonistic sensation of the object, as in our formalism, and also avoids the opposite danger that literature might be made a servant of the other ideologies, the danger of losing touch with the work of art in its artistic specificity. (26) The Object, Tasks and Methods of Literary History Here, Medvedev argues that the ideological horizon (26) is both reflected in the content of the artistic work (26) and exerts a shaping influence on the work (26). The literary work is a dependent and therefore actually inseparable element (26) of the literary environment (26), defined as the aggregate of all the socially active literary works of a given epoch and social group (26). The literary work occupies a definite place in this environment and is directly determined by its influences (26). The literary environment is in turn only a dependent and therefore actually inseparable element in the general ideological environment of a given epoch and a given sociological unity (27). In its totality and in each of its elements literature occupies a definite place in the ideological environment, is oriented in it, and defined by its direct influence (27). In turn, the ideological environment in its totality and in each of its elements is likewise a dependent element of the socioeconomic environment, is determined by it, and is permeated from top to bottom with socioeconomic laws of development (27). The result is a complex system of interconnections and mutual influences (27) with the result that the individual work can only be understood relative to the unity of literature (27) which in turn is understandable only with reference to the unity of ideological life (27) which cannot be studied outside the unified socioeconomic laws of development (27). Thus, to define the literary physiognomy of a given work, one must at the same time reveal its general ideological physiognomy (27) and, in revealing the latter, we cannot help revealing its socioeconomic nature as well (27). The general concrete historical study of the artistic work is only possible when all these conditions are observed (27). None of the links of this complete chain (27) can be overlooked. In short, literary history is concerned with the concrete life of the literary work in the unity of the generating ideological environment, the literary environment in the generating ideological environment, and the latter, finally, in the generating socioeconomic environment which permeates it (27). In so doing, there is no question of substituting the history of culture (28) for the history of literature (28) for this based on the mistaken apprehension that the specificity and individuality of a given domain is only able to be preserved through its absolute isolation, by ignoring everything outside it (28). The fact is, by contrast, that every ideological domain and every separate ideological phenomenon acquires its true individuality and specificity precisely in living interaction with other phenomena (28). Individuality, Medvedev suggests, can only be completely discovered and defined in this process of interaction (28).

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Moreover, given the determining influence of other ideologies on literature (28) and the return influence of ideologies on the base itself (28), Medvedev stresses that the literary work is primarily and most directly determined by literature itself (28). The effect of literature on literature (28) is a sociological effect (28) in that literature is social through and through (28): the socioeconomic base acts on all of literature and on the whole ideological environment. It acts on the individual work precisely as a literary work, i.e. as an element of the whole ideological environment (28). It is only poor theoreticians and historians (28) of literature who imagine that the sociological factor must inevitably be an alien factor, that it must be an extraliterary factor, or, in science, an extrascientific factor, and so on (28-29). In fact, the socioeconomic laws of development work on all the elements of social and ideological life from both within and without (29). This is why the literary historian must be careful not to turn the literary environment into an absolutely closed-off, self-sufficient world (29) since the individuality of a system (more precisely, an environment) is based exclusively on the interaction of the system as a whole and in each of its elements with all the other systems in the unity of social life (29). From this perspective, every literary phenomenon is, like every other ideological phenomenon, simultaneously determined from without (extrinsically) and from within (intrinsically). From within it is determined by literature itself, and from without by other spheres of social life (29). Of course, in being determined by literature, the literary work is thereby determined externally also, for the literature which determines it is itself determined from without (29): any external factor which acts on literature evokes a purely literary effect, and this effect becomes a determining intrinsic factor for the subsequent literary development. And this internal factor itself becomes an external factor for other ideological domains, which will bring their own internal languages to bear on it; this reaction, in turn, will become an extrinsic factor for literature. (29) In this way, the boundaries between intrinsic and extrinsic collapse: intrinsic turns out to be extrinsic, and the reverse. . . . This is a simple dialectic (29). This whole dialectical opposition of factors takes place within the bounds of the unified sociological laws of development (29) beyond which nothing in social life goes and in the course of which individuality is preserved even as constant dialectical interaction (30) is inevitable: [a]rt does not stop being art, science is always science (30) just as the sociological laws of development do not lose their . . . comprehensive determining force (30). Medvedev admits that it is true, though, that some crude mechanistic (29) versions of Marxism are prone to this clumsy . . . division between intrinsic and extrinsic factors in the development of ideological phenomena (29). It is normally the intrinsic factor which is usually suspected of being insufficiently loyal from the sociological point of view! (29). The Object, Tasks, and Methods of Sociological Poetics Admitting that literary scholarship (30) involves more than merely literary history per se, Medvedev argues that the study of literary history presupposes a sociological poetics (30) devoted to revealing the individuality of poetic structures as sui generis social structures (30). A sociological poetics focuses on the following questions: What is the literary work? What is its structure? What are the elements of this structure and what are their artistic functions? What is genre, style, plot, theme, motif, hero, metre, rhythm, melody, etc.? (30) The question of the reflection of the ideological horizon in the content of the work and of

