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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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This work is a study of the relationship between the development of socialist literary theory and the process of cultural transformation in modern society. It is divided into two main parts: the first traces the outline of the theory and the second examines its reflection in the actual works of the literature. A third part, titled “contemporary perspectives,” discusses how some of the issues raised in the first two parts are viewed nowadays.

After a brief introduction that contains a formulation of the relationship between literature and society in general, the work begins to analyze the literary theory under investigation in the writings of the three key figures of Marx, Lenin and Mao. This analysis is set alongside a detailed examination of the literary part of the cultural superstructure during the years of Cultural Revolution in China—from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies—and, to a lesser extent, in the Soviet Union, in the late twenties and early thirties. One product of this investigation is a redefinition of the concept of socialist realism in literature. More importantly, the major elements of the literary theory begin to be seen as emerging from the process of the cultural transformation of society. Key issues—e.g. 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 here examined and explained in a different light when they are regarded not as purely...

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