Volume 27 Number 1

Harry R. Garvin (Ed.)

Literature and Ideology

186 pages
ISBN 0838750494
Bucknell Review

This issue of Bucknell Review considers questions of contemporary significance that arise in the study of ideology in literature. The editors approach the topic from three viewpoints. The first section examines writers as they incorporate in their work ideological content in some more or less conspicuous form. Authors Zehr and Mallon, writing on Orwell and the "Auden group," discuss issues that will arise in more pointed and theoretical forms in the succeeding sections: the relevance to societal and literary concerns of Marxist theory and practice, the responsibilities of a literary figure in and to a sociopolitical context, the conflicts in which being a writer involves an actor and critic of the society and its literature. The second section illustrates the approach of critics attempting to understand literary works while at the same time remaining aware that, as readers and critics, they are subject to ideological claims and pressures of a different order. Thomas's discussion of character in Billy Budd focuses on the way questions of Melville's day and to Melville's doubts about his own role as writer. Zelnick's analysis of Robinson Crusoe shows how the protagonist becomes a prototype of the capitalist in the ideology that is beginning to emerge in Defoe's time and to affect the development of the novel as a genre. While discussing how the literary "text" is produced as the artifact of a particular era and ideology, Kavanagh points to the worker's production of a dramatic text in A Midsummer Night's Dream as one kind of illustrative source of the modern concept. Bogue's comparison of the critiques of popular culture developed by Roland Barthes and Jean Baudrillard points to some fruitful approaches to an understanding of ideology. The authors in the third group of papers consider how women are affected in their lives and work by the ideologies of their societies, while the works of literature and criticism they produce are gently or forcibly ignored or suppressed - ironically, often in the name of the "higher interests" of their societies and the theories on which they are based. Looking at the work of women writer-actors in recent revolutionary contexts, Bammer is concerned with how such women reconcile their personal Marxism with the patriarchal societal expectations of more traditional Marxism. Crowder's semiotic approach to the ideological aspects of the portrayal of women in literature focuses on the signs that point to the signified "woman." Analyzing a Garden of Eden passage in a work of Monique Wittig, she shows how a different use of signs can make that most patriarchal of myths a feminist one. Finally, Durham examines the work of the feminist critic Claudine Herrmann and her attempts to go beyond or outside latter-day ideology. The editors hope that the complexities in the interrelationship of literature and ideology that these papers reveal will lead to increased interest in and further exploration of this vital issue in contemporary literature and criticism.

Contributors: James M. Heath, David M. Zehr, Thomas Mallon, Brook Thomas, Stephen Zelnick, James H. Kavanagh, Ronald L. Bogue, Angelika Bammer, Diane Griffin Crowder, and Carolyn A. Durham.

About the editor:

Harry R. Garvin was John P. Crozer Professor of English at Bucknell University.


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