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Mediation

MARXISM AND LITERATURE

The editorial collective of Mediations, the journal of the Marxist Literary Group, is pleased to announce issue 24.2, a special issue that revisits the relationship between Marxism and literature. Mediations is published twice yearly. The Fall issues are dossiers of non-U.S. material of interest; the Spring issues are open submission and peer reviewed.

Mediations has circulated in various forms and formats since the early 1970s, and is now available free on the web. Both a web edition and a print edition, downloadable in pdf form, can be accessed at: http://mediationsjournal.org. Featured authors in the current issue include Gáspár Miklós Tamás, Imre Szeman, Neil Larsen, Mathias Nilges, Nicholas Brown, Aisha Karim, Leerom Medovoi, and Sarah Brouillette.

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Volume 24, No. 2 || Marxism and Literature Revisited

Mathias Nilges and Emilio Sauri, guest editors

CONTENTS

Editors’ Note

The Left and Marxism in Eastern Europe: An Interview with Gáspár Miklós Tamás – Imre Szeman interviews the political philosopher, journalist, and writer, Gáspár Miklós Tamás. Describing his own political move to the Left in relation to local post-Soviet politics in Hungary and global structures of contemporary capitalism, Tamás discusses the dangers of attaching hopes for greater rights and liberties to both free market structures and nostalgic forms of leftism. What answers can Marxism offer in response to the sociopolitical and philosophical pressures of the current conjuncture in which the free market agenda has become structurally and politically untenable? How must we re-think Marxism itself in a context in which solutions to the political impasses of the present can no longer be found in a return to Party politics of the past? How might Marxist political philosophy deal with pressing contradictions such as rising forms of ultranationalism? Addressing these and other questions, Tamás demonstrates how recent political developments in Hungary, and throughout Eastern Europe more generally, provide lessons for the Left throughout the globe.

Marxist Literary Criticism, Then and Now – Is there such a thing as a Marxist literary criticism? Imre Szeman argues that, despite the fact that Marxism has long privileged literature as an object of analysis and critique, there is no unitary methodology or set of considerations that distinguish a “Marxist” approach to literature from others. Here, Szeman provides a historicization and structural analysis of what he identifies as the three primary modes of Marxist literary criticism. At the same time, this essay also points to a fourth, as yet unnamed, possibility for Marxist literary critique that seeks to sublate the assumed “impasse” created by the limiting choice between “ideological” and “anti-ideological” culture, an impasse that, according to Szeman, bears witness to a profound historical shift.

Literature, Immanent Critique, and the Problem of Standpoint – What might a method for critical theory that advances beyond the tenets of “ideology-critique” look like? For Neil Larsen, the answer lies in Marxism’s own recourse to immanent critique. Yet, with the notable exceptions of Adorno and Lukács, immanent critique has bothered little with the problem of standpoint in relation to cultural, and, in particular, literary objects. Larsen, then, attempts to specify an immanent critical standpoint of literature that allows for the articulation of a dialectical critique that dispenses with what he identifies as the “fallacy of application.” Demonstrating how any literary theory – Marxist and otherwise – is, of necessity, immanent to the text, this essay turns to the question of method as a means of grasping the relationship between the literary text as “subject/object” and the social totality.

Marxism and Form Now – Contemporary literary criticism is everywhere marked by what appears to a revival of foundational questions: what is literature now? How do we argue now? What is form now? Rather than signal a new direction for literary criticism, this now-ness, Mathias Nilges maintains, points to a discipline in the midst of a crisis of futurity. Extending the French Regulation School’s suggestion that the history of capitalism is the history of the struggle between capital and its social regulation, Nilges argues that the current disciplinary crisis is best evaluated in the context of capitalism’s cultural regulation. Dialectically linking the (crisis-driven) movement of structural, epistemological and cultural forms, Nilges maintains that the study of the formal(istic) history of cultural regulation must replace cultural critique based on the assumed possibility of the subsumption of culture under capital, which, in turn, creates the conditions of possibility for an emergent Marxist literary criticism.

