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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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6 Contemporary Perspectives

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SIX

Contemporary Perspectives

Re-thinking History

What has happened to the ideas and practices explained in the early chapters of this book, since they were submitted as a doctoral dissertation in 1983, would be described by some commentators as a general demise, if not outright dismissal, or at least a relegation to the museum of relics of the past.

Such a judgment, which may be true on the surface, fails, however, to identify at least three strands in contemporary approaches to these ideas that draw a more complex picture of the situation today. First, there is the current attack in the capitalist media on Marxism-Leninism, and its Maoist continuation as embodied in the contemporary demonization of Maoism and general China bashing. Secondly, there is the continuation of the allegiance, fascination, or at least intellectual flirtation of Western, and especially French, intellectuals, with Maoism, from the days of Sartre and Foucault in the sixties and seventies, to the contemporary figures of Badiou and Žižek, and finally, there is the increasing spread of Maoist ideas in countries as far apart in the Third World as India and Peru. All three strands, including the demonization of the capitalist media, attest not to the weakness of these ideas and practices, but to their continuing intellectual survival and practical impact.

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