Literary Approach - Marxist Criticism

The Norton Introduction to Poetry
Editor: J. Paul Hunter, University of Chicago
(Norton & Company, 1999)


The Norton Introduction to Poetry: Marxist Criticism


University of Chicago professor emeritus J. Paul Hunter defines critical approaches to evaluating poetry and prose in this excellent text published by Norton & Company. The book is now in its ninth edition with contributing editors Alison Booth, University of Virginia, and Kelly J. Mays, University of Nevada.

“Based on the work of Karl Marx (1818-1883). Marxist criticism treated literature as a passive product of the culture, specifically of the economic aspect, and, therefore, of class warfare. Economics, the underlying cause of history, was thus the base, and culture, including literature and other arts, the superstructure. Viewed from the Marxist perspective, the literary works of a period would, then, reveal the state of the struggle between classes in the historical place and moment.”


A vestige from the communist era, Marxist criticism explores the economic dynamics behind every social and artistic institution. Marxists believed pursuit of money and class structure governed daily interactions in all walks of life. Literature, thought of as a reflection of strife, yielded information useful in gauging a presumed power struggle, often political in tone.