Social Scientist. v 1, no. 2 (Sept 1972) p. 69.

Graphics file for this page

World outlook and Literary Value

IN his article (in Social Scientist, August 1972) Mr Mohan Thampi has raised an important issue for discussion among the Marxist literary critics. It would always be helpful to know when the political ideology propoun-1 ed in a particular work of literature truly reflects the writer's total grasp of contemporary reality embodied in that work and when it does not. Mr Thampi's discussion goes a long way in clarifying this complicated question.

It is good to remind ourselves that a writer ^s total grasp of social reality can be identified in his work only by taking into account such things as the dramatic conflicts generated by interaction of the separate destinies of individual characters, the structure of imagery and the overall perspective or point of view behind the representation. Since all these different aspects of the aesthetic form function in active co-operation with each other, it is only through our awareness of their integrated functioning that we would discover the writer's total grasp of reality. The structure of ideas and the arguments deployed by the writer would, of course, be relevant but only in so far as they form an essential part of the unity of the work. When the political ideology is detachable or can be easily isolated from the other vital elements of the aesthetic form, it would certainly not give us a correct idea regarding the real value of the work of literature.

This should not, however, be taken to mean that the conscious ideology of the writer does not tell us anything about his work or that the real insights the work has to offer are entirely due to the writer's unconscious response to the social reality of his times. Such a distrust of conscious formulation would amount to an anti-intellectual stance which is incompatible with Marxism. As Mr Thampi has clearly stated, the whole problem is so complex that it does not permit any mechanical generalisation and the function of ideology in a work of literature has to be precisely determined in each particular case. Sometimes the writer may have responded very actively to the most dynamic forces shaping the reality of his times and put himself at the nodal points where he can experience all the real contradictions of the objective reality in their maximum complexity and intensity. Such a writer, even if he carries some survivals of the false consciousness in his ideology will be able to achieve a 'triumph of realism' in his major works because his active involvement in the dynamic situation would enable him to give an authentic record of the movement of the historical process. The conscious ideology (in so far až

Back to Social Scientist | Back to the DSAL Page