If the “teaching and reading of literature is always a political act” (Pradl, Mayher) and we as teachers are to help produce functioning members of our current system, it’s necessary that we give our students the tools that will allow them to be critical of our situation as members of a global community, especially given our president’s current position as ‘leader of the free world.’ It is important to instill in our students a sense of history, a sense of connectedness that will allow them to empathize with others and create a meaningful discourse with the world around them.
Presenting Marxist thought as a critical lens would be vital in communicating these ideas to our students. For those unfamiliar with Karl Marx and his approach to viewing the world, I will briefly summarize some of his main ideas. Marxist thought shows an awareness of the material conditions of our lives and social relations among people (class), it focuses on our consciousness of these conditions and our self construction based on this consciousness, and it provides a view of history based on the struggle of these classes over time.
Appleman and Tyson relate the points of Marxist thought to our endeavor as teachers of literature in a very cohesive manner, so I will save a more in-depth analysis of Marx’s theories for class on Tuesday with a presentation of a key scene in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. For our purposes here, I will say that I agree with Appleman’s reasons for teaching the Marxist lens; it allows students to “think about how [they] as readers are situated culturally, politically, and personally to the content of the text,” and encourages them to “acknowledge diverse backgrounds” as well as “issues of class and race.” Before our discussion on Tuesday, I encourage everyone to look at the challenges Appleman lists at the end of Chapter 4 pertaining to the teachability of Marxist thought with adolescents. Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Is Appleman’s argument convincing and is Marxism valid in today’s world?
I also encourage everyone to think about Tyson’s statement as to the relation between Marxism and Literature: “Literature grows out of and reflects real material/historical circumstances.” Does this statement justify Appleman’s argument for the teaching of the Marxist lens?
Personally, as I think of what Tyson states about the American Dream and reflect on the class system of our culture, I feel Marxist criticism is vital even though our society allows for us to transcend social boundaries in a seemingly easy way (ie. the rags to riches mythos engrained within all of us). Is the American Dream a myth? If it is, what does that tell us about those in charge (the higher class)? How can we relate these ideas to our classes and produce students who care about our role in the global community?
That is all for now. If I come up with more questions/ideas, I will post them, but I feel this is a good start for our discussion Tuesday. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.