Fredric Jameson Criticism - Essay

Denis Donoghue (review date 16 November 1973)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Phonetic Shadows,” in New Statesman, November 16, 1973, pp. 739-40.

[In the following review of The Prison-House of Language, Donoghue commends Jameson's contribution to Marxist criticism, though expresses some reservations about his view of historical truth and determinism.]

I wish I could claim to have discovered Frederic Jameson, but his name meant nothing to me until a couple of years ago when I read one of his essays, on Walter Benjamin, in the little magazine Salmagundi. Since then I have been keeping my ear fairly close to his ground, convinced that messages of exceptional value would be audible. Belatedly, I have read his first book,...

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Jonathan Culler (review date July 1974)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Marxism and Form, in Modern Language Review, Vol. 69, No. 3, July, 1974, pp. 599-601.

[In the following review, Culler offers a positive assessment of Marxism and Form.]

Marxism and Form is the most important work of critical theory to appear in English since Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism, and if it is less ambitious than Frye’s Anatomy, less animated by a desire to systematize and less informed by a particular programme for criticism, it is perhaps the reflection of a more penetrating intelligence which is willing to pursue difficult problems as far as it can and anxious to undertake the larger tasks of...

(The entire section is 1832 words.)

Brian J. Murray (review date Summer 1980)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Fables of Aggression, in Modern Fiction Studies, Vol. 26, No. 2, Summer, 1980, pp. 307-10.

[In the following review, Murray offers a negative assessment of Fables of Aggression.]

In his Prologue to Fables of Aggression: Wyndham Lewis, the Modernist as Fascist, Fredric Jameson suggests that one of the most “extreme” of Wyndham Lewis’ “experimental texts,” The Apes of God, is “virtually unreadable for any sustained period of time” (p. 5). Alas, so too is Fables of Aggression.

Jameson’s often digressive study is not itself “experimental,” although it is the result of what Jameson calls a...

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James Naremore (review date Fall 1980)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Fables of Aggression, in Criticism, Vol. XXII, No. 4, Fall, 1980, pp. 390-4.

[In the following review, Naremore offers a positive assessment of Fables of Aggression, which he concludes “is the best piece of criticism we have” on Wyndham Lewis.]

“I do not think I had ever seen a nastier-looking man,” Ernest Hemingway once said of Wyndham Lewis. “Under the black hat, when I had first seen them, the eyes had been those of an unsuccessful rapist.” Lewis’s self portrait, leering from the cover of Frederic Jameson’s new book [Fables of Aggression], confirms that impression—as do the violence, misogyny, and fascist...

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Betty Abel (review date June 1981)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A Marxist Literary Map,” in Contemporary Review, Vol. 238, No. 1385, June, 1981, pp. 331-2.

[In the following review, Abel provides a summary of Jameson's analysis in The Political Unconscious.]

In The Political Unconscious, subtitled ‘Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act’, Frederick Jameson provides a comprehensive introduction to the method and practice of Marxist literary criticism. Where all intellectual activity is viewed as historically situated and class-based, literary analysis is essentially a social science, drawing much of its terminology from the other social sciences, sometimes directly but more often by analogy. Thus, the classical...

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David Punter (review date Fall 1981)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Political Unconscious, in Criticism, Vol. XXIII, No. 4, Fall, 1981, pp. 362-64.

[In the following review, Punter offers a favorable assessment of The Political Unconscious, but takes issue with several aspects of the work.]

In The Political Unconscious, Fredric Jameson has produced another vital contribution to cultural study, packed with solid argument yet glittering with energy and urgency. There is a long theoretical chapter, followed by studies of Balzac, Gissing and Conrad; but the real structure of the book is more complex and more closely interlocking than this, and hinges on a polemic defence of the concept of...

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Michael Wilding (review date October 1982)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Fables of Aggression, in Modern Language Review, Vol. 77, No. 4, October, 1982, pp. 944-45.

[In the following review, Wilding offers a positive assessment of Fables of Aggression.]

Fredric Jameson’s study of Wyndham Lewis [Fables of Aggression] is a stimulating and rewarding approach not only to ‘surely the least read and most unfamiliar of all the great modernists of his generation that included the name of Pound and Eliot, Joyce, Lawrence and Yeats’ but also to that whole strand of modernists from Lewis through Lawrence and Henry Miller to William Burroughs, about whose work traditional formal criticism has had little to say....

