Comparative Literature--Slavic, G6127, 3.0 points, Fall 2002

Prof. David A. Goldfarb

M 4:10-6:00 p.m., 404 Milbank

Is there an inherent relation between the material conditions of social life and the historical prevalence of specific aesthetic forms? If so, what are the mechanisms of mediation between political economy and art or literature? The course will consider how marxist critics have attempted to answer these central questions in works by Marx, Engels, György Lukács, Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Frederic Jameson and Jacques Derrida, Christopher Caudwell, Raymond Williams and Terry Eagleton, Nikolai Chernyshevsky, Georgii Plekhanov, Leon Trotsky, and V. N. Voloshinov, as well as Lenin’s statements on literature and some documents from the rise of Soviet Socialist Realism. Of particular interest will be the ways in which different strands of marxist theory have reflected other intellectual tendencies, such as positivism, nineteenth-century Russian radicalism, modernism, and postmodernism.

9 Sept.—Introduction: Society, Culture and Mediation.

16 Sept.—Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848) in The Marx-Engels Reader (M-ER 469-500), Selections from the “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844;” “Theses on Feuerbach” (1845); “Commodities” from Capital, I:i (M-ER 70-109; 143-45; 302-328).

23 Sept.—Marx, Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859); The German Ideology, Part I; selection from The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852); Engels, Letter to Joseph Bloch (21-22 Sept. 1890) (M-ER 3-6; 146-200; 594-97; 760-65). Excerpt from the Grundrisse (Eagleton and Milne 34-35). Raymond Williams, Keywords, see entries for: Alienation, Art, Bourgeois, Civilization, Class, Criticism, Culture, Dialectic, Idealism, Literature, Mediation, Realism, Theory, Work.

30 Sept.—N. Chernyshevsky, “The Aesthetic Relation of Art to Reality” (1855/1888).

7 Oct.—The rise of Socialist Realism: Lenin, “Party Organization and Party Literature” (1905, Lang and Williams 55-59). Lenin, “Leo Tolstoy and his Epoch” (1911, Eagleton and Milne 42-45). Trotsky, “The Formalist School of Poetry and Marxism” (1923, Eagleton and Milne, 46-59). Trotsky, “Proletarian Culture and Proletarian Art” (1925, Lang and Williams 60-79).

14 Oct.—G. Plekhanov, Art and Society (1912-13).

21 Oct.—Voloshinov, “The Philosophy of Language and its Significance for Marxism” in Marxism and the Philosophy of Language (1929, 9-41). Also, look at Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (21-44).

28 Oct.—György Lukács, The Theory of the Novel (1920).

4 Nov.—Election Day holiday--No classes.

11 Nov.—Christopher Caudwell, “The World and the ‘I’” (1937) in Illusion and Reality, 151-75. Raymond Williams on “Structures of Feeling,” Marxism and Literature (75-141).

18 Nov.—Bertolt Brecht, “Theater for Pleasure and Instruction” (Lang and Williams 326-33). Theodor Adorno, “Commitment” (1962, Eagleton and Milne 187-203). Theodor Adorno, “On Lyric Poetry and Society” in Notes to Literature, (1:37-54); “Mediation” in Introduction to the Sociology of Music (195-218). Walter Benjamin, “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936) in Illuminations (217-251).

25 Nov.—Louis Althusser, “Contradiction and Overdetermination” from For Marx (Verso edition, 86-128). Terry Eagleton, “Towards a Science of the Text” (Eagleton and Milne 296-327). G.A. Cohen, “The Labor Theory of Value and the Concept of Exploitation.” Philosophy and Public Affairs 8 (1979), 338-60. The Marxist-Feminist Literature Collective, “Women’s Writing: Jane Eyre, Shirley, Villette, Aurora Leigh” (Eagleton and Milne 328-50).

2 Dec.—Frederic Jameson, Marxism and Form, Preface and Ch. 5., “Toward Dialectical Criticism.” Eagleton, “Fredric Jameson: The Politics of Style” (Against the Grain 64-78). Jameson, “On Interpretation,” The Political Unconscious, ch. 1 (also in Eagleton and Milne 351-74). Aijaz Ahmad, “Jameson’s Rhetoric of Otherness and the ‘National Allegory’” (Eagleton and Milne 375-98).

9 Dec.—Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx. Eagleton, “Frère Jacques: The Politics of Deconstruction,” and “Capitalism, Modernism and Postmodernism from (Against the Grain 79-87; 131-47).


Grades will be weighted as follows:

 Participation     15%
 Oral Presentation 25%
 Term Paper        60%

Undergraduates, if they are invited to participate in the course, may opt to write a short paper in place of the oral presentation.

Required Texts

Available from Labyrinth Books

Derrida, Jacques. Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International. Tr. Peggy Kamuf. Intro. by Bernd Magnus and Stephen Cullenberg. New York: Routledge, 1994.

