By Widdowson / Brooker
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Additional resources for A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory (5th Edition)
This approach departs from classical Marxist assumptions about ideology by refusing to treat it as a purely mental phenomenon which arises as a reflex of a material (real) socio-economic substructure. Ideology is not separable from its medium – language. As Voloshinov put it, ‘consciousness itself can arise and become a viable fact only in the material embodiment of signs’. Language, a socially constructed sign-system, is itself a material reality. The Bakhtin School was not interested in abstract linguistics of the kind which later formed the basis of structuralism.
30 A READER’S GUIDE TO CONTEMPORARY LITERARY THEORY is distinguished from and related to the ‘extra-literary’. While the New Critics regarded literature as a form of human understanding, the Formalists thought of it as a special use of language. Peter Steiner (1984) has argued convincingly against a monolithic view of Russian Formalism, himself discriminating between formalisms in highlighting three metaphors which act as generative models for three phases in its history. The model of the ‘machine’ governs the first phase, which sees literary criticism as a sort of mechanics and the text as a heap of devices.
R. Leavis (and ‘Leavisite criticism’ more generally, flowing from the journal Scrutiny (1932–53)) became the major single target for the new critical theory of the 1970s and beyond in the British context at least, both Raymond Williams in Politics and Letters (1979) and Terry Eagleton in Literary Theory: An Introduction (1983) bear witness to his enormous, ubiquitous influence in English Studies from the 1930s onwards. Apropos of Leavis’s The Great Tradition (1948), Williams remarks that by the early 1970s, in relation to the English novel, Leavis ‘had completely won.
A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory (5th Edition) by Widdowson / Brooker