Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Those Damn Commies

My theory class, if you've talked to me recently, has been a Marxism class. I'm fine with Marxism; it's interesting, and it certainly has valid points for both interpreting literature and living in society. I'd even go so far as to say that I have Marxist leanings, or at least am sympathetic toward the Marxist viewpoint.

However, when I signed up for a theory class, I expected to be schooled in theory (especially after my adviser and course instructor snidely remarked that any undergraduate theory class I could have taken would be sorely inadequate for my graduate career). However, in my graduate theory class, we've done a whirlwind tour of the "other" theories: New Criticism, psychoanalytic theory, feminism, poststructuralism, deconstruction, etc--one day per theory, and postcoloinalism and feminism were lumped together in the same day. And we have read no primary texts, simply 10-page summaries of the major theoretical notions. Then we settled into a several week exploration of Marxism, the theory that subsumes and consumes and IS all other theories.

However, our class is not supposed to be a class on Marxism, and my professor has a clear Marxist agenda. The kicker is that my undergraduate (inferior) theory class has this class beat with a giant stick. You see, in my undergraduate class, we read all sorts of primary texts, starting with Plato's Republic (and it's attack on poets), catching theorists such as Aristotle, Derrida, Foucault, Freud, Marx (yes, Marx), Irigary, etc. Then after we discussed these primary texts (no wimpy summaries for us), we applied these theories to literature and read critical approaches associated with those texts. Next to this "rigorous" approach, my graduate theory class seems like a joke. An extensive Marxist joke--and Marxists aren't known for their humor.

The point? I feel somewhat forced to interpret the book we have to analyze theoretically using a Marxist approach. (After all, my professor has asserted time and again that Marxism is the only theory worth knowing). I'd actually prefer to deconstruct it, since I acquired a liking of Derrida through the course of the semester, but hey. He purposely assigned a text that has clear points for Marxist interpretation--Ursula LeGuin's The Dispossessed.

Damn Marxists. I could so easily like you, if you didn't get hammered into my head everyday...

(I read and presented on Terry Eagleton's After Theory, which did much more for my Marxist sympathies than this theory class has...)

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