UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Christopher Caudwell, Raymond Williams and Terry Eagleton Das Gupta, Kalyan


This dissertation politically analyses the principles of literary evaluation (here called "axiology") argued and applied by the English critics Christopher Caudwell, Raymond Williams, and Terry Eagleton. The paradoxical fact that all three claim to be working within a Marxist framework while producing mutually divergent rationales for literary evaluation prompts a detailed examination of Marx and Engels. Moreover, since Caudwell and Eagleton acknowledge Leninism to be Marxism, and, further, since Eagleton and I both in our own ways argue that Trotskyism--as opposed to Stalinism--is the continuator of Leninism, the evaluative methods of Lenin and Trotsky also become relevant. Examined in light of that revolutionary tradition, however, and in view of the (English) critics' high political self-consciousness, the latter's principles of "literary" evaluation reveal definitive political differences between each other and with Marxism itself, centrally over the question of organised action. Thus, each of the chapters on the English critics begins with an examination of the chosen critic's purely political profile and its relationship to his general theory of literature. Next, I show how the contradictions of his "axiology" express those of his politics. Finally, with Hardy as a focus, I show the influence of each critic's political logic on his particular "literary" assessment of individual authors and texts. The heterogeneity of these critics' evaluations of Hardy, the close correspondence of each critic's general evaluative principles to his political beliefs, and the non-Marxist nature of those beliefs themselves all concretely suggest that none of the three English critics is strictly a Marxist. I do not know whether a genuinely Marxist axiology is inevitable; however, I do admit such a phenomenon as a logical possibility. In any case, I argue, this possibility will never be realised unless aspiring Marxist axiologists seek to match their usually extensive knowledge of literature with an active interest in making international proletarian revolution happen. And, since it can only happen if it is organised, the "Marxist" axiologist without such an orientation will be merely an axiologist without Marxism.

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