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Marxism and Literature

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  999 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
This book extends the theme of Raymond Williams's earlier work in literary and cultural analysis. He analyzes previous contributions to a Marxist theory of literature from Marx himself to Lukacs, Althusser, and Goldmann, and develops his own approach by outlining a theory of cultural materialism' which integrates Marxist theories of language with Marxist theories of litera ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published February 16th 1978 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1977)
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Socialist Classics
82nd out of 285 books — 174 voters
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85th out of 105 books — 8 voters

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Jul 31, 2007 James rated it it was amazing
This was written about 20 years after Culture and Society and Williams, along with the rest of the New Left, had turned into something of a theory-head, but he still keeps his feet on the ground.

My hypothesis why nobody reads this and everybody reads Frankfurt School and Foucault: this, and other works in the tradition (Thompson, Eagleton), at least makes you feel bad for doing nothing, while the latter allow you to sip lattes and bask in the fact that while you certainly can't do anything abou
Despite the sludgy writing style, there is a lot of valuable stuff in here. You'll have to forgive the author for living in his time period to a certain degree (the dubious specters of Althusser and Lukacs are found throughout), and you'll have to forgive the fact that “literature,” despite being present in the title, only really shows up in the last 30 pages or so, but as an analysis of how hegemony filters into our daily life, it's a decent argument.
Jul 29, 2015 Jane rated it really liked it
Williams' densest. Be aware of the overall structure before you start so you can choose what's most relevant (if you really want to just look at his sociological account of literary concepts, turn to the last third - the first section is more about positioning relative to Marxist tradition in this historical moment - i.e. the 70s).
Jul 23, 2011 Malcolm rated it it was amazing
This is simply outstanding and over three decades after being written remains one of the clearest, sharpest most insightful forays into a materialst theory and practice of culture and cultural analysis. For my work in History I find the first section dealing with basic issues and concepts in Marxist analysis (there is a superb essay on ideology that cuts through all the Althusserian obscuratism that was popular at the time) helpful. More so the second section which contains essential essays on b ...more
Feb 23, 2010 Alex rated it it was amazing
Good ol' Ray-jay Billiams breaks down old concepts. He does that Rayjay thing he likes to do, by which I mean, he looks at the historically evolving meanings of words accumulated over many English centuries, inside and outside of that Marxist tradition.

Takes 'sensuous activity' from Theses on Feuerbach and embroiders it on a banner. Waves said banner vigorously. "Let's not divide 'thought' from 'material'; let's banish vulgar economism alongside bourgeois idealism." In other words, 'praxis makes
Feb 15, 2011 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
Raymond Williams is one of those brilliant writers and thinkers who often makes you believe that there's nothing left to say, despite the fact that he wrote all of his stuff decades ago. This book is no exception. Though it provides less empirical evidence for his arguments than many of his earlier works, it does nicely bring many of his previous theories and ideas into dialog with each other and presents a coherent trajectory for understanding the development of Williams' own work and the work ...more
Aug 31, 2011 meeners rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theory
brilliantly illuminating - would recommend to anyone. at the heart of williams' argument is a stress on language as activity (active practice rather than static, separated fact). this may seem self-evident but williams shows how muddled it can all get once you move out into the territory of "literature" and a certain tendency to separate the forms from the social process. the real contribution of a marxist theory of literature would be to prove that they can never be separated from each other: f ...more
Apr 09, 2015 Ayeshah rated it really liked it
Shelves: phd
First of all, I HATE Marxism! :)

That being said, this book is an excellent intro to Marxist theory in literary and cultural studies. A lot of the concepts discussed by Williams are extremely helpful to any student attempting a study of literature or culture under hegemony. Although I have to say, he's very focused on cultural hegemony based on social class, if you want a discussion of foreign hegemony, you'll have to look elsewhere.
Nov 04, 2008 Sally rated it liked it
Here's what I've learned so far:

Ideology is tricky to define.

Sensuous Human Activity = culture, kind of. More like material culture.

From his picture on the cover Marx must have had great bed head in the mornings. I wish I could touch it.
May 23, 2012 Ben rated it it was ok
Interesting concepts, but Williams' writing is so dry at times. I read this just after finishing Eagleton's "Introduction to Literary Theory," which could not be more different in terms of style.
May 11, 2007 corky rated it it was amazing
Dominant, residual and emerging. Williams give one of the top three explainations for how cultures are formed.

