Raymond Williams Theory Of Cultural Materialism English Literature Essay

Cultural philistinism is a theory which views civilization as a productive procedure, concentrating on humanistic disciplines such as literature. Within this civilization art is translated as a societal usage of stuff agencies of production. The construct of “ literature ” is seen as a societal development, which harmonizing to Williams, merely genuinely developed between the 18th and nineteenth century, within our civilization. The critic explains in his essay Culture is Ordinary, “ a civilization is a whole manner of life, and the humanistic disciplines are portion of a societal administration which economic alteration clearly radically effects ”[ two ]. I hope to research Williams ‘s theories sing cultural philistinism, the nexus that maps between capitalist economy and literature, and how it situates literature socially and economically. In order to back up his theories, every bit good as my ain, I am traveling to analyze Emily Bronte ‘s novel, Wuthering Heights. Concentrating both internally on its ‘ hegemonic category system and portraiture of literature within the novel, I am besides traveling to research the novel externally, and how the book, every bit good every bit literature as a whole, is placed within historical and modern society and its ‘ economic system.

Wuthering highs was published in 1847, during a clip of structural societal alteration, and coincidentally, four months before Marx and Engels ‘s book, The Communist pronunciamento came out. The book acted as a reaction, during a clip when societal family had been obstructed by the industrial revolution. A new category, that existed between the nobility and the working category emerged ; the middle class. A hegemonic, capitalist model, used antecedently by the nobility, existed as an industrial templet for the new category, sketching an ideological manner of life. However, with the in-between categories ‘ new found philistinism, they separated themselves from association with the working category in order to derive more land, voting rights through the 1832 reform act, and a significant sum of money. This societal alteration affected literature as William ‘s notes, “ periods of major passage between societal systems are normally marked by the outgrowth of radically new signifiers ” of literature[ three ]. This is indicated limpidly through the outgrowth of a coevals bourjois authors, the Bronte sisters being a premier illustration.

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Wuthering Highs as a piece of literature, can be interpreted as a historical representation of the societal and economic troubles that existed between category and civilization at the clip. Heathcliff in peculiar, is emulative of the middle class, and their treachery towards the category which they emerged from. Originating from the streets of Liverpool, it has been suggested by critic, Sneiden, that Heathcliff “ is a merchandise of a booming Liverpool slave trade ”[ four ]. As Earnshaw found him “ in the steets of Liverpool ; where he picked it up and inquired for its proprietor ”[ V ]. Despite this mild premise, Mr Earnshaw insists that Heathcliff is treated as an equal to his akin progeny. He is provided with the same rights, and instruction. However this “ creates fresh inequalities in the household hierarchy[ six ]“ .Heathcliff ‘s invasion and favoritism from Earnshaw upsets the societal equilibrium at the ‘Heights, and creates hatred from siblings such as Hindley. Treated unevenly by his siblings, particularly after the death of Mr Earnshaw, Heathcliff, “ is set to work meaninglessly, as a retainer instead than a member of the household[ seven ]“ and remains at the underside of a materialist institutional construction installed at the ‘Heights, reconstructing order in footings of category, as he works as the slave and itinerant he is thought to be. Known for his barbarian behavior, his romantic escape with Catherine is obstructed as she chooses to get married the more “ civilized ” and higher category Edgar Linton. After vanishing for three old ages and reappearing, Heathcliff, “ the gipsy- the plowboy ” , as Edgar remembers him, transforms into a “ grammatical adult male ”[ eight ]of intelligent visage.

Heathcliff ‘s transmutation mimics that of the middle class, and his new “ capitalist ferociousness is an extension every bit good as a negation of the Heights universe he knew as a kid ”[ nine ]. His motive provenders through an “ compulsion with taking retaliation on his old enemies ”[ x ], through societal and economic hegemony. Undoubtedly vindictive at how his orphan roots have determined how he is treated by others, Heathcliff uses his new found money and his background of literacy to his advantage, turn outing he is no “ unsmooth diamond ”[ xi ]. However as he is already saturated by the ideological materialist system he was brought up in, alternatively of contending it, he becomes profoundly embedded in it. He is “ neither within society nor outside it ”[ xii ], as he contradicts himself by going top of a heirachy that he was one time the underside of. To solidify his new topographic point in society, he marries into the landed aristocracy of the Linton ‘s, a household which he took great dislike towards, “ for strictly materialistic grounds ”[ xiii ]. It is this type of contradictive behavior, as critic Eagleton observes, “ which encapsulates a important truth about businessperson society ”[ xiv ].

