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In response to a bold reconstruction of Anglophone literary studies challenging the political self-understanding of the reigning historicism and looking to a new, interventionist departure on the left, some critical considerations on disciplinary history, the place of ‘knowledge’ in the fictional order, as well as the discourses that address it, and the precedent of Leavis and his followers.
A Tory Tribune?
Francis Mulhern on Ferdinand Mount, English Voices: Lives, Landscapes, Laments. The literary and political sensibility of Britain’s most independent-minded Conservative thinker, aide to Margaret Thatcher, admirer of Virginia Woolf, and devotee of William Gladstone.
A Party of Latecomers
Over the past decade the American political-intellectual scene has undergone a significant change with the emergence of a lively nexus of journals, ideas and activities, constituting a new kind of cultural left. Francis Mulhern etches the portrait of the Brooklyn-based n+1, which has been both forerunner and intellectual flagship of this effervescence.
Culture and Society, Then and Now
The idea of culture in Raymond Williams’s classic work, and discrepant readings of it, fifty years on. Gestation amid CP debates on the English tradition, hidden affinities with the Frankfurt School, and counterposition to the verities of today’s liberal multiculturalism.
Conrad’s Inconceivable History
The fascination of Joseph Conrad’s novels with the transformative pressures of capitalist modernity threatens a revelation so intolerable, Mulhern suggests, that it can only be contained within dense narrative strategies of deferral and disavowal.
What is Cultural Criticism?
Meanings of culture, the place of politics and role of intellectuals in the practice of criticism, as conceived since Arnold. Replying to Stefan Collini in NLR 18, Francis Mulhern asks how far the arts of a conversible portraiture bear on a critical agenda.
Replying to Stefan Collini in NLR 7, Francis Mulhern extends his critique of the pretensions of culture to general social authority, to the Marxist versions of Kulturkritik in the Frankfurt School. What defines the difference between politics and culture as practices?
Britain After Nairn
How far can the path from Thatcher to Blair be written as a dynamic of Ukanian constitutional involution, or devolution? Francis Mulhern questions whether classes can be so quickly bundled off-stage. Is it possible to speak of nations—English, Scottish, Irish or any other—as political communities, without social or ideological dispositions?
Towards 2000, or News From You-Know-Where
Calendars are never innocent, but in recent times they have become positively lurid. Even the soberest temporal reckoning is open to the suggestions of political numerology, which fascinates by its very lack of reason. The year now ended was for a generation the deadline for the most widely . . . read more
'Teachers, Writers, Celebrities': Intelligentsias and Their Histories
The appearance of Regis Debray’s Le Pouvoir intellectuel en France was a major cultural event in France. Critical reaction was instant and passionate; the book was soon a talking-point and—on a scale appropriate to a book of its kind—a best-seller. But if the public evidence pointed straightforwardly to . . . read more
Marxism in Literary Criticism
Terry Eagleton’s Criticism and Ideology is a work of major importance. Its range includes the conventionally separate fields of poetics (the specificity of literary discourse and the character and conditions of literary value); ‘literary criticism’ (the analysis and judgment of particular works); literary history; and the sociology of . . . read more
Introduction to Goldmann
By the time of his death, in the autumn of 1970, Lucien Goldmann’s standing as a Marxist theorist had noticeably begun to diminish. The reasons for this were both theoretical and political. European Marxist thought in the 1960s was characterized by the rapid, ebullient development of theoretical currents . . . read more
Comment on 'Ideology and Literary Form'
Terry Eagleton’s essay presents two closely related lines of argument, which can be summarized, very roughly, as follows. His main thesis is historical: he outlines what he takes to be the major ideological weakness of Victorian capitalism, and describes the various attempts that were made to recast the . . . read more
The Marxist Aesthetics of Christopher Caudwell
For British intellectuals, the years after the economic catastrophe of 1929 were a devastating experience. Before their incredulous gaze, the old revenants of European history—mass action and the threat of revolution—turned to trouble the serenity of life under the Constitution. The certitudes of liberalism seemed unequal to these . . . read more