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April 7, 2007

EL312: Let me get my Marxist 3-D glasses...

Literary works are not mysteriously inspired, or explicable simply in terms of their author's psychology. They are forms of perception, particular ways of seeing the world; and as such they have a relation to that dominant way of seeing the world which is the "social mentality" or ideology of an age. That ideology, in turn, is the product of the concrete social relations into which men enter at a particular time and place. (421)

This sounds great, right? Eagleton was feeling Vanessa's vibe of hating authorial intent obviously, and says instead how we ought to consider literature. I like thinking about Eagleton's "forms of perception, particular ways of seeing" as the 3-D glasses that come with every work of literature. Through the literature, Eagleton says, we see the ideology. And through the ideology we see the social relations (class, race, gender, economics, etc.) of the time in which the piece was written. Works for me.

Eagleton begins the next full paragraph with "To understand," and then I totally lost interest (421). I realize we're dealing with theory here, but anyone who knows anything about teaching (or learning, for that matter) knows that beginning a goal or objective with "to understand" is a horrible idea. It isn't measurable! How do I know when I "understand"? (It's the same thing with some other words that imply immeasurable concepts--to know, to think, to realize, to believe.) A good teacher doesn't expect her students to achieve an objective that starts with "to understand..." and a good student doesn't make a to-do list with goals that begin "to learn..." We'd never get anything accomplished.

I still appreciate the 3-D glasses idea Eagleton conjured up in my mind, but "to understand"? C'mon...

He gets into more concrete ideas later (which I appreciate as well since, after all, even Marxist theory has a grounding in reality)--"Ideology signifies the imaginary ways in which men experience the real world, which is, of course, the kind of experience literature gives us too--what it feels like to live in particular conditions, rather than a conceptual analysis of those conditions" (425).

Thank you--imagination. Now that's something I can wrap my head around. Haha. We all know how to imagine but can you tell me how to understand? :)

Eagleton, ''Literature and History'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Posted by KarissaKilgore at April 7, 2007 4:35 PM


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