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Chapter 8 - Literature and the State

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 March 2022

Colleen Lye
University of California, Berkeley
Christopher Nealon
Johns Hopkins University
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After locating two distinct Marxist aesthetic traditions – Lenin's claim that a “party literature” can be free or autonomous because it doesn’t have to answer to capitalist constraints, and another less optimistic tradition that argues that as art is a commodity, it is all about capitalist constraints – this chapter argues for a third one that presumes there is much to gain by putting Marxist and anarchist theories of literature closer together than they often are. The chapter first recounts how the Bolsheviks turned a resistant literature into a state literature after the Russian revolution. It then traces this understanding through the Cold War, pointing out how it also shaped the relationship that the US state has to literature. The conclusion argues for a Marxist aesthetic that is not based on the Soviet example, but one based instead on revolutionary moments such as Russian Revolution or the Paris Commune or the anticolonial movements of the 1950s and 1960s.

After Marx
Literature, Theory, and Value in the Twenty-First Century
, pp. 131 - 142
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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