Marxism and art

Santiago Colas scolas at
Mon Jul 10 07:30:30 MDT 1995

Jon talks about what a text does as against what it means (with due
reference to the latter being FRJ's stake in the Political Unconscious).
He then follows with a quote from Deleuze and Guattari.  I've been
thinking some about this question and am curious about how he (Jon, that
is) would respond to the following.

In the POlitical Unconscious (p. 22), FRJ, quotes from D and G,
Anti-Oedipus, p. 109, where, to excerpt, they assert that "The
unconscious poses no problem of meaning, solely problems of use.  The
qestion posed by desire is not 'What does it mean?' but rather 'How does
it work?'"  To this Jamesons responds:
	"From our present standpoint, however, the ideal of an immanent
analysis of the text, of a dismantling or deconstruction of its parts and
a description of its functioning and malfunctioning, amounts less to a
wholesale nullification of all interpretive activity than to a demand for
the construction of some new and more adequate, immanent or
antitranscendent hermeneutic model, which it will be the task of the
following pages to propose" (Political Unconscious, p. 23).

I'm wondering how you respond to this, jon, in pretty broad terms.  But,
behind this general wondering, I'm specifically looking to see if this
would be an instance of Jameson's "desperate defense" of meaning in the
Pol. Unconscious.  Beyond that, I'm wondering about the opposition
between "meaning" and "function/effect/work" on which D and G's assertion
rests.  It seems to me that Fred's reply attempts to challenge that
opposition.  What do you think?  BTW, good to have you back around.



Santiago Colas					e-mail:	scolas at
Asst. Professor					phone:	(313) 763-4352
Latin American and Comparative Literature	fax:	(313) 764-8163
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI  48109-1275

On Sun, 9 Jul 1995, Jon Beasley-Murray wrote:

> Of course, there are many ways to be a Marxist art or literary critic.
> Saying "X" is how a Marxist would or should read _Huck Finn_ is
> reductive, and all too similar to the liberal "pot-pourri" surveys that
> have a chapter on how a Marxist would read Y text, a chapter on how a
> feminist would, how a "new critic" and so on, as if one could just
> saunter up and pick one's critical method from the literary supermarket.
> Terry Eagleton's _Literary Theory: An Introduction_ usefully avoids this
> problem (though runs into a fair number of his own), while his _Marxism
> and Literary Criticism_ is refreshingly brief.  And both are very
> engagingly and clearly written.
> Me, I'm somewhat uninterested in interpretation (which is the thing
> Jameson tries desperately to defend in _The Political Unconscious_) and
> am more interested in what a text does than what it means.  Such "doing"
> could of course still be various: how the text functioned historically;
> how it operates within the critical or scholastic or educational
> institution (John Guillory's _Cultural Capital_ is interesting on this);
> or how it could be put to use, reappropriated (cf., among a million and
> one examples, Cesaire's and others' uses of _The Tempest_).
> I also like the following quotation, here from Deleuze and Guattari:
> "For reading a text is never a scholarly exercise in search of what is
> signified, still less a highly textual exercise in search of a
> signifier.  Rather it is a productive use of the literary machine, a
> montage of desiring-machines, a schizoid exercise that extracts from the
> text its revolutionary force."      (_Anti-Oedipus_, 106)
> But then I am in a "Literature" program, and would wish that I was doing
> something useful at the same time.
> Oh, and Seamus: how can you pronounce so clearly on the "best" (whatever
> on earth that means?!) art works of the 80s!?  If nothing else, and a
> little more democratically, you should allow for a ballot.  I'll vote for
> Rushdie's _Satanic Verses_ and Tarkovsky's _The Sacrifice_.  That'll
> clear our minds of Lacanianism...
> Take care
> Jon
> Jon Beasley-Murray
> Literature Program
> Duke University
> jpb8 at
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