Dr. Kate Liu
14 March 2000
Marxism: Terry Eagleton
"Categories for a Materialist Criticism"
In "Categories for a Materialist Criticism," Terry Eagleton develops a method in order to specify the constituent structure of the material practice and to examine their precise articulations. Therefore, Eagleton divides this essay into ten sections of discussions and presents six major components of Marxist theory of literature: General Mode of Production, Literary Mode of Production, General Ideology, Authorial Ideology, Aesthetics Ideology, and text. Eagleton provides specific examples in order to explain each category and at the same time to discuss the relations between five major categories.
I. General Mode of Production (GMP) and Literary Mode of Production (LMP)
A. GMP is "a unity of certain forces and social relations of material production " (45).
B. LMP is "a unity of certain forces and social relations of literary production in a particular social formation"(45).
1. LMP constructs an "asymmetrical totality" which the dominant LMP will force others into positions of subordination and partial exclusion.
2. Conflictual LMPs will coexist within a particular social formation
Ex: Novel vs. Poetry ; Oral LMP vs Written LMP. (45-6)
3. "Every LMP is constituted by structure of production, distribution, exchange, and consumption" (47).
Ex: The process or modes of production; the variety of literary producers in the mode of literary production.
C. Relations of LMP and GMP
1. LMP is a particular substructure of GMP.
Q: Though material / instruments are produced by GMP, why these materials in some modes of artistic production have no a significant function within GMP?
2. The relations between GMP and LMP are dialectical. The function of LMP is situated as the reproduction and expansion of the GMP.
Ex: the growth of printing -- the increasing productions of books, and market.
3. The social relations of LMP are in general determined by the social relations of the GMP.
Ex: the relations of the fili caste to his kings; the aristocratic poet or haut-bourgeois novelist --petty-bourgeois producer (50-51). The vernacular literature in the medieval England; the social relation of borrowing or purchasing books; the establishing the libraries (51-2).
II. General Ideology (GI), and Relations of GI and LMP
A. General Ideology is a dominant ideological formation.
B. GI is not an "ideal type of ideology in general," but the dominated ensemble of ideologies in social formation (54).
C. The deployment of language in a literary text is related to GI. (54-5).
Ex: the history of English (mutation of Old English under Norman French influence);
12th century cultural movement in Ireland.
D. "The inter-determinations of the linguistic and the political, and their effect on the constituent of an LMP and the character of its products are thus of central significance to a materialist criticism" (56)
E. Two incidental points between the relation of GI and LMP affect the literary text. (57-8)
1. Different LMP may, in term of the ideological character of their textual products, reproduce the same ideological formation.
2. The censorship is the involvement of direct ideological control over the literary text. (58).
III. Authorial Ideology (AuI) and Aesthetic Ideology (AI)
A. AuI is the effect of the author's mode of biographical insertion into GI. (58-60).
B. AI is an internally complex formation.(60).
IV. Relations of AI, GI, and LMP
A. The ideology of LMP constructs the mutually reproductive relation between GI and LMP.
B. "The forces and relations of literary production, on the basis of their determination by the GMP, produce the possibility of certain distinct literary genres" (61)
V. Relations of GI, AI, and AuI
A. The text, as an aesthetic product, is a multiply articulated structure, determined by the contemporary GI. (62-3).
B. Authorial ideology may be an important determinant of both type of LMP and AI. (63).
VI. Text in the category of a Materialist Criticism (44-5) (63)
Eagleton, Terry. "Categories for a Materialist
Criticism." Criticism and Ideology: A Study in
Marxist Literary Theory. London: Verso, 1976. 44-63.