Eagleton, Terry and Milne, Drew, eds. Marxist Literary Theory: A Reader. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996.

Jameson, Fredric. Marxism and Form: Twentieth-century Dialectical Theories of Literature. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1974.

Lukács, Georg. The Theory of the Novel: A Historico-philosophical Essay on the Forms of Great Epic Literature. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 1971.

Tucker, Robert C., ed. The Marx-Engels Reader, 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 1978.

Williams, Raymond. Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. Rev. Ed. New York: Oxford, 1983.

---. Marxism and Literature. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1977.

Texts Available in photocopy (selections from works below)

Adorno, Theodor W. Notes to Literature, v. 1. New York: Columbia U. Pr., 1991.

---. “Mediation.” Introduction to the Sociology of Music. Trans. E. B. Ashton. 1962. New York: Seabury/Continuum, 1976.

Althusser, Louis. “Contradiction and Overdetermination.” For Marx. Trans. Ben Brewster. London: Verso, 1990. (photocopy)

Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations. Ed. Hannah Arendt. Trans. Harry Zohn. New York: Schocken, 1969.

Caudwell, Christopher, pseud. (Christopher St. John Sprigg). Illusion and Reality: A Study of the Sources of Poetry. London: Macmillan, 1937.

Chernyshevsky, N. G. “The Aesthetic Relation of Art to Reality.” Selected Philosophical Essays. 1855/1888. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1953. 281-422.

Cohen, G. A. “The labor theory of value and the concept of exploitation.” Philosophy and Public Affairs 8 (1979), 338-60.

Eagleton, Terry. Against the Grain: Essays, 1975-1985. London: Verso, 1986.

Lang, Berel and Williams, Forrest. Marxism and Art: Writings in Aesthetics and Criticism. New York: McKay, 1972.

Plekhanov, Georgii. Art and Society. New York: Critics Group, 1936.

Vološinov, V. N. Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. Trans. Ladislav Matejka and I. R. Titunik. Cambridge: Harvard U. Pr., 1986.

Further Readings (optional)

Adorno, Theodor W. Aesthetic Theory. Trans. C. Lenhardt. Eds. Gretel Adorno and Rolf Tiedemann. The International Libarary of Phenomenology and Moral Sciences. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982.

---. Negative Dialectics. Trans. E. B. Ashton. New York: Continuum-Seabury, 1973.

---. Philosophy of Music. Trans. Anne G. Mitchell and Wesley V. Blomster. New York: Seabury, 1980.

---. Prisms. Trans. Samuel and Shierry Weber. Cambridge: MIT, 1982.

Althusser, Louis. Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. Trans. Ben Brewster. New York: Monthly Rev., 1971.

Arato, Andrew and Gebhardt, Eike. The Essential Frankfurt School Reader. New York: Continuum, 1994.

Benjamin, Walter. Gesammelte Schriften. 6+ vols. Collaborators Theodor W. Adorno and Gershom Scholem. Eds. Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Schweppenhäuser. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1982.

---. Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings. Trans. Edmund Jephcott. Ed & introd by Peter Demetz. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978.

Berman, Marshall. All That is Solid Melts Into Air, The Experience of Modernity. New York: Penguin, 1988.

Butler, Judith, Guillory, John, and Thomas, Kendall, eds. What’s Left of Theory: New Work on the Politics of Literary Theory. Essays forom the English Institute. New York: Routledge, 2000.

Clark, Katrina. “’Boy Gets Tractor’ and All That: The Parable Structure of the Soviet Novel.” Russian and Slavic Literature. Ed. R. R. Milner-Gulland Richard Freeborn, and C. A. Ward. Columbus, Oh.: Slavica, 1976. 359-75.

---. The Soviet Novel: History as Ritual. Chicago: U of Chicago Pr., 1981.

Eagleton, Terry.VThe Ideology of the Aesthetic. Oxford: Blackwell, 1990.

---. Literary Theory: An Introduction. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1983.

Ermolaev, Herman. Soviet Literary Theories, 1917-34: The Genesis of Socialist Realism. U. of California Publications in Modern Philosophy 69. New York: Octagon, 1977.

Haraszti, Miklós. The Velvet Prison. New York: Basic, 1987.

Horkheimer, Max. Critical Theory. Trans. Matthew J. O’Connell. New York: Continuum, 1995.

Horkheimer, Max, and Theodor W. Adorno. Dialectic of Enlightenment. Trans. John Cumming. 1944. New York: Continuum, 1995.

Jameson, Fredric. The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act. Ithaca: Cornell Paperbacks, 1982.

LaCapra, Dominick. Rethinking Intellectual History: Texts, Contexts, Language. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1983.

