A Marxist cannot judge a work of art purely on the basis of its artistic value. They loved great writers like Shakespeare and Goethe. Art degenerated into a mere instrument of state policy, a weapon of communist propaganda. Trotsky, who was a literary man, had to face many problems. Lenin was an organizer and fighter. Edmund Wilson opposes this view; he says that it is wrong because literature and art are peace time activities.

In other words, democratic values are not the monopolies of Marxism; they are a world-wide phenomenon in this age of the common man. There are various reasons for this. The Marxists who fail to understand this complexity can not interpret the real meaning of the text. Taine was a master in this. Granville Hicks—the American Marxist critic. They believed in the Renaissance ideal of the complete man, the different aspects of man which accomplishes perfection through participation in varied activities.

But the new Marxist followers did not understand literature from this perspective. Trotsky was a literary man as Lenin never was. Unknown September 3, at A man who applies Marxist principles without understanding literature would go horribly wrong.

According to him they never believed that art literatire literature are conditioned and determined by social and economic standards.

English Literature: Marxism and Literature: Edmund Wilson

Relationship between Art and society Marxian principles. They believed in the renaissance ideal of complete man, of his many sidedness, of the perfection which is achieved by the participation in varied activities.

Artistic and literary freedom died with the rise of Stalin. He studies the influence of Marxism on literature and traces in this essay the history of Marxist literary theory as it was carried out by Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and a number of other critics. Newer Post Older Post Home.


Both Marx and Engels were susceptive to the emotional appeal of art and literature. These terms compress the culture of the future into the narrow limits of the present.

edmund wilsons essay marxism and literature summary

Marxism can throw valuable light on the social origins and social significance of a work of art or literature. If Marxism means the use of the language of common man for the purpose of high literature, it has been seen in USA much before the communist revolution.

Granville Hicks is a famous Marxist thinker who formulated some rules for an ideal Marxist work.

Great classical literary works are not created as examples of bourgeois decay but as medium of great educational value.

Every department of intellectual life was corrupted…Thus Marxism in Russia has run itself into a blind alley. He had to combat with problems which had not bothered Marx and Engels. According to Hicks, the primary function of such works must be to lead the proletarian reader to recognize his role in the class struggle; the author must be able to make the reader feel that he is participating in the struggle. Towards the conclusion, the author says that the democratic values—sympathy for the poor—is not the monopolies of Marxist alone.

Marxist thinkers argue that writers should use common language for the creation of literary work. Posted by drsreekumarenglishliterature at When this work was in progress, Wilson became disillusioned with Marxism as it was preached and practised under the dictatorship of Stalin.


Lenin, Trotsky and Gorky worked sincerely to keep literature free.

In works of highest order, the purpose is not a simple message but a complex vision of things which itself is not explicit but implicit. They loved great writers like Shakespeare and Goethe.

edmund wilsons essay marxism and literature summary

It is not a philosophical or theoretical but also a potent force for social change. A Marxist cannot judge a work of art purely on the basis of its artistic value. Gorky said that one day he found Lenin with War and Peace lying on the table.

Marxist thinkers believe that liherature and pre-Revolutionary periods are the most suitable time for the literary work.

So their attempt for the interpretation of works of art is wrong. Trotsky, who was a literary man, had to face many problems.

Edmund wilson’s essay marxism and literature summary

Trotsky was exiled and Lenin died during this period. According to him, it is only an imagination because eighty percent of the people are illiterate and the writer has no means to communicate with them. S than the period of the communist revolution.