Through a construction of feeling, as Williams notes, writers such as Bronte “ specified exposure and isolation as a general status ”[ xv ]most specifically through characters Catherine and Heathcliff, utilizing the economic province of money, and the societal factors around bastardy and heirachy, as its ‘ connecting cases. Through this Bronte high spots cultural philistinism through a fictional piece, locating her piece of literature in a relevant topographic point, in footings of the manner of the clip, within its ‘ societal and economic contexts.

Willams ‘ describes “ civilization ” as an achieved province of development in Marxism and Literature. The word derives from “ civil ” intending polite and orderly. However, the critic agrees with Marx and points out that civilization is frequently achieved though capitalist economy, through “ doing barbaric states dependent on civil 1s ”[ xvi ], which is exactly what Heathcliff does, utilizing Literature as his arm. Heathcliff abuses the illiteracy, portrayed as the incivility of Hareton, by rip offing him out of his heritage. Critic Eagleton notes that by this Heathcliff “ links hands with the big capitalist landholder Linton in common historical resistance to yeoman society ”[ xvii ]. Hegemonic with literature, Heathcliff uses his instruction as an embedded power to forestall Hareton from seeing the natural order. If he was literate, Hareton would of seen that his household name was engraved on the ‘Heights and hence would hold been able to put some claim to it, but alternatively he becomes saturated in Heathcliffs political orientation of a capitalist family. This proves literacy to be an unbelievable tool in socio-economic contexts for accomplishing a high topographic point in society.

Literature and literacy is once more, used to know apart subsequently in the novel when Cathy makes merriment of Hareton for non being able to read. Cathy sees herself as higher category because she is literate ( despite Hareton being her cousin ) , and sees herself as “ civil ” nevertheless, likewise to Heathcliff, her rude behavior radiances through as she teases Hareton as “ so stupid ”[ xviii ], for his illiteracy. Hareton recognises literacy and the enjoyment of literature as something valuble, which will assist him both socially and economically. At the terminal of Wuthering Heights Lockwood observes Cathy learning Hareton to read, which critic Eaglton commends “ promises equality instead than subjugation ”[ xix ]. Here it is apparent that an instruction in literacy, has allowed Hareton to forgive Cathy for how she treated him.

The power and value of literature is besides present as Cathy bribes a younger servant Michael with “ books and images to fix Minny every eventide ”[ xx ], so she can see Linton. Williams sees that rational life and the humanistic disciplines, although stuff, can interrupt connexions in society, as it has something that is going more surpassing over the societal category system. It seems apparent in the novel that literacy and literature is the key to get away specific societal and economic restrictions. Through this, literature and educational literacy becomes an economic system of its ain, of mercenary value.

The portraiture of linguistic communication in literature sees that linguistic communication is non a medium but a “ constituent component of stuff societal pattern ”[ xxi ], and a “ agency of production ”[ xxii ].

Man made linguistic communication through the spoken word could be deemed natural,

And in theory, as critic Milner explores, semiotics, “ threatened to fade out the differentiation between minority and mass civilizations[ xxiii ]“ as it is simply signified communicating on a basic degree. However, I argue that this is an idealist position and hence untrue. As Williams states “ it is the sense of linguistic communication as an insoluble component of ego creative activity ”[ xxiv ]that makes linguistic communication a constituent signifier of material production. Therefore as it is constitutionalised, linguistic communication can be placed into the semisynthetic economic and societal strata consequently. It is reflected both in society and literature, that linguistic communication is dependent on the cultural system. In Wuthering Heights Joseph ‘s sometimes inexplicable dialect-speech portrays him as being of a low category, such as when he says “ There ‘s non another holie to lig down in I ‘ Thursday ‘ hahse ” an foreigner codification which causes Isabella to go “ annoyed ”[ xxv ]and Joseph hence looked down upon by her. Through this, we could hold literature such as Wuthering Heights as hegemonic, as it uses the literary idiom of Jospeh, and contrasts it against Lockwood and Nelly ‘s narrative. Thereby portraying the spoken word in it ‘s ideal signifier, and as a consequence finding societal divisions outside of the literary universe.

In Marxism and Literary Critism, , Eagleton notes, “ Books are non merely constructions of significance, they are besides trade goods produced by publishing houses and sold on the market at a net income ”[ xxvi ].

The production of written word within itself is non materialist, but literature caters a demand which is what makes it materialist. The author is n’t the person who produces capital. The transmutation, as the author ‘s stuff becomes mass produced, is what makes it capital, and through this William ‘s explains the trouble in dividing “ the development of literary signifier, from the extremely specific economic sciences of fiction publication ”[ xxvii ]Although there ‘s no uncertainty Emily Bronte wrote Wuthering Heights for her ain enjoyment, “ capital, wage-labour, and production of trade goods ”[ xxviii ]through the merchandising of the novel, meant that she would hold had a material addition from it ‘s publication. Through this, the canonized trans-individuality that signifies the writer is smothered by the fact that “ they are besides workers hired by printing houses to bring forth trade goods which will sell ”[ xxix ]. An at hand squad of lower category laborers, described by Marx as “ an extremity of the machine ”[ xxx ]of consumerism, are hence working for the stuff production that enables a in-between category adult female to hold her originative work published.

