Dr. Kate Liu
14 March 2000
Journal I: Marxism: Terry Eagleton
Some reflections in "Categories for a Materialist Criticism"
Terry Eagleton tries to clarify and to define the relations of literary productions and other modes of production in "Categories for a Materialist Criticism." 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.
Eagleton uses a logical and scientific system to organize social activities or material practice, which include production, distribution, and consumption. In the literary mode of production, Eagleton mentions that the distinct characteristic of the coexistence between two homologous or conflictual LMPs may happen within a certain social formation. Though there is one dominant LMP existing in the market, there are other subordinate LMPs, which also co-exist with them at the same time. The LMP or the literary text may also conceal and internalize its social relation of production. There are a series of process of material practice or the mechanism of the society hidden behind a literary text or product. That includes the production, the distribution, and the consumption. Within the process of production, there are not only the literary producer or the author, but also the labor powers in the printing factory and publishing company. For these "productive forces," Eagleton points out some specific social relations of literary production from the past to the present: for example, "tribal bard," "amateur medieval poet," "peripatetic minstrel," and "independent author." He separately and briefly introduces these four "productive forces" or literary producers in different historical era and their articulations with their contemporary dominant ideology. The articulations present the change or development of the role of the literary producers in the LMP and GMP. Not only the economic consideration within the LMP, but also the dominant political involvement is also an important factor to the LMP, AI, and AuI. For example, the ruling government (dominant ideology) may use the censorship to control over the literary production, distribution, and consumption.
Eagleton, in the section of "Relations of GI, AI, AuI," points out the importance of AuI in the LMP and the aesthetic ideology. Eagleton's concept of the AuI within the GI also presents its ambiguous role; either the dominant ideology or the neglected one in the analysis of the literary texts. The role of the author, here, seemingly undermines the debate of the existence of the author of a literary text in other literary criticisms. Besides, the articulations or the relations of each category mentioned in this article present the complex of the material practice within social activities. Each mode of production or ideology might be dominant or be subordinate to others, and at the same time, these ideologues might overlap and cover to each other.
Therefore, from these delicate or detailed analyses of the material practice in this article, Eagleton's act of categorization is seemingly obvious and easy to understand the mechanism of the society. However, it is seemingly hardly for me to catch and to follow Eagleton's concepts of the material practice and its articulations in Marxist criticism in a few words.