Lenin, V. I. On Literature and Art. Moscow: Progress, 1967.

Lyotard, Jean-François. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi. Foreword by Fredric Jameson. Theory and History of Literature 10. Minneapolis: University of Minnisota Pr., 1984.

Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrich. Werke. Institut für Marxismus-Leninismus beim ZK der SED. Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1964. 46 vols.

Sinyavsky, Andrei (pseud. :. Abram Tertz). “On Socialist Realism.” The Trial Begins and on Socialist Realism. Trans. George Dennis. 1959. Berkeley: U. of California Pr., 1982. 147-219.

Struve, Gleb. Russian Literature Under Lenin and Stalin: 1917-1953. Norman, Ok.: U. of Oklahoma Pr., 1971.

Trotsky, Leon. Literature and Revolution. Ann Arbor Paperbacks for the Study of Communism and Marxism. Ann Arbor, MI: U of Michigan P, 1960.

Selected Periodicals of Interest

The Baffler—Cultural and literary quarterly.

CounterPunch—Political newsletter, established by Nation investigative columnist, Alexander Cockburn.

Dissent—Quarterly journal of leftist political and cultural thought.

In these Times—Leftist weekly with an activist orientation.

The Left Business Observer—Leftist economic newsletter.

Monthly Review—Long standing journal of politics and culture.

Mother Jones—Leftist news monthly.

The Nation—America’s oldest news weekly and leading source of leftist reporting on the news by the most prominent left journalists and columnists, including Alexander Cockburn, Christopher Hitchins, Katha Politt, Stuart Klawans, Stephen F. Cohen and others.

The Progressive—Established by Wisconsin leader of the Progressive movement, Bob LaFollette.

Radical History Review—Leftist scholarly journal of history.

Rethinking Marxism—Scholarly quarterly of current marxist scholarship, established to consider the consequences of the fall of the Soviet Union for leftist thought.

Social Text—Journal of cultural studies in the postmodernist vein. Not a peer-reviewed scholarly journal, per se, but a journal of scholarly opinion, which sometimes includes contributions to scholarly discourse by writers outside the academy.

Tikkun—Michael Lerner’s organ of “the politics of meaning:” leftist politics and cultural commentary in a Jewish context.

Z—Leftist news monthly with a strong focus on activism.

Internet Resources

J. Hughes, Leftist Theory Terms——Large index of leftist resources on the net.

Marx-Engels Archive——Extensive listing of primary texts by Marx and Engels available through the internet. Also a modest collection of works by other important marxist political thinkers.

The Nationhttp://www.TheNation.comThe Nation magazine’s website.

Z-net—http://www.lbbs.orgZ magazine website, with information about online courses on leftist topics.

All required books have been ordered by Labyrinth Books or they will be available from the library or in photocopy. Even if you have read some of the works already in another version, it is wise to acquire the assigned texts so that you can follow along in class. Reading in the original language is encouraged, for those who are able.

In general, if you are planning to do additional work in literary theory, it is a good idea to acquire your own copies of basic texts like those ordered for this class, so that you can make your own notes in them, and because they are in high demand, and frequently checked out, missing or stolen from libraries. Good sources for additional materials for this course are St. Mark’s Bookshop at 31 Third Ave., Revolution Books at 19 W. 19th St. (212-691-3345), The Ideal (used) Bookstore on 110th and Broadway, and the main Barnes and Noble at 18th St. and 5th Ave. For used copies of out-of-print titles like the Plekhanov, try online services such as or or


READING—The readings above are listed as they will be discussed in class and should be read in advance of the day they we will cover them. You are advised to begin assembling the reserve readings early in the term, to avoid the rush as they come up for discussion.

Members of the seminar will present a 20-minute paper in class to be handed in in written form, then developed into a longer version to be turned in as the term paper. Topics will be arranged by individual consultation.


This portion of your grade includes your productive oral participation in class, attendance, any ungraded in-class assignments, the extent to which your written assignments reflect that you are listening actively in class, and the improvement in your work over the course of the semester. Students enroll in the class with varying degrees of preparation. Even if you enter the class with a strong background in the subject, you must demonstrate that you are learning something from this class in order to do well in it. If you are studying the subject for the first time, do not fear that you will forever be lagging behind the more advanced students. Stakhanovite efforts of labor will be rewarded, and any surplus value produced in the spirit of socialist competition contributes to the communal good!

You are strongly encouraged to discuss your papers, as well as all of the assignments, with me at my office hour. There will be no opportunities for extra credit, but if you would like to improve your performance on the written assignments, I will always accept drafts in advance, to be returned ungraded with comments and suggestions. If you would like feedback on your final paper before handing in the final draft, I will accept drafts for comment up to the class before the paper is due. The final paper is due 13 December 2002.


25 September 2005