One, Two, Many Ends of Literature – What if we looked at the notion of the end of literature as a truism, only lacking in plurality and logical rigor? Nicholas Brown explains that one of these “ends” can be regarded as internal to the functioning of literature itself, and as such, the point of departure for a more complete formulation of a Marxist literary criticism. For Brown, this formulation reveals that both literary criticism and Marxism are to be regarded as what he calls “formal materialisms,” a mode of analysis that must be completed and revised every time in light of an object it cannot posit beforehand. What this means for a Marxist literary-critical project subsequently becomes all the more apparent in Brown’s reading of another end of literature – postmodernism.

Crisis of Representation in Wole Soyinka’s Season of Anomy – Perhaps one of the more consistent elements of Wole Soyinka’s work has been a commitment to an individual will that refuses collective mobilization. Aisha Karim argues that Soyinka’s novel Season of Anomy marks a departure from any commitment as such, opening his work to new political possibilities. But while Season of Anomy presents us with an alternative to the politics and poetics that underlie Soyinka’s dramatic output, Karim maintains that it does so only insofar as it imagines itself as a “failed text.” What emerges as a crisis of representation within the text consequently allows the reader to recognize herself as the agent of change on the level of the social.

The Biopolitical Unconscious: Toward an Eco-Marxist Literary Theory – If ecocriticism can and should be dialectically assimilated to the project of a Marxist literary and cultural criticism, how do we have to rethink both ecocritical and Marxist literary critical praxis? What can a Marxist ecocriticism lend to interrogations of the relation between literature and ecocriticism´s most undertheorized category: the environment? Leerom Medovoi illustrates that Marxism not only can, but must play a central role in the formulation of an ecocritical 
approach to literature capable of transcending the inability to think beyond thematic criticism and ethical critique.

Creative Labor – Sarah Brouillette suggests that literary studies can help de-naturalize contemporary capitalism by accounting for the rise of the pervasive vocabulary that imagines work as a form of self-exploration, self-expression, and self-realization. She discusses two manifestations of this vocabulary. One is the notion of a “creative class” branded by Richard Florida, management professor and guru consultant to government and industry. The other is the theory of “immaterial labor” assembled within autonomist Marxism. Despite their obvious differences, Brouillette demonstrates that both conceptions are more symptoms than diagnoses of a now dominant tendency to fathom creativity both ahistorically – as the essence of experimentation emanating from an internal natural source – and contradictorily – as newly valuable to capitalism but romantically honorable and free.

BOOK REVIEWS

It’s Dialectical!
Nicholas Brown reviews Fredric Jameson’s Valences of the Dialectic. To say that Jameson’s most recent contribution to dialectical thought is monumental in scope is perhaps an understatement. What, then, might this reengagement with the dialectic mean both in the context of Jameson´s work and for Marxism today?

A New Direction for Marxism
Jen Hedler Hammond reviews Kevin Floyd´s The Reification of Desire: Toward a Queer Marxism. Floyd’s book succeeds in producing a dialogue between Judith Butler and Fredric Jameson that will no doubt have far-reaching consequences for both queer and Marxist theory. But what insight does this dialogue provide into the undertheorized position of women in Marxism and Queer Studies alike?

Mediations: Journal of the Marxist Literary Group: http://mediationsjournal.org/

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Hegel

THE DIALECTIC

Call for Papers

2010 Marxist Literary Group, Institute on Culture and Society
Special Topic: “The Dialectic”
Deadline for Proposals: February 15, 2010.

The 2010 Marxist Literary Group’s Institute on Culture and Society (MLG-ICS) will convene this summer in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada, June 15-20, on the campus of St. Francis Xavier University. The (particularly timely) special topic of the 2010 ICS will be “The Dialectic.” 

The Institute will feature consecutive (as opposed to parallel/simultaneous) sessions, consisting of traditional panels, roundtables, film screenings, performances, and social events. Additionally, intensive daily reading and discussion groups will be held on “Adorno and the Materialist Dialectic” led by Rich Daniels, on Fredric Jameson’s Valences of the Dialectic led by Nicholas Brown, and on other facets of dialectical thought (volunteers are invited to submit proposals for further reading groups). 

