Friday, October 24, 2008
The TLS is running a review of Russell A. Berman’s Fiction Sets You Free by David Hawkes. It begins
Political-activist literary critics were once an endangered species. The rise of capital to absolute global dominion and the concomitant withering of socialist aspirations affected departments of literature throughout the 1980s and 90s, and by the turn of the millennium even the best political criticism lacked all conviction.
At the moment, directly to the right of this is a notification that Fredric Jameson has won the Holberg International Memorial Prize for 2008.
(I had lunch with Prof. Hawkes in ‘02 or ‘03, I think, and I would have loved to have discussed this issue with him then.)
Berman’s book essentially takes generations of Marxist criticism and agrees with it: literature *does* promote a capitalist ideology. He just thinks that’s super, you betcha.
Happily, Berman vindicates all those Marxists. Unhappily, it seems he thinks Sophocles and Langland are Boosters. My favorite part is Berman on Adorno. I mean, Adorno sort of deserves it. Just don’t touch Horkheimer. He’s my homey.
Greetings Jonathan, good point about Jameson. But surely you’d admit that Leftist political criticism, at least of the Marxist variety, was in the doldrums by the turn of the millenium?
I might agree that all varieties of literary criticism were in the doldrums then (now?), but I wouldn’t single out Marxist criticism. I once mentioned Jameson in the q-’n-a at a conference in ‘01, and a very eminent professor in the audience suggested that he was a dinosaur.
I didn’t think much of this at the time.