Viewing posts tagged criticism

Red Kangs Are Best

I very much enjoyed the latest episode of the Pex Lives? Podcast, which looks at 'Paradise Towers'.  During it, Kevin and James' guest Jane (of achairforjane? and many fascinating comments - and an amazing guest post on Lost - at Phil Sandifer's blog) suggests a Marxist reading of the story in which the Rezzies are the consumerist bourgeois who ascend a few levels via the system which later consumes them.  Totally valid and satisfying reading.  (And I'm grateful for the lovely shout-out, as always.)

I think, however, that it illuminates a certain interesting ambiguity about what constitutes a  'Marxist reading' or a 'Marxist analysis'.  I know Jane and the Pex Lives boys already know this, so this isn't in any way meant as a criticism of any of them, but I think a 'Marxist analysis' would really have to constitute more than finding some way in which aspects of the narrative function as an allegory of some aspect of the class struggle.  I hold my hands up: that's often what I do here, and it doesn't really cut the mustard.

To do that is to bring Marxist categories to a text, but still to treat ...

Monsterism

In his famous essay 'The Dialectic of Fear' (published in New Left Review #136, Nov-Dec 1982) Franco Moretti used Marxist and Psychoanalytic criticism to provide a coruscating account of the twin monsters of bourgeois culture: Dracula and Frankenstein.

The entire essay is well worth reading and is findable online if you hunt about.  Here are some of the best bits about Frankenstein (the book):

Like the proletariat, the monster is denied a name and an individuality. He is the Frankenstein monster; he belongs wholly to his creator (just as one can speak of 'a Ford worker'). Like the proletariat, he is a collective and artificial creature. He is not found in nature, but built. Frankenstein is a productive inventor-scientist...). Reunited and brought back to life in the monster are the limbs of those - the 'poor' - whom the breakdown of feudal relations has forced into brigandage, poverty and death. Only modern science - this metaphor for the 'dark satanic mills' - can offer them a future. It sews them together again, moulds them according to its will and finally gives them life, But at the moment the monster opens its eyes, its creator
draws back in horror: 'by the glimmer of the ...

Piece of Cake

Someone nice on tumblr just asked me:

Do you think that it's fair to criticize a work of art for the failings of the culture around it? This is a question I've been mulling over the past few days and I'm sure you have an interesting response.

My answer got a bit long, so I decided - opportunistically - to post it here.


*

I think the terms of the question are worth investigating.

What do we mean by 'failings'?

What do we mean by 'culture around it'?

Failure is, of course, subjectively judged.  Something I think is bad may be seen as good - or neutral, or normal, or inescapable - by others.

It is perfectly possible for something that is a 'failure' with regards to general human wellbeing to be a 'success' for a social system.  (The wellbeing of the working class, in any class society, always being more universal than that of the minority loafing class.)

Indeed, I think that if you look at the vast majority of mainstream media culture as it has existed in modern capitalist society - including and perhaps even especially with reference to narrative culture - then you see that it pretty unambiguously touts ...

Turnabout is Fairplay


We get nowhere by pretending to ourselves that we can ever break out of culture and view it, as it were, from the outside.  We're in it.  And we're there to stay.  By loving something and criticising it too, you kind of efface the nature of the all-embracing grip.  But how can you not?  You shouldn't pretend you can.

The solution (for me anyway) lies in using and abusing what you love, forcing it - and your talk about it - to become a way of criticising the society that created it.  You don't break out of culture but you do turn an aspect of it into a weapon of sorts, even if you just use the weapon to recarve the inside of your own head.  This, of course, comes from my personal ideological perspective.

More.  For me, the approach to culture can always be both for itself, for its own sake, for the sheer hell of it, *and* as a way into social criticism.  You can love it because you love it and also because you hate it, because of what your hatred for aspects of it allows ...

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