East and West
Chapter 4: A Note on Christopher Caudwell
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A NOTE ON CHRISTOPHER CAUDWELL
Christopher Caudwell is still the most advanced and the most revolutionary literary and cultural critic in Britain. In bourgeois and pseudo-left circles there has been a conspiracy of silence regarding his works, and although the enmity has taken a variety of forms and indirect strategies from outright dismissal to misrepresentation to qualified praise for the wrong reasons, the result aimed at has been one and that is to dislodge Caudwell and to prevent his works from exerting their beneficial influence on literary studies.
Caudwell’s works that deal with literature and culture are Illusion and Reality (1938), Studies in a Dying Culture (1938), Further Studies in a Dying Culture (1949) and Romance and Realism (1970). Together, these works contain the beginnings of a Marxist analysis of the old bourgeois literature in England as well as some of the major modern figures. Studies in a Dying Culture was the first fully-developed Marxist critique of such modern bourgeois writers as H.G. Wells, Bernard Shaw and D.H. Lawrence. It set up the correct standpoint from which one should confront modern English writers and the modernist movement in literature generally. With the exception of Mirsky’s The Intelligentsia of Great Britain (1935), which applies the same kind of critique ← 59 | 60 → on a wider scale, there is nothing comparable in English literary criticism. The critique of English bourgeois literature and culture must still begin where Caudwell left off.
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