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Patrick Parrinder (review date January 1985)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Political Unconscious, in Modern Language Review, Vol. 80, No. 1, January, 1985, pp. 106-08.

[In the following unfavorable review of The Political Unconscious, Parrinder calls Jameson's writing pedantic and his literary analysis unconvincing.]

If I were to name a single work of commanding distinction in the field of literary theory published in America in the 1970s it would be Fredric Jameson’s Marxism and Form (1971). Its author combined a majestic overview of the twentieth-century Marxist tradition, focusing on the Frankfurt school, Lukács, and Sartre, with a concluding hundred-page essay in theoretical polemic entitled...

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Daniel T. O'Hara (review date Fall-Winter 1988-1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Ideologies of Theory, in Journal of Modern Literature, Vol. 16, Nos. 2-3, Fall-Winter, 1988-1989, pp. 270-1.

[In the following review of The Ideologies of Theory, O'Hara acknowledges Jameson's important place in contemporary literary theory, though finds shortcomings in his assertions.]

Of the seventeen reprinted essays in this collection of occasional pieces of America’s leading neo-Marxist theorist [The Ideologies of Theory], only five—two essays in volume one and three in volume two—can be considered still important and undated. These are: “The Ideology of the Text,” “Imaginary and Symbolic in Lacan” (the...

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David Bromwich (review date 19 February 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Professor of Necessity,” in The New Republic, February 19, 1990, pp. 34-9.

[In the following review of The Ideologies of Theory, Bromwich finds contradictions in Jameson's “master narrative” concept and criticizes his unsubstantiated critical readings and “curiously messianic” exaltation of postmodernism.]

“I must create a system,” said Blake, “or be enslaved by another man’s.” The vanguard slogans of the human sciences today have a rather different sound. To be ensnared by any number of systems, in succession or all at once: that is the favored stance.

Fredric Jameson, who has published studies of Sartre and...

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Michael Ferber (review date 15 October 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Turn of the Screw,” in The Nation, October 15, 1990, pp. 425-7.

[In the following positive review of Late Marxism, Ferber praises Jameson's analysis of Theodor Adorno and dialectical thought, but finds Jameson's prose often hampered by excessive qualification.]

Fredric Jameson’s Late Marxism is the most philosophically sophisticated and searching study of Theodor Adorno to appear in English. Until recently, Adorno was best known in America for his part in the collaborative study The Authoritarian Personality (1950) and for a few essays on the arts, of which two in particular are famous, or infamous: a dismissive essay on jazz...

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Stephen Howe (review date 15 March 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “LA Lore,” in New Statesman & Society, March 15, 1991, p. 34.

[In the following review, Howe offers an unfavorable assessment of Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.]

Fredric Jameson is a cool operator. Like the last (and therefore first) man to wear flares, he knows when it’s smart to buck the trend. Being a Marxist, a dialectician, and a historicist right now does not exactly place you in the front ranks of the intellectual beau monde. Yet carry the stance with enough style and dexterity, enough sheer bravado—with any criticism already incorporated into your own scheme—and you emerge ahead of the game.


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Reed Way Dasenbrock (review date Spring 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Nationalism, Colonialism, and Literature, in World Literature Today, Vol. 65, No. 2, Spring, 1991, pp. 371-72.

[In the following review, Dasenbrock offers an unfavorable assessment of Nationalism, Colonialism, and Literature, citing Jameson's contribution as a “dismal failure.”]

Nationalism, Colonialism, and Literature is a reprinting of three pamphlets published by Field Day in Northern Ireland. These pamphlets differ from others published in the series because the three authors—Terry Eagleton, Fredric Jameson, Edward Said—are all well-known literary theorists who are neither Irish nor critics particularly expert in...

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Michael Rosen (review date 24 May 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Thoughtful Experience,” in Times Literary Supplement, May 24, 1991, p. 29.

[In the following review of Late Marxism, Rosen regards Jameson's book as “thorough and well-informed,” though finds his anticipation of a “Hegelian revival” unconvincing.]

