‘Revolutionary Realism’: Old Wine in New Bottles or New Wine in Old Bottles?
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In the early 1930s under the auspices of the Soviet Cultural Minister, Lunacharsky, a collection of selected passages from the writings of Marx and Engels relating to literature and art was published.1 These passages are believed by Marxists to contain the basic principles of a Marxist poetics. Although sceptics have often pointed out that these fragmentary remarks can hardly be the basis of any theory,2 there is no denying that they do contain certain common themes. These themes are also consistent with others developed in the socio-political and philosophical writings by the same authors. Among them are the theses that literature is a component of the superstructure, and, as such, is affected in varying degrees by the economic base; that literature reflects, truthfully or distortedly, the objective world; that human aesthetic experience is historically conditioned; that the division of labour and class antagonism are inimical to the development of literature and of human aesthetic nature; that the human aesthetic nature can be fully rediscovered only in a non-alienated existence in a classless society. This is of course not to say that Marx and Engels are either consistent or definitive in their pronouncements concerning these themes. Each and every one of them has therefore become the subject of heated debates among Marxist thinkers of this century.
KeywordsSocialist Realism Cultural Revolution Chinese Literature Typical Character Socialist Society
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Notes and References
- 1.A. Lunacharsky, M. Liftshitz and F. P. Schiller (eds), Ob Iskusstvje (Moscow, 1933).Google Scholar
- 5.Quoted in H. Swayze, Political Control of Literature in the USSR, 1946_1959 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1962) p.113.Google Scholar
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- 33.Sha Yexin, Jiaru wo shi zhende, translated in P. Link (ed.), Stubborn Weeds, Popular and Controversial Chinese Literature after the Cultural Revolution (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1983) pp. 198–250.Google Scholar
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- 42.Zheng Yijie and Xia Hong, ‘A Critical Examination of Realism’, Wenyi luncong, vol. 11, 1980, pp.40–62. Zhu Di, ‘History As a Mirror’, ibid., pp. 1–19.Google Scholar
- 45.In his earlier writings, Hu Feng actually favoured a very dogmatic interpretation of socialist realism by some Soviet theorists, particularly by Kirpotin. See Hu Feng, Studies in a Cloudy Period (Haiyan chubanshe, n.p.n., 1940) pp.19–53.Google Scholar
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- 63.Chen Kun, ‘Some Thoughts on “Dickens Is Dead”’, Waiguo wenxue yanjiu jikan, vol. 1, 1979, pp.28–46.Google Scholar