Well-known for its intellectual rigor and collegial atmosphere since being founded by Fredric Jameson and a number of his graduate students in 1969/70, the ICS brings together emerging and established scholars each year for 5 full days of dialogue and collaboration. As is custom, the Institute’s organizers attempt to keep critical production high and participants’ costs low. In 2010, participants will, once again, be able to select from several on-campus housing options, which at StFX are cost-efficient, new and beautiful, and will contribute to the friendly and social environment the Institute thrives upon. Housing options include individual rooms, shared apartment-style residences, hotel-style residences, and more—each option will include generous common spaces and close proximity to the conference center. Detailed information regarding housing, travel, and further logistics will be sent out to all participants. For general information on St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia and the facilities the Institute will utilize, see: http://stfx.ca/ (StFX has just launched a new website, so please excuse potential glitches as our webmasters streamline content and infrastructure).

Confirmed speakers for the 2010 ICS include:

Ian Balfour (York University)
Karyn Ball (University of Alberta)
Timothy Bewes (Brown University)
Nicholas Brown (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Eric Cazdyn (University of Toronto) 
Ainsworth Clarke (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Rebecca Comay (University of Toronto)
Rich Daniels (Oregon State University)
Len Findlay (University of Saskatchewan)
Barbara Foley (Rutgers University)
Jason Gladstone (Wake Forest University)
Peter Hitchcock (City University of New York)
Neil Larsen (University of California, Davis)
Leerom Medovoi (Portland State University)
Justin Paulson (Carleton University)
Modhumita Roy (Tufts University)
Imre Szeman (University of Alberta)
Daniel Worden (University of Colorado)

(This is only a preliminary list)

The organizing committee is now accepting proposals for individual presentations and panels (3 presentations plus respondent/4 presentations). We are particularly interested in work that engages with any facet of dialectical critique and dialectical thought (including antecedents and rigorous refutations thereof). However, as always, any work that engages seriously with the Marxist tradition will be considered. Selected papers of each Institute will be published in Mediations, the journal of the Marxist Literary Group (http://mediationsjournal.org/). As indicated above, we also accept proposals for reading groups, roundtables, film screenings, and cultural performances that deal with the Institute’s special topic. 

Proposals for individual papers should be 250 words in length, include A/V requests (if necessary), a short bio sketch, and contact information.  Panel proposals should include a brief rationale for the panel (100 words or less), bio sketch and contact information of the panel organizer, as well as presenters’ names, bio sketches and contact information, paper titles, and abstracts of no more than 250 words each. Proposals for all other events should follow the same formula (descriptions should also not exceed a length of 250 words for each presenter/performer). Please send submissions as .doc, .docx, or .pdf files by Monday, February 15, 2010 to: 2010mlgics@gmail.com

For questions about the ICS, logistics, travel and other concerns, contact: nilgesm@gmail.com

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Culture

CULTURE AS RESOURCE: CULTURAL PRACTICES AND POLICIES AFTER ’89

 

Graduate Summer Course

Course Dates: 19 – 30 July, 2010
Location: Central European University (CEU), Budapest, Hungary,
Detailed course description: http://www.summer.ceu.hu/culture

Course Director:
Imre Szeman, University of Alberta, Department of English and Film Studies, Canada

Faculty:
– Nicholas Brown, University of Illinois at Chicago, English and African American Studies, Chicago, USA
– Alexandra Kowalski, Central European University, Sociology and Social Anthropology, Budapest, Hungary
– Lisa Parks, University of California, Santa Barbara, Film Studies, Santa Barbara, USA
– Will Straw, McGill University, Art History and Communications Studies, Montreal, Canada
– Maria Whiteman, University of Alberta, Art and Design, Edmonton, Canada

Target group: Applications are invited from faculty members and doctoral students of institutions of higher learning and researchers with academic background in cultural studies, political theory, globalization studies and cultural policy. Undergraduates without a university degree will not be considered.

Language of instruction: English
Tuition fee: EUR 550. Financial aid is available.

Application deadline: February 15, 2010
Online application (from mid November):
http://www.sun.ceu.hu/03-application/howto_apply.php

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk