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Chapter 6 - The Irreconcilable: Marx after Literature

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 March 2022

Colleen Lye
University of California, Berkeley
Christopher Nealon
Johns Hopkins University
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This chapter revisits and transforms the idea, associated with Georg Lukács but an oft-unstated convention of literary studies, that the novel is the exemplary literary form of the capitalist era, arising from and expressing its basic logic and social relations. Its argument depends on a double specification: that what distinguishes the capitalist era is accumulation at a global scale; and that the realist novel’s paradigmatic trope, which Lukács calls “reconciliation,” refers not to a general social phenomenon but to the problematic individual’s reconciliation with social production, their internalization into the circuits that enable accumulation. Accumulation somewhere, that is to say, is the social basis of the novel. The chapter reads the contemporary political economy of the world-system, with the Eurozone – the realist novel’s home countries – as its leading case, and Greece as its irremediably problematic economy, arriving at the conclusion that as accumulation wanes, so must the novel itself.

After Marx
Literature, Theory, and Value in the Twenty-First Century
, pp. 101 - 115
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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