Where the epic hero represented collectively, forming part of a meaningful, organic world, the hero of the novel is always solitary: he is problematical; that is to day, he must always stand in opposi- tion to his setting, to nature or society, inasmuch as it is precisely his relationship to them, his integration into them, which is the issue at hand. Any reconciliation between the hero and his environment which was given from the beginning of the book and not painfully won in the course of it would stand as a kind of illicit presupposition, a kind of cheating with the form, in which the whole novel as proc- ess would be invalidated [parenthetically, I may add that such cheat- ing characterizes nearly all commercial genre fiction today].
The pro- totype of the true novel's hero, therefore may be the madman or the criminal; the work is his biography, the story is his setting forth to "prove his soul" in the emptiness of the world Jameson, Jameson's argument, a refinement of the Lukcs method, would certainly be sympathetic to such modern narratives as Joyce's Portrait and Ulysses. In Kafka's Castle, after one of the characters has shown K.
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It is both diagnosis and judgement: yet the whole dimension of judgement rests on ambiguity, for it presupposes that the modernist writer has some personal choice in the matter, and that his fate is not sealed for him by the logic of his moment in history.
The same ambiguity is visible in Marxist revolutionary the- ory, as well, where the revolution cannot come into being until all the objective conditions are ripe for it, but where at the same time Lenin can apparently force this condition by sheer willpower, can create a proletarian revolution before the preceding middle-class revolution has had time to run its course Jameson, Now, what did Lukcs make of Sartre, Beckett and existential nihilism? In his Marxism and human liberation, Lukcs savagely attacked existentialism by calling it "a myth of declining capitalism" Lukcs, Rather strong words.
Yet again, Jameson shows how the Marxist paradigm, by means of an adjustment, can accommodate even the works of Sartre and Beckett. According to Jameson, this new modernism differs from the older, classical one of the turn of the cen- tury in at least one very essential way: the older modernism was in its essence profoundly antisocial, and reckoned with the instinctive hostility of the middle- class public of which it stood as a negation and a refusal.
What characterizes the new modernism is however precisely that it is popular : maybe not in small Mid- western towns, says Jameson, but in the dominant world of fashion and media. That can only mean that there has come to be something socially useful about such art from the point of view of the existing socio-economic structure; or some- thing suspect about it Jameson, Professor Istvn Fehr goes as far as to suggest that Lukcs may even be re- garded as the precursor of twentieth century existentialism, rather than its staunch nemesis.
The insistence on realism and historical necessity need not be regarded as contrary either to existentialism or to the new postmodernist tradi- tion. In his study of Lukcs Professor Stuart Sim says:. Lukcs has become a test case as to whether anything can be saved from Marxism as a political force Sim, Perhaps this requires some elaboration.
For Sim, and for a great many of us, I suppose, postmodernism is a term with inherent difficulties. The point of this double coding was itself double. Modern architecture had failed to remain credible because it didn't communicate effectively with its ultimate users The past, be they events from human history, the history of ideas or myth it- self, is not only manifest in postmodern work but alters the architecture of narra- tive, often infusing it with metafictional elements that add yet another perspec- tive to the idea of historical context. Although, as we have seen, we can account for Lukcs' relevance insofar as modernist and postmodernist texts are concerned, does this mean that Marxist theory is useful in interpreting all manner of narrative texts?
The answer is a categorical no. Applying the paradigm works best with the realistic novel, that which contains at least an undercurrent of social consciousness. But we can not force the template on every genre; and as my Florida colleague Professor Elkins points out, Marxist theory is e pluribus unum or one out of many tools at the dis- posal of the literary critic. The works of Steinbeck, for example, invite a Marxist interpretation, while Barth or Pynchon do not.
Perhaps one of Lukcs' weak- nesses was his obstinacy about his method, that it was his way or no way, that there were not other viable critical perspectives, no other critical tools. Such dogmatism risks being reductive if not prescriptive. And prescribing what and how writers ought to be writing, echoes, and rather unpleasantly, the dictates of socialist realism, or, to be blunt, Stalinist propaganda. In the main, Lukcs' association with Stalinism presents for some a ready ex- cuse to discount his theories.
His personal involvement with the Hungarian Communist Party, his recantations, his political waffling, his chameleonism, his bewildering opportunism, his dogmatism, his technocratic language, have often elicited less-than-an-objective assessment of his work.
To some of my Cuban- American students at my university, the very word "Marxism" carries with it a pejorative nuance. Marx refused to get a job because he was too busy glorifying the worker. They accuse him of everything from Ash-Can oligar- chy, to being a cult-leader of the aristocracy of the proletariat. True, some of these students have been force-fed materialistic dialectic, "a la Castro" before they escaped to the United States, to the land of opportunity, where the last thing they expected was more of the same.
