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Socialist Literature

Theory and Practice

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Abdulla M. Al-Dabbagh

Socialist Literature studies the relationship between the development of socialist literary theory and the process of cultural transformation in modern society by tracing the outline of the theory in the works of Marx, Lenin, and Mao, and examining its reflection in actual works of literature. This analysis is set alongside a detailed examination of the literary part of the cultural superstructure in China and in the Soviet Union. Among the major literary and theoretical works discussed are The communist Manifesto, Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art, Gorky’s Mother, and the poetry of Mayakovsky.
Key issues, like the position of the writer in society, the relationship of the old and the new in literature, and the much discussed relationship between the «creator» and the «audience,» are examined and explained in a different light by regarding them as more than purely theoretical issues or abstract cultural problems and, instead, considering them as social issues that can only be settled at the level of practice.
Abdulla Al-Dabbagh amplifies the area of research by discussing some of the major opposing positions to the theory outlined and, by examining at length the portrayal of proletarian heroism, one of its key concepts, in the literary works of the same epoch. The result of the close textual analysis of a large number of major works of poetry, drama, and fiction reveals the course of the artistic development to be complementary to that of the theoretical advance.
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3 The Cultural Revolution in China

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THREE

The Cultural Revolution in China

THE WRITER AND SOCIALIST SOCIETY

Literature, and humanistic studies generally, are to a large extent backward-looking in comparison with engineering or the sciences. Quite often they seem to be more interested in the past than in the present. Reactionary “golden age” schemes are a regular epidemic in these areas of study. Elaborate theories are propagated as a pretext for looking away from the present—and the future—and for burying one’s head in some presumed literary, philosophical or historical great age located invariably in the past.

People who work in these fields are removed from the process of production. They have no direct links to the productive forces. Their work is solely in the superstructure which in general tends to lag behind the progress of the productive forces and the changes of the relations of production. Outwardly there seems to be no comparable progress in these fields—a fact which has made them particularly prone to theories, antagonistic to the very idea of progress. ‘How can we talk about literature progressing?’ We are often told. ‘Is it really possible to write better than Homer and Shakespeare?’ is a question which even people who call themselves Marxists in these fields often raise.

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