Death of the Critic

Marxist Theory

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused.

Based off of the ideas of Karl Marx, Marxist Theory is about class differences in literature, whether that be within or without a text. A Marxist critic wants to ask the questions about why decisions are made; Why does the businessman want to drive out the struggling farmer in a story or why was the story itself written. As it is a part of a much broader school of thought, Marxist critics are concerned with more than just the text itself.

This is quite different from many of the other schools that we have looked at, but for our use we will be looking at the way it manifests in a text. The way classes interact. This can be really any way the social system is divided, but it is most common to look at financial classes. Look at the 2013 movie
Elysium with Matt Damon, where a society of wealthy and privileged people live on a gleaming white space station, and Earth was left for the poor and unprivileged. Trash fills the streets and children die from easily treatable illnesses. Anytime someone tries to cross over and change classes, they are summarily killed.

Class conflict can manifest in many ways.
Elysium is a bit of a hamfisted example, and the scale does not need to be anywhere near as grand. It could be two characters or even one. Dicken’s Christmas Carol is ripe for a Marxist reading, as a wealthy businessman learns a lesson about how he has affected people. As class conflict is an integral part of many cultures around the world in the wake of early colonialism, texts are full of possible readings.

Much like the similarities between
Gender Theory and Queer Theory, Marxism and Post-Colonialism go hand in hand. In the wake of colonization, wealthy countries and businessmen exploited the poorer countries they had invaded. This process stratified these areas, creating classes both within and without a culture. Next week we will expand upon these ideas even further with our examination of Post-Colonial literature.

Further Readings:
Marxism and Literary Criticism, Criticism and Ideology - Terry Eagleton
The Communist Manifesto - Karl Marx
Literature and Revolution - Leon Trotsky


Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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