Week 1 (M 11): Greetings and introduction

Marxist Theory

John MacKay

Spring 2010

M 1:30-3:20

Office Hours (2707 HGS): Th 4:30-5:20 and by appointment

Ph: (203) 432-7202; 988-0770

Not a survey class, this course examines selected methodologies of social-historical interpretation in the humanities (primarily literature, moving image media, photography, music, art history) that stem from or emerge out of the Marxist tradition. Problems to be discussed include periodization, base and superstructure, reification and commodification, and alternative cultural practices. We may discuss works by (among others) members of the Frankfurt School, Fredric Jameson, Raymond Williams, Franco Moretti, Etienne Balibar, Jacques Rancière, and members of the October group. Regular writing assignments, in-class reports, final paper; open Week 1 (M 11): Greetings and introduction to interested undergraduates.


Attendance, leading of/participation in class discussion; weekly reading responses (online forum): 40%

Final paper: 60%


Available on the classes server (classes V2): everything on the syllabus, except the following books (at the Yale Bookstore) -

Marx, Later Political Writings

Sartre, Search for a Method

Debord, The Society of the Spectacle

Adorno, et al., Aesthetics and Politics

The readings from these books are indicated with an asterisk (*) in the syllabus.

MANY of the articles and books are available free and in their entirety online at marxists.org, nothingness.org and other sites.



Week 1 (M 11): Greetings and introduction

Readings: Göran Therborn Week 1 (M 11): Greetings and introduction, “Dialectics of Modernity: On Critical Theory and the Legacy of Twentieth-Century Marxism” (1996); *Karl Marx, Introduction to Grundrisse (1857-61), in Later Political Writings or online at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/ch01.htm

Week 2 (M 25; NOTE: NO CLASS ON FRIDAY 15 OR MONDAY 18): Base and Superstructure

Readings: *Marx, “Preface” to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859) in Later Political Writings or online at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1859/critique-pol-economy/preface.htm); V.N. Voloshinov, Chapter 2 from Marxism and the Philosophy of Language (1929), online at http://www.marxists.org/archive/voloshinov/index.htm;

Raymond Williams, “Base Week 1 (M 11): Greetings and introduction and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory” (1973); Michèle Barrett, “Capitalism and Women’s Liberation” (1980)


Week 3 (M 1) Periodization I

Readings: *Marx and Friedrich Engels, “Manifesto of the Communist Party” (1848; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/) and Marx, “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” (1852; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1852/18th-brumaire/index.htm) in Later Political Writings; Antonio Gramsci, “Analysis of Situations: Relations of Force” (ca. 1933)

Week 4 (M 8) Periodization II

Readings: Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History” (1940); Ernst Bloch, from Heritage of Our Times (1935); Louis Althusser, “Contradiction and Overdetermination” (1967); Perry Anderson, “Modernity and Revolution” (1984)

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