We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham e-Theses
You are in:

Rethinking Marxist Aesthetics: Race, Class and Alienation in Post-War British Literature

BAGLAMA, SERCAN,HAMZA (2017) Rethinking Marxist Aesthetics: Race, Class and Alienation in Post-War British Literature. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

PDF - Accepted Version


A literary text subjectively fictionalizes and narrates one dimension of the total structure of an epoch; it reveals the reciprocal interplay between personal experiences and historical formations through the aesthetic incarnation of a unique personal perspective on the real that is also derived from a social position and origin in relation to a social structure. In order to analyse economic, cultural and political histories in Britain in the second half of the twentieth century mediated through the represented experiences of characters in fictions of the post-war period, this dissertation focusses on the literary works of four different post-war authors, Alan Sillitoe, Sam Selvon, Doris Lessing and James Kelman. Each of these writers depicts a wide range of social, cultural and political circumstances and interactions in their special historical modes in order to expose specific dimensions out of the totality of real life through the depiction of the multifaceted and subjective experiences of fictional characters. Alan Sillitoe’s literary works literalize the class antagonism constructed upon the dichotomy of ‘them’ and ‘us’ through the inner and outer conflicts of the ‘white’ working-class characters and portray the socio-historical reality of class consciousness and its emergence as part of the particular and complex historical conditions pertaining in the UK; Sam Selvon’s novels provide a different interpretation of migrant-ness and displacement and fictionalize the poverty and misery of his ‘black’ working-class characters in relation to the mass migration flows facilitated by the Nationality Act of 1948; James Kelman portrays and mediates the disintegrating and alienating impacts of post-industrial capitalism upon the Scottish working-class characters, reveals the victimization process of the Scottish working-class characters by governmental authorities and bureaucracy, and adds a third dimension to the discussion centred around race, nationality and class; Doris Lessing’s fiction helps articulate the discussions in the UK regarding the rejection of the dominant orthodoxy in the Labour Party and of the legacy of Stalinism and the employment of a range of reforms on issues like gender, sexuality and civil rights during the formation of the New Left. This dissertation mainly argues that class still matters and that, if it is to be adequately demonstrated, there is, therefore, a strong argument for a return to the writings of Karl Marx, to the Marxist concept of alienation, and to Marxist economics rather than simply drawing on the tradition of Marxist aesthetics – the most pervasive way in which Marxism has entered literary criticism. In this context, I attempt to justify the still valid ‘lessons’ of Marxism’s historically concrete theoretical approach as well as Marxism’s still valid historical power. I hope to reveal Marxism’s distinctive relevance to the process of estrangement, atomization and reification in post-war society in order as well to offer a refutation of the current standard criticisms and dismissals of Marxism. This dissertation, focusing on prominent new class approaches as well as theoretical studies and debates on race and ethnicity in Marxist literature, will frame an analysis through an approach to the question of estrangement. The overall aim is to reconceptualise the broader economic, cultural and social framework of the processes of alienation and of escape mechanisms employed by the individual as defence mechanisms in capitalist cultures. Over the course of the study, it will also be suggested that the concept of identity should be taken into account in a more radically intersectional manner and that one-dimensional postmodern identity politics is unable to give a materialistic articulation of poverty and subordination within the larger context of global economics. The thesis develops an anti-establishment, egalitarian and emancipatory framework in reading its authors: one which might also be implemented as part of a movement that aims to critique, resist and overthrow injustice and oppression.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:06 Oct 2017 13:42

Social bookmarking: del.icio.usConnoteaBibSonomyCiteULikeFacebookTwitter