Marxist Critical TheoryMarxist Critical Theory is a politically-orientated criticism.
It is derived from the theories of social philosopher Karl Marx. A Marxist critic grounds their theory and practise in the economic and cultural theory of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and in doing so criticise literature in line with these claims: 1.As humanity evolves, its institutions and ways of thinking are determined by the changing mode of its ‘material production’ 2. Changes in the mode of production effect change in the constitution and power relations of social classes; this, in turn, creates conflict for social, economic and political advantage. 3. In any and every era, human consciousness is constituted by an ideology, through which they perceive what is their reality. Marxist critics theorise that all language use is influenced by social class and economics. It insists that language inherently makes statements about class, economics, race and power.
Marxist Critical Theory places emphasis on the representation or underrepresentation of certain social classes, and how the socio-economic background of the author relates to that. Marxist critics suggest that the function of literature is to either support or criticise the political and economic structures in place, and they celebrate authors who are sympathetic to the working class, and those whose literature challenges capitalist societies. MCT searches for understanding of the relationship between economic and cultural production, specifically literature.The Marxist critical theory essentially focuses on substances and underlying messages rather than form.Though different nuances exist within the Marxist critical theory, Marxist critics will ask these questions about a piece of literature: Who benefits if the work is accepted or successful? What social class does the author belong to? What social class does the work claim to represent?What social classes do the characters represent? What confliction is there in the interactions between characters of different social classes?What values are reinforced with this work? What values does it subvert? What conflict can be seen between the values the work champions and those it portrays? Post-Colonial Critical Theory- Heart of DarknessPost-colonial critical theory, made popular by Himi K. Bhabha. Post-colonialism suggests that a culture can never return to its pre-colonised ways and that a culture does not become stagnant because it has been colonised.
Instead of all culture becoming westernised, however, cultures merge and adapt to become part of a new colonised culture. This is a result of the colonised people adapting to survive in a new culture while preserving important parts of their own original culture. In order to survive, however, colonised individuals must mimic things such as clothing, food, education and art, while maintaining a sense of their own identity. In the process of doing this, the coloniser’s ideas of their own culture and reality are destabilised destabilising colonialism itself.There are many sub-branches of Post-Colonial theory; Negritude, Orientalism and Subaltern. Negritude, coined by Aime Cesaire, purposes that all black people share a collective personality, different to European personality, despite colonialism. Negritude rejects the identity some colonists have posted on black people as ‘savages’ and exposes the savagery of colonists.
It calls for pride in one’s culture.Orientalism is a theory brought forward by Edward Said. Western colonisers come up with ideas about Asia, in an attempt to distance it from western ideals and depict Easterners as lazy, cruel people, therefore dehumanising them to make their colonisation more justifiable. Although the East has not been entirely colonised by the West, culture and ideals from the West are imposing on the traditions and culture of Asia.The subaltern is the idea that although certain people may lack power, political, or cultural influence, they speak up to protect their culture and ideals nonetheless. Post Colonial literary criticism looks at issues that are the result of colonisation, and how these elements depict the colonised as lesser than the coloniser, and how literature can show this colonialist attitude.
Post-colonial critics are concerned with literature produced by colonial powers, as well as those produced by cultures who were or still are colonized. Literature produced by colonial powers can be critiqued for its reinforcement of the dominant positions of western cultures, as well as the depiction of Asian countries as cruel or lazy, and of African cultures as savages.A post-colonial critic might ask the questions:How does the literary text, explicitly or allegorically, represent various aspects of colonial oppression? What does the text reveal about the problematics of post-colonial identity, including the relationship between personal and cultural identity and such issues as double consciousness and hybridity? What person(s) or groups does the work identify as “other” or stranger? How are such persons/groups described and treated? What does the text reveal about the politics and/or psychology of anti-colonialist resistance?What does the text reveal about the operations of cultural difference – the ways in which race, religion, class, gender, sexual orientation, cultural beliefs, and customs combine to form an individual identity – in shaping our perceptions of ourselves, others, and the world in which we live?How does the text respond to or comment on the characters, themes, or assumptions of a canonized (colonialist) work?Are there meaningful similarities among the works of literature of different post-colonial populations?How does a literary text in the Western canon reinforce or undermine colonialist ideology through its representation of colonialization and/or its inappropriate silence about colonized peoples?Feminist Critical Theory-OthelloFeminist critical theorists are concerned with the ways in which reinforces, or undermines, the socio-economic, political and psychological oppression of woman. The feminist school of theory can incorporate aspects of Gender and Queer theory, although it mainly looks at how aspects of culture are inherently and patriarchal, and ‘strives to expose the explicit and implicit misogyny in male writing about women” (Richter 1346). In addition to critiquing the content of literary works, feminist critical theory places concern on the author, as there is an exclusion of women writers from most genres of literature unless the topic is feminist in nature. Feminist Critical Theory has in many ways followed the three ‘waves’ of feminism: First Wave Feminism, from the late 1700s to early 1900s highlighted the inequalities between the sexes, building up to the woman’s suffrage movement. Second Wave Feminism, from the early 1960’s to late 1970’s, placed importance on equal working conditions for woman, following WWII Third Wave Feminism, from the early 1990s to present, is about resisting the over generalised, oversimplified ideologies of Second Wave Feminism, where the emphasis was placed on white, heterosexual, middle-class women. Third Wave Feminism takes aspects of post-structural and contemporary gender and race theories and places an emphasis on intersectionality.
Ideas important to Feminist critical theory are:1. Women are oppressed by patriarchal ideologies.2. In every domain where patriarchy reigns, woman is other: she is marginalized, defined only by her difference from male norms and values 3. All of Anglo-European civilization is deeply rooted in patriarchal ideology, for example, in the biblical portrayal of Eve as the origin of sin and death in the world 4.
While biology determines our sex (male or female), culture determines our gender (masculine or feminine) 5. All feminist activity, including feminist theory and literary criticism, has as its ultimate goal to change the world by promoting gender equality 6. Gender issues play a part in every aspect of human production and experience, including the production and experience of literature, whether we are consciously aware of these issues or not.