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the function of this reflection in the whole structure (30) is the concern of a sociological poetics. A sociological poetics must begin from definite knowledge of the essence of the ideological structures whose concrete history it traces (30). At the same time, it must also orient itself towards literary history per se: there should be, Medvedev avers, constant interaction between these two fields (30). Sociological poetics must be historically oriented (31). Each definition formulated by historical poetics must be adequate to the total evolution of the forms being defined (31). It must adopt a dynamic and dialectical (31) approach to the definition, for example, of the novel, conceiving it as a system of changing varieties of the genre (31). It must strive to be adequate to this generating system (31) by acknowledging all the previous forms of its historical development (31). Only dialectics can avoid both normativism and dogmatism in definitions and their positivistic atomisation into a multiplicity of disconnected facts only conditionally connected (31). Hitherto, Marxists were content to borrow specifying definitions for literary phenomena from nonsociological poetics (31) with the result that these definitions were either naturalistic, or positivistic, or idealist (31). From this perspective, artistic phenomena were considered to be either natural, nonsocial phenomena (32) (this was the legacy of naturalism) or some self-sufficient ideational essences estranged from social reality (32) (idealisms legacy). Each such concept, as a foreign body in Marxist research (31), undermined a would-be Marxist approach to criticism. This led to a declaration of war on anything immanently literary in the explanation of literary phenomena and to reduce the Marxist method to a search for exclusively extrinsic factors which define literary phenomena independently of one another (31), in lieu of revealing the sociological nature of literary phenomena from within (31). If literature were intrinsically nonsocial (32), if, for example, it were analogous to . . . chemical structure (32), then the applicability of the Marxist method would be questionable and literary history would present the pathetic spectacle of a constant struggle between the intrinsic nature of literature and social demands alien to that literature (32). However, such a view of literature as inherently nonsocial is, in Medvedevs view, simply wrong, hence, the applicability of the Marxist approach. Medvedev takes exception to both the extreme in literary scholarship represented by a Professor Sakulin (who contrasts an immanent essence of literature . . . and its immanent and likewise extrasociological natural evolution, to the effect of extrinsic social factors on literature (32), and that represented by a Professor Friche whose conception of a socially and historically informed approach to criticism, the goal of which is to establish laws of correspondence between certain poetic styles and definite economic styles (32), differs dramatically from his own. One is guilty of completely ignoring the socio-historical context of literature, while the other is guilty of economic reductionism that does not do justice to the specificity of literature per se. The aims of his own version of a sociological poetics, Medvedev argues, are primarily specification, description, and analysis. That is: to isolate the literary work as such, to reveal its structure, to determine the possible forms and variations of this structure, and to define its elements and their functions (33). This approach weaves its way between ideological (extraliterary) and artistic demands and approaches (35). At one extreme, the artist is turned into a politician, philosopher, social scientist, and so on (35) against his will rather than oriented and understood in the context of the means and possibilities available to poetic art (35), that is, in the immanent language of poetic craftmanship (35). At the other extreme, the formalists contend that social life and poetic art are two different worlds, intrinsically foreign to each other and lacking a common language. All that is possible between them is external mechanistic interaction (35-36).

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By contrast, a sociological poetics as envisaged by Medvedev, submits that the social assignment can and does penetrate the depths of art . . . into its native element, and that the language of art is only a dialect of a single social language (36) for which reason the translation from this dialect to the dialects of other ideologies is perfectly adequate (36). In short, poetic language is social through and through (36). The Problem of the Formal Method in Literary Scholarship Here, Medvedev argues that poetics in the Soviet Union at present is monopolised by the so-called formal . . . method (36). The so-called Russian Formalists, comprising theorists and critics like Viktor Shklovsky and Boris Eichenbaum, have touched on many crucial problems of literary theory for which reason it behoves Marxists to subject their work to exhaustive critical analysis (36), hence the existence of this very study by Medvedev. In particular, the Formalists have succeeded in giving great sharpness . . . to problems of literary specification (36). Their specifying techniques (37) are, however, diametrically opposed to those of Marxism (37) in that they consider specification to be the isolation of a given ideological domain, the sealing off of this domain from all other forces and energies of ideological and social life (37). In short, they do not conceive of individuality dialectically (37) and are incapable of combining it with the living interactions of concrete social and historical life (37). Medvedev urges that there is an urgent need to facilitate the meeting of Marxism and formalism (37). If the Formalists are right, then Marxism is of little value. If they are wrong, however, their theory, which is developed so consistently and fully, turns out to be a magnificent reductio ad absurdem of principled nonsociological poetics (37). If literature is a social phenomenon, then the formal method, which ignores and denies this, is . . . inadequate to literature itself and provides false interpretations and definitions of its specific characteristics and features (37). He concludes this chapter thus: Marxist literary scholarship meets and clashes with the formal method on the problem that is most important and pressing for both, the problem of specification. For this reason, . . . [e]ach of the formalists arguments must be tested and found wanting on its own grounds, on the grounds of the individuality of the literary fact. The remainder of this book is accordingly dedicated to a criticism of the formal method (37) which in turn serves as the foundation for specific analyses of particular genres, etc. such as that undertaken by Bakhtin in Discourse in the Novel.