“In the Winter Semester”, wrote one of Theodor Adorno’s graduate students, “we would read Kant and say that Hegel was right. In the Summer Semester Hegel and say Kant was right.” Hardly surprising, then, that Adorno should have left behind a reputation as a kind of philosophical butterfly, flitting from one epistemological vantage-point to another but never remaining in one place long...

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Reed Way Dasenbrock (review date Winter 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Fredric Jameson and the Dilemmas of Late Marxism,” in Raritan, Vol. 11, No. 3, Winter, 1992, pp. 117-30.

[In the following unfavorable review of Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Dasenbrock criticizes Jameson's “old-fashioned Marxism” and “totalizing definition” of postmodernism, citing his selective treatment of contemporary culture and lack of attention to the Third World.]

I should begin by admitting that for me, as perhaps for other readers, the subject matter of Fredric Jameson’s Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism is not of consistent interest. Some of the work Jameson discusses is...

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Susan E. Hawkins (review date Winter 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, in Modern Fiction Studies, Vol. 38, No. 4, Winter, 1992, pp. 1003-5.

[In the following review of Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Hawkins finds Jameson's work caught “between insight and contradiction.”]

In the recent history of Anglo-American theoretical discourse, particularly postmodern theory, Fredric Jameson’s 1984 essay, from which this volume takes its title, stands as a stubbornly influential text. With the publication of this book, Jameson consolidates his reading of postmodernism and his position as America’s leading Marxist cultural...

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K. M. Newton (review date April 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, in British Journal of Aesthetics, Vol. 32, No. 2, April, 1992, pp. 180-1.

[In the following review, Newton offers a positive assessment of Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.]

Fredric Jameson is generally regarded as one of the major opponents of post-modernism, viewing it from a Marxist perspective as the product of ‘late capitalism’. Linda Hutcheon in her book, A Poetics of Postmodernism, sees him as ‘inimical’ to it. But, as this book [Postmodernism] shows, to classify Jameson as a critic who attacks post-modernism from a typical Marxist...

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Ralph Flores (review date Spring 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, in World Literature Today, Vol. 67, No. 2, Spring, 1993, pp. 459-60.

[In the following review, Flores summarizes Jameson's concerns in Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.]

At the outset we are advised that “it is safest to grasp the concept of the postmodern as an attempt to think the present historically in an age that has forgotten to think historically.” Does that proverblike paradox apply to Postmodernism? Does Fredric Jameson attempt to do what the age is said to have forgotten? Working in a slippery environment, his text seems provocatively...

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Stephen Regan (review date January 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, in Modern Language Review, Vol. 89, No. 1, January, 1994, pp. 168-69.

[In the following review, Regan offers positive assessment of Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.]

Fredric Jameson’s critique of postmodernism is salutary reading for anyone who might blithely assume that Marxist criticism lies in ruins with the Berlin Wall. It is precisely because Jameson’s vigorous political intelligence resists any simple celebration or easy disavowal of postmodern culture that we are given a book of such enormous intellectual ambition and theoretical complexity. Like...

(The entire section is 877 words.)

Wendy Kozol (review date June 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Questions of Looking,” in American Quarterly, Vol. 46, No. 2, June, 1994, pp. 276-89.

[In the following excerpt, Kozol offers a positive assessment of Signatures of the Visible, despite finding several shortcomings in the work.]

In recent decades, interdisciplinary studies of the popular world have brought forth new research on photography, film, and television.1 In the study of visual media, questions arise about how images encode meanings as well as about the complex social experiences of looking. Moving beyond analyses of visual media as transparent reflections of the social world, cultural theories provide methods for examining...

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Anders Stephanson (review date January 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A Stitch or Nine,” in Artforum, Vol. XXXIII, No. 5, January, 1995, pp. 15-6.

[In the following review of The Seeds of Time, Stephanson discusses Jameson's analysis of postmodernity.]

“We are all tired of it.” This was Fredric Jameson’s peremptory reply when he was asked in the late '80s about the post-Modernism debate he himself had done so much to initiate earlier in the decade. He was right, of course. The term, if not the concept, had degenerated into MTV lingo. But here he is, nonetheless, resurrecting the debate with a highly charged intervention.

What has propelled him to do this? Primarily, I think, the geopolitical...

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Barry Schwabsky (review date 29 May 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Shut Up and Listen,” in The Nation, May 29, 1995, pp. 762-4.