Perhaps this is the case in Hungary today. Perhaps that is why Lukcs' statue is missing from the University Library in Bu- dapest. But these, I believe, are not more than simple knee-jerk reactions and certainly not serious thoughtful assessments. There are, of course, thoughtful crit- ics of Lukcs, who present rather persuasive arguments against his critical the- ory.
The most articulate of these critics is Ren Wellek, and the most hostile perhaps with the exception of Professor Victor Zitta is George Lichtheim. Lichtheim, in his book George Lukcs, takes great pains to show that Lukcs' work is derivative.
A Student's Guide to the Study Of History
In a chapter entitled "Heritage," Lichtheim discovers in Lukcs' History of class consciousness a veritable honeycomb of notions borrowed from other philosophers:. When we come [says Lichtheim] to Lukcs' most controversial work, the essay entitled Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein, we shall see that its strictly philosophical content was mediated by Lask's interpretation of Kant, Fichte, Hegel, and Heidegger; its poli- tics and economics were taken over bodily from Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg the incompatibility of these two great Marxists was not yet plain to him ; and its criticism of Engels' "dialectical material- ism" was subsequently abandoned in response to pressing demands for intellectual conformity.
Nor can one overlook the circumstance that it was Dilthey who had originally opened Lukcs' eyes to the radical difference between natural science and history: In noting all this [says Lichtheim], one simply registers the fact that while Lukcs distinguished himself at an early age by productions of considerable brilliance, one cannot say that he manifested the kind of originality which commonly marks even the immature productions of genius.
The theory of the novel is no exception. It is an exquisitely talented piece of writing, and that is all Lichtheim, Professor Sim disagrees. In his "Conclusion" to his study of Lukcs, he argues that Lukcs'. The need for that awareness outlives Marxism's political decline feminism alone would be enough to prove the point, as is the rise of the culturally philistine right and we should not forget Lukcs' critical role in bringing about that awareness. Per- haps what is needed now, Professor if the Lukcs to be treated with the same kind of generosity that he extended toward the great realists of the nineteenth century: to acknowledge that, whatever ideological imperfections may exist in his work, he managed to put the right kind of questions to his society Sim, Marxism and form: Twentieth-century dialectical theories of literature.
General Design Aspects
San Juan Jr. Marxism and human liberation: Essays on History, culture and revolution. New York: Dell Publishing, Lichtheim, George. George Lukcs. Frank Kermode. New York: The Viking Press, Sim, Stuart. New York: Simon and Schuster, Steiner, George.
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What the author considers to be great history is worth at least some comment. Prescott, Winston Churchill, and Arnold Toynbee, among others. By and large, this is a book about history that will give the reader at least some insight into what books to read more of, but one wishes the author had written more recommendations. At the very least, he can be praised for pointing out that to be a good historian one must be able to read well and write well, and to be a good history student one needs to read well, something that is often neglected in our times.
Although I wish that this book was longer and had a lot more content, it can at least be praised highly and celebrated for saying well what it says, at least. Apr 21, Landon Lehman rated it it was ok. A disappointment. You would think someone with reportedly 18, books in his personal library would be able to write with more technical precision and have some sage advice to impart. The promised "tricks" for the study of history promised on page 33 never seemed to materialize. This obstructs easy reading of the text, especially if you compulsively read footnotes as I do.
As an absolute number, maybe, but a better comparison to the past would be to normalize by the total population. And I do not think it is self-evident that a greater proportion of the population is interested in history today than, say, 50 or years ago.
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I had high hopes for Lukacs going in, which are now much reduced. Perhaps this was not the best book of his to start with? He has written many, and perhaps I might be convinced to try another in the future, but my prior for his overall quality has significantly decreased.
Mar 03, Chris Via rated it really liked it Shelves: history , An excellent little primer. Feb 06, Anne rated it liked it Shelves: books-for-teachers , philosophy. Mark Twain wrote, "the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
Georg Lukacs: The Fundamental Dissonance of Existence
He quotes Swiss Jacob Burckhardt and asserts that there is no such thing as a historical method; rather, according to Burckhardt and Lukacs, "you must know how to read. Jun 15, Heather rated it liked it Shelves: history. Really more of an essay than a book, this little guide gives a brief and easily-readable introduction to the discipline of history studies.
It is written for undergraduates, and this group is really its most appropriate audience. It is a bit too much for high school students and a bit too little for anyone already aware of the major historians and the workings of university study. It has some nice little tidbits though so many of them are footnotes that the reading experience becomes rather cho Really more of an essay than a book, this little guide gives a brief and easily-readable introduction to the discipline of history studies.
It has some nice little tidbits though so many of them are footnotes that the reading experience becomes rather choppy and presents a sound overview of history and its study. Jan 04, Natalie rated it it was amazing Shelves: philosophy.