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Socialist Literature

Theory and Practice


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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This is a work of literary theory with a historical approach. It attempts to clarify and formulate the relationship between literature and the cultural revolution through its development in the 20th century. It is based on my PhD dissertation, submitted to Essex University, under the title of “Literary Theory and Cultural Revolution,” in 1983. I have not changed anything substantial in it. The only changes made are stylistic. Nor have I made any changes demanded by the knowledge of the history of the last 28 years. I decided that the work should stand as a document of its time. I have, however, at the suggestion of the Publisher, added a lengthy last chapter, part III, which discusses some of the contemporary perspectives on the issues raised in the first two parts, not just in the literary domain, but in the field of the history and conflict of ideas and ideologies generally.

The work begins with an expository introduction to the area of research and to the lines along which it will be conducted, which contains a formulation of the relationship between literature and society in general, and a brief sketch of the development of socialist literary theory. It points to the concept of exploitation as the key to the understanding of all human culture, and to the struggle for the elimination of exploitation as the key to socialist culture. The latter, in the succeeding epochs of its historical development has steadily increased in importance and has...

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