I dare you to explain his "structure of feeling."
Feb 20, 2009 Meiver rated it really liked it
book includes a very interesting discussion on the politics of language.
Jan 28, 2008 Megan rated it it was ok
Oct 04, 2014 Loreto rated it it was amazing
love the book.
Oct 18, 2012 Kyle rated it liked it
Didn't read the Literary Theory section but the rest was solid. The introduction to certain concepts and themes is really just Williams breaking down the use of language to show the historical progression of the concepts, followed by his take on the concept which usually challenges a standard reading so that was mildly interesting.

The book really becomes valuable/awesome around page 100 where he begins to address hegemony. His take isn't radically different than Gramsci's yet it in many ways suc
Iftekhar Mallick
Feb 20, 2014 Iftekhar Mallick rated it liked it
I read it during my Undergraduate Sociology classes. It gave me some good insights to prepare my course project paper, "A Study on Reflections of Society in Bangladeshi Literature".
Adrienne Foreman
I didn't put a rating up. Because... well this really has some important ideas for Marxist Literary theory. Some of its very inspiring and thought-provoking. Thinking about this in relationship to Althussier or Foucault is good. Also, he suggests things that really alter the ideas of Marxist construction (breaking down the rigidity of base and superstructure).

But, the writing style is so dry, full of tangents, and stiff. I picked it up and put it right back down four times even though I had a s
Omnia N
Mar 07, 2014 Omnia N rated it it was ok
Williams is really really really fond of very long definitions and sentences, my own most hated style of writing :D -_-
Oct 13, 2015 Junaid is currently reading it
Shelves: j
Mara Eastern
Jun 02, 2015 Mara Eastern rated it liked it
Shelves: marxism
The book is a series of discursive vignettes rather than a coherent presentation of a theory, but a wide range of topics is covered and a number of interesting insights presented.
S. Crowley
Nov 26, 2007 S. Crowley rated it it was amazing
this is a brilliant book...spare prose, succinct yet comprehensive set of arguments that continue to be of central importance in cultural theory. i find myself returning to it again and again. (i have read it several times; the date listed is when i last read it from cover to cover.)
Andrew Davis
Oct 07, 2015 Andrew Davis rated it it was amazing
"Saussure more like Saushitter" Raymond Williams, 1977.

Also, basically everyone should read this book because it is that good. I think I read many of its pages twice. This is where Williams first talks about Structures of Feeling.
Sep 26, 2008 Rachel rated it really liked it
this would probably be a five star for me, but i read it fairly early on in college and didn't get everything in it. i know that it was perception-shifting for me, though.i've been hoping to revisit it, just haven't picked it off my shelf yet.
part of an introductory series of "Marxism & [stuff]," nevertheless offers author's own original contribution to doctrine, such as the residual/emergent distinction, "structures of feeling" as a development of ideology theory, and so on.
Nov 26, 2008 Drew rated it liked it
Shelves: anthropology
A great book, especially for an introduction to terms like culture and hegemony (before moving on to Gramsci's Prison Diaries which is harder to get into).
Lector Communis
الكتاب عويص للغاية لكن ما يقوله ريموند ويليامز يستحق. ليس مثل الكثيرين من الأكاديميين الذين يكتبون أشياء عويصة لا فائدة منها بعد أن يفك الإنسان أحجيتها.
Aug 24, 2012 Mary rated it it was amazing
My go-to resource for thinking about emergent cultural studies.
Honestly, it was pretty okay, and I hate this kind of writing.
Oct 25, 2010 Blake marked it as to-read
see his discussion on the 'structure of feeling.'
Aug 20, 2007 Jonathan rated it really liked it
Praxis, Praxis, Praxis.
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Raymond Henry Williams was a Welsh academic, novelist, and critic. He taught for many years and the Professor of Drama at the University of Cambridge. He was an influential figure within the New Left and in wider culture. His writings on politics, culture, the mass media and literature are a significant contribution to the Marxist critique of culture and the arts. His work laid the foundations for ...more
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