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Marxism

A type of literary criticism based on the writings of German philosopher Karl Marx. In its simplest form, Marxist criticism attempts to show the relationship between literature and the social—mainly economic—conditions under which it was produced. Originally, Marxist critics focused on literary representations of workers and working classes. For later Marxists, however, literature became a document of a kind of knowledge and a record of the historical conditions that produced that knowledge. Like cultural criticism, Marxist literary criticism offers critiques of the “canon” and focuses on the ways in which culture and power intersect; for a Marxist critic, literature both reproduces existing power relations and offers a space where they can be contested and redefined. Important 20th-century Marxist literary critics include Georg Lucáks, Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser, Terry Eagleton, Raymond Williams, and Frederic Jameson.

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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