Williams systematically links literature to polite and humane acquisition. Tradition such as the reading of Greek and Latin, something which Cathy does, and Hareton efforts to make in Wuthering Heights, expresses farther category division and snobbism at a clip when literacy amongst people was still a minority. Even in today ‘s society, reading classical literature is said to be expressive of a businessperson or higher category gustatory sensation, as Latin is frequently merely taught in private schools, and hence could symbolize a comfortable economic state of affairs. “ Therefore these signifiers of the constructs of literature..are, in the position of historical societal development, signifiers of a category specialization ”[ xxxi ], as William ‘s notes that specialization such as this which is economically effected, leads to societal restriction. This limitation is emphasised by the reason, in footings of literature that applied to the working category, as they relied on the passing of enlightening messages. This contrasts to the Bourgeoisie, such as the Bronte sisters, who were liberated in category and in footings of literature, leting themselves to bask the “ imaginativeness ” and “ creativeness ”[ xxxii ]of it.

Literature and huge libraries were besides frequently a symbol of economic prosperity. At the Grange, the Lintons are “ provided with a big library[ xxxiii ]“ . However, in the modern universe, the societal and economic relationships sing literature are in a province of transmutation and revolution. Williams states “ The principal alterations are the electronic transmittal and recording of address ” which are “ deeply altering and widening societal and cultural relationships ”[ xxxiv ]. This composes a new epoch for literature, that is no longer as limited. Electronic literature means that out of copyright publications can be viewed on-line lawfully for free, redefining literature both socially and economically. The enlargement of signifiers such as audio-literature widens the handiness of literature for those who may endure from societal disablements such as ocular upsets. Through this it is clear that traditional signifiers, such as printed novels, are vulnerable, and have an unsure hereafter as they are limited. Of class restrictions still exist, as Marxist theory believes that literature is n’t important in itself, but is “ a direct/indirect look of some preceding and commanding economic content ”[ xxxv ], which will ever be ongoing. Therefore every bit long as cultural philistinism exists, economic and societal fortunes will ever chiefly find, a individual ‘s degree of literacy, and the sum of literature available to them.

Although the restrictions of literature are expressed throughout Wuthering Highs it could be said that by the terminal, these restrictions have been expanded, as Hareton learns to read. However, some critics have argued that the novel advocates the Restoration of higher category order, as “ the old values have triumphed over riotous unsurper[ xxxvi ]“ , when Hareton, the rightful inheritor to the highs, is restored to power after Heathcliff ‘s decease. Therefore I argue that the novel does non exceed restrictions of literature internally, like many critics believe. As it in fact emphasises an thought that society would be corrupt if the power of instruction fell into the custodies of the lower category, such as an orphan and a possible run-away colonial slave in the signifier of Heathcliff.

Literture has an aesthetic map, which manifests itself under societal context.

With respects to aesthetics within the novel, it is noteworthy that literature and literacy acquires a strong nexus with beauty in Wuthering Heights. Catherine, Cathy and Edgar are all portrayed as fine-looking characters, who have a strong affinity with reading. Meanwhile the cardinal ugliness Heathcliff embodies, is reflected in how he “ ne’er reads ” and in fact “ took it into his caput to destruct my books ”[ xxxvii ]as Cathy complains. The aesthetic “ choice of characters indicated an assumed or witting category place ”[ xxxviii ]harmonizing to Williams, and other than how good dressed the characters are, another mercenary quality through a love of books seems to associate into this. Again this glorifying of literature by Bronte, reflects in world, as it is something stuff, which is placed amongst the higher societal and economic categories.

Wuthering Highs could be described as “ literature of the people ” , as it “ efforts to associate literature to the societal and economic history within it has been produced ”[ xxxix ]. Although Bronte attempts to interrupt off traditional ties, and underscore societal and economic restrictions that surrounds literature, she conforms to them as order is restored at the terminal of the novel.

It is true that Cultural philistinism has ever been embedded in our society, nevertheless it merely became more widespread with the outgrowth of industrialization and the middle class, as “ bourgois society was created by a capitalist manner of production[ xl ]“ . Culture is a procedure of excess value, which will ever be controlled by societal and economic factors, nevertheless without it, our society would ne’er develop. Although restrictions will ever be present, they are going less restrictive, as alternate methods of stand foring literature are going evident, which are assisting to interrupt down, these societal and economic boundaries. However, every bit long as the mass production of literature will depend on economic values and socially influenced philistinism, literature will ever depend upon capital.


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