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SOCIETY AND THE INDIVIDUAL

Introduction
modern theories question the view that literature is something separate from the world or that it simply reflects the world literature is not aesthetically detached: it is as much a part of reality as a reflection on it four approaches: class, gender, sexual identity, subjectivity

Class
the issue of class is usually ignored because of the individuals who represent universal qualities the main focus of the plot is usually on the behaviour of individual characters questions of class can be neglected or subordinated, which reinforces the status quo Marx - cultural artefacts are largely designed to reinforce the interests of the privileged class

Marx
Marx - privileged vs the exploited class culture is a product of economic and social forces It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness. literature is seen primarily as a form of ideology

Ideology - a way of legitimating the power of the ruling class in society the most effective ideology is that which we are unaware of Louis Althusser - ideological state apparatuses (ISAs), repressive state apparatuses (RSAs) RSAs - institutions - the police, armed forces, penal system...

ISAs - arise from within society - religion, education, culture ISAs appear to be natural, but are very much bound up with class structure, gender and subjectivity Pip's gentrification in Great Expectations offers the reader an unrealistic myth about individual achievement

Althusser - ideology turns people into subjects; people are positioned or interpellated to see events in a certain way the myth of individualism in capitalism is convenient for the ruling class because it lets people believe they can influence their lives

Hegemony
Antonio Gramsci - ruling classes rule by indirect means; people actively work towards their own subordination culture reinforces the dominant power relations of society the effectiveness of common sense as a form of knowledge - requires no justification what seems to be naturally right in fact represents the societal values unlike the 19th century realist novels, many modern works do not encourage identification with characters or immersion in the plot

Discourse
it is usually thought that language is a neutral, transparent medium for describing the world the term discourse radically reverses it meaning and our sense or knowledge of the world is located in language language is responsible for producing meaning language is never neutral or ideologically innocent Michel Foucault - the social world can be seen as composed of a range of discourses functioning around the institutions which they are part of

discourses of gender and race privileged certain groups the normative reader is usually referred to as 'he' by studying a text through discursive organization instead of the traditional categories of character, plot and morality, different meanings become available

Marxist criticism
explored the sociology of the text as opposed to the psychology of individual characters Hungarian Georg Lukcs - a novel must be assessed on its ability to reflect the historical and material conditions of society realism was not a question of physical verisimilitude rejected subjective and experimental works

Victor Shklovsky - art needs to shock, to defamiliarize and subvert our sense of the normal Bertolt Brecht - defamiliarization - breaking with the conventions of theatrical realism; revealing the mechanisms his theatre was constructed around fragmentation and discontinuity Walter Benjamin - mass circulation potentially a liberating force for people who had previously been denied access

the Frankfurt School (Marcuse, Adorno) dismissed realism and celebrated modernist detachment from reality Pierre Macherey - a text functions at two levels: the surface ideology and a hidden or unconscious level Fredric Jameson - centrality of the context of reading rather than a context in which a work was written; all literary criticism is inherently ideological

Gender
the place of women in literature the male is usually regarded as the norm de Beauvoir - 'He is the Subject, he is the Absolute - She is the Other.' sex indicates biological differences gender signifies the socially constructed differences what is usually presented as natural is basically socially constructed

1792 - Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman - improving women's education Virginia Woolf Can a male writer adequately represent female experience? in literary texts, women usually play less significant roles than men the kind of subjects deemed worthy of treatment - 'female' issues underrepresented

Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own (1928) - point of departure of a feminist criticism challenging the dominant gender discourses if Shakespeare had had a sister with the same genius, she wouldn't have been able to express it in a male-dominated society ideological role of language in constructing gender

Dale Spender - two language categories male and minus male knowledge is male centred and discriminates against women Cora Kaplan - 'subjectivity of women of other classes, races and different sexual orientations can never be authentically represented by the white, heterosexual, middle-class woman writer.'

two strands of feminism Anglo-American tradition - Elaine Showalter, Ellen Moers - establishing an alternative tradition of women writers French tradition - Julia Kristeva, Hlne Cixous - more attention to the text itself, didn't entirely exclude male writers

SEXUAL IDENTITY
Woolf's Orlando (1928) - the central character undergoes a sex change Oscar Wilde - strong female and weak male characters Winterson - Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit lesbian relationships films such as The Crying Game utilize transgender themes Judith Butler questions the binary relation of men and women; it can reinforce power structures

SUBJECTIVITY
most literary texts articulate highly individual experience most texts contain individualized characters with whom we tend to identify as readers works which question the individual are very much exceptions usually not considered great because they fail to present reality in terms of individualized experience

poststructuralism - the individual no longer considered a coherent, unified, self-contained entity, but became fragmented and conflicted various forces position the individual in different and contradictory ways the individual is subject to the forces of control operating in a given society

character study often dominated criticism providing the most obvious point of access fictional characters were assessed in terms of their lifelike qualities the reader is normally addressed so that the text coheres around him devices such as point of view and narration lend themselves to specific interpretations some texts subvert the reader's position (Tristram Shandy)

the essence of 'Realist' strategy - to impose a general ideology through the psychological plausibility of a particular case we are invited as readers to share the insights of central characters or the narrator we should be aware that character-centred approach is a textual device and part of the conventions of literary discourse

Psychoanalytic approaches
Freud's model lays claim to discovering an area of activity hidden from us in everyday lives - a kind of determining reality superego, ego, id, pleasure principle, eros modernist writing encouraged ways of reading which looked for meanings beyond the apparent condensation - ways in which an image or word can acquire a number of meanings Heart of Darkness

displacement - a concept is transformed into an apparently unrelated image allowing the repressed element to be represented Kafka's Metamorphosis meanings arise through interaction and collaboration of the text and the reader Lacan refined Freud's approach through language the individual gains his subject positions male identity is constructed in positive terms as the norm

Metamorphosis can be interpreted as an expression of the death wish emanating from the unconscious meaning seems to be postponed or deferred

Metamorphosis can be interpreted as an expression of the death wish emanating from the unconscious meaning seems to be postponed or deferred

Citizen Kane
Ebert: Rosebud is the emblem of the security, hope and innocence of childhood, which a man can spend his life seeking to regain. It is the green light at the end of Gatsby's pier; the leopard atop Kilimanjaro, seeking nobody knows what; the bone tossed into the air in ``2001.'' It is that yearning after transience that adults learn to suppress.