[In the following review of The Seeds of Time, Schwabsky commends Jameson's intellectual range and subject, but faults his writing as condescending and overly evasive.]

Fredric Jameson is indeed, as both Terry Eagleton and Hal Foster call him on the back of his new book’s jacket, America’s foremost Marxist critic, and he may well be too, as the publisher’s flap copy has it, this country’s leading Marxist theorist. But of what is he a critic, and what is his theory? Those are hard questions to answer, and The Seeds of Time does not make it any easier. Although he is a...

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Linda Hutcheon (review date Winter 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Seeds of Time, in Clio, Vol. 25, No. 2, Winter, 1996, pp. 212-6.

[In the following review, Hutcheon judges The Seeds of Time to be at once “a startlingly insightful work and an irritating mix of generalization and assertion.”]

The three chapters in this, Jameson’s latest engagement with the postmodern, were originally delivered as lectures in the Wellek Library Lecture series at the University of California, Irvine, in 1991, but his style of writing betrays none of this oral context. Jameson’s density of prose has always been the price to pay for his density of thought, and The Seeds of Time is no exception:


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Geoffrey Galt Harpham (review date Summer 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Late Jameson,” in Salmagundi, No. 111, Summer, 1996, pp. 213-32.

[In the following review, Harpham provides an overview of Jameson's writings and intellectual development and offers an unfavorable assessment of The Seeds of Time, which he views as a “softening” and capitulation of Jameson's Marxism for an ineffectual postmodern perspective.]

Forever, it seems, Fredric Jameson has been described as “America’s leading Marxist critic.” Since the appearance of the challenging and sternly magisterial Marxism and Form in 1971, nobody else has had a shred of a claim to this title, certainly not now, when to be the foremost Marxist might...

(The entire section is 7825 words.)

Barbara Foley (review date February 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Seeds of Time, in Modern Philology, Vol. 94, No. 3, February, 1997, pp. 422-6.

[In the following review of The Seeds of Time, Foley finds Jameson's commentary useful despite its failure to address historical causality, praxis, and the relationship between utopia and communism.]

In The Seeds of Time, Fredric Jameson’s large imagination and insistent dissatisfaction with things as they are move us toward new insights into the nature of our postmodern malaise and new zones of cultural critique. In the first chapter, “The Antinomies of Postmodernity,” Jameson pursues the project of “cognitive mapping” proposed at the...

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Richard Gott (review date 26 February 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “It's Irony, Guv,” in New Statesman, February 26, 1999, pp. 55-7.

[In the following excerpt, Gott discusses Jameson's analysis of postmodernity in The Cultural Turn.]

Everyone now recognises that we live in a postmodern world. In architecture and design, in film and music, in art and fiction, in poetry and literary criticism, even in politics, postmodernity is everywhere on display: cynicism and levity, irony and pastiche, nostalgia coupled with historical amnesia, and decoration replacing substance. So obvious and widespread has the phenomenon become that people use this shorthand word with relaxed ease to describe the world around them.


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Volker Gransow and Pia Kleber (review date Summer 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Brecht and Method, in Modern Drama, Vol. XLII, No. 2, Summer, 1999, pp. 286-9.

[In the following review, Gransow and Kleber offer a positive assessment of Brecht and Method.]

The nineties have brought an increase in both the quality and the quantity of Brecht studies in general, although improved archival access has so far not led to a new Brecht biography worth the name. Among the vast recent Brecht literature one book is outstanding: Fredric Jameson’s Brecht and Method. Professor of Comparative Literature at Duke University in North Carolina, Jameson is the author of many works, including the classic Postmodernism or, The...

(The entire section is 1490 words.)

Peter Berger (review date 20 August 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “In the Faculty Club,” in Times Literary Supplement, August 20, 1999, p. 8.

[In the following review, Berger criticizes The Cultures of Globalization, which he finds “one-sided” and reflective of insular “faculty-club culture.”]

The Cultures of Globalization is a collection of papers delivered at a conference held in 1994 at Duke University. It is part of a series co-edited by the literary theorist Stanley Fish, and is dedicated to Edward Said. One notes these signifiers (if that is the correct term) with apprehension. And as one labours through almost 400 pages of the text, it becomes clear that the apprehension was justified.


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