for egleton literature is the domain through which social groups excercise and maintain power over others.. discuss
i know the lines told by egleton.. plz give me an explanatory answer.. and source.. its really important for me to prepare for my notes for exam.. thank you! :)
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Power, in Foucault, is that of knowledge; how knowledge is disseminated and circulated through a culture is the means by which a power dynamic comes to exist. Knowledge, here, is not necessarily information, nor, for that matter, is it necessarily true. Rather, knowledge, in Foucault, is the way in which individuals think, what it is acceptable and appropriate to think, how thinking manifests itself both individually and in the larger cultural structure. The power structure of knowledge is carried out not from top to bottom, but is rather a dynamic continuum – it is, in effect, the social system. Or in slightly other words, social systems are power dynamics.
In Marxism, the Ideological State Apparatus (ISA) is the means by which this power structure perpetuates itself. The educational system (public, private, secondary, university, etc.) is one example. Eagleton’s views on literature as a means of disseminating power are similar to the way in which feminist and multicultural critics approach the cannon: it is comprised primarily of white males or, in other words, those who already have power and those who seek to maintain that power. All of this occurs at a mostly unconscious level and, more importantly, as a system. That is, there is not a “the man” at the top exerting influence and making decisions; it is a design, but it is not designed. (cont.)
In feminist thought, it is the system of patriarchy which “exercises and maintains” power. In multicultural studies, it is the white/racist system. In postcolonial studies, it is the imperialist (or post-imperialist) system. In Marxism, it is the capitalist system. They each deal with power from a particular angle, but the all agree that power is “exercised and maintained” through certain vehicles, including literature.
As part of the societal ideology, literature, in Marxism, is part of the superstructure. In “Marxism and Literary Criticism,” Eagleton writes that understanding literature “means understanding the total social process to which it is part.” He goes on to say, “Literary works are not mysteriously inspired, or explicable simply in terms of their author’s psychology. They are forms of perception, particular ways of seeing the world; and as such they have a relation to the dominant way of seeing the world which is the ‘social mentality’ or ideology of an age” (528). Furthermore, it is not enough to look at societal ideology by itself, rather, the literary critic must also look at the greater context of that ideology, including the “definite, historically relative structure of perception which underpins the power of a particular social class” (529). This context is not simply a reflection of a particular class, either, but rather a “complex phenomenon” that includes myriad points of view, even worldviews, within a particular social structure (529).
Eagleton, Terry. "Marxism and Literary Criticism." Criticism: Major Statements, eds. Charles Kaplan and William Davis Anderson, Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000. 525-543.
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