Marxism and Art: Writings in Aesthetics and Criticism

Marxism and Art: Writings in Aesthetics and Criticism

Marxism and Art: Writings in Aesthetics and Criticism

Marxism and Art: Writings in Aesthetics and Criticism

Excerpt

Closely intertwined in its career with political and international developments, Marxist philosophy has had the reputation of bearing almost exclusively on the issues of political and economic theory. The truth of the matter is, of course, quite different; and a major purpose of our anthology is to amend that misconception--from one direction, at least--by exhibiting the critical subtlety and philosophical importance of Marxist writing on various aspects of art.

Among the writings which would ordinarily be placed under the rubric of Marxist aesthetics, one finds, to be sure, tendentious and pious expositions of "truly" Marxist art, deliberately extravagant encomiums of "truly" Marxist theoreticians and artists, and the use of aesthetic theory as a political testing-ground. But for the student of Marxism or of aesthetics, much more significant than these abuses is the existence of general Marxist theories and their concrete application: attempts to account philosophically, critically, and historically for the phenomenon of art in Marxist terms. Such theories have undertaken to define art, to distinguish and study various genres, to formulate, general principles of art criticism, and to apply them in critical practice. Through its overt adherents, and by its influence beyond its own circles, Marxism has in fact proved to be its extraordinarily rich source for aesthetic theory, criticism, and art history. One need only glance at the names represented in this volume alone to realize that Marxist aesthetics and criticism promise much more than newspaper promotion-pieces for Socialist Realism and political denunciations of "bourgeois art." Art historians, philosophers, and critics are citing more and more often such thinkers as Gyorgy Lukács, the Hungarian theorist of the arts described by Thomas Mann as perhaps the greatest literary critic of our time; or the late Lucien Goldmann, one of Europe's foremost authorities on seventeenth- century French theater; or Christopher St. John Sprigg, who, killed in the Spanish (Civil War at the age of thirty, had yet written under his pen-name of Christopher Caudwell a series of masterful essays on aesthetics combining Marxist principles with a deep understanding of psychoanalysis and an exceptional poetic sensibility.

The individual writings included in the anthology must, of course, speak for themselves; we make no claim either for doctrinal consistency . . .

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