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With detailed reference to Marxist debates about the relationship between literature and ideology, examine the ways in which The Turn of the Screw can be read as reinforcing, and/or undermining dominate modes of thinking.
Within this assignment, I intend on providing a detailed analysis of Henry James novel ‘The Turn Of The Screw’ in relation to Marxists debates over the relationship of ‘Literature and Ideology’. Through this close analysis, I will be showing the main concepts of a Marxist perspective in relation to ‘The Turn Of The Screw’ and how this contributes in the creation of the notion of ‘Literature and Ideology’. In order to achieve this, it is crucial to gain an understanding of the notion of ‘Literature and Ideology’.
In order to gain an appreciation of the term of Ideology, it would be important to consider the work conducted by Terry Eagleton1, this can be achieved through the statement that “Ideology provides lucid accounts of major Marxist thinkers, and examines the thought of non-Marxist theorists such as Schopenhauer, Nietzasche, Frued and the poststructulists2. ” From this, it is possible to interpret the notion that ‘Ideology’ presents a new way of thinking for Eagleton and thus is presented with ideas surrounding Poststructulism3, Nietzasche4, and Schopenhauer5.
In relation to the question, it is possible to argue that through using the Ideological perspective of Marxism, we will be examining Henry James novel of ‘The Turn of the Screw’ from a new approach. Firstly, it is imperative that we gain an understanding of the term of ‘Marxism’ and how this holds a relationship to Henry James’s novel ‘The Turn of the Screw’.
‘Marxism’ was developed by the German philosopher Karl Marx and also the German sociologist Frederich Engles6 (1820-95), which “they themselves called their economic theories ‘Communism’ (rather that ‘Marxism’), designating their belief in the state ownership of industry, etc…, rather than private ownership7.” From this, it is possible to debate that ‘Marxism’ dose have relevance in regards to Ideology, as it is presenting a new mode of thinking upon German society.
Furthermore, if we take into consideration that “The simplest Marxist model of society sees it as constituted by a base (the material means of production, distribution, and exchange) and a superstructure, which is the ‘cultural’ world of ideas, art, religion…8” it is possible to argue that Marxist through analysis society in relation to all members of society considered as equals and thus bringing about a “classless society”. In addition to this, he also argued that it is only philosophical ideas, which make up the ‘superstructure’ and therefore underpinning his ideological belief that there is a class structure within the society.
One of the most important arguments that is raised in relation to Henry James novel ‘The Turn of the Screw’ and the notions that is associated with ‘Marxism’, it is possible to argue that Henry James is underpinning the modes of ‘Marxism’. This is clearly evident within the characterisation of Miles and the quotation of:
“She was the most agreeable women I’ve ever
known in her position…9″.
From this particular quotation, it is possible to argue that Miles encompasses the attributes, which reinforcing the notions of ‘Marxism’, as he is enforcing the hierarchy that exists within the class structure. The reason for this is although he is acknowledging that there a division of class dose exist within the context of the novel, however, through his description of her being “…the most agreeable women…10”, he is showing a likeness to the qualities that she possess within her and is automatically disregarding the social hieratical differences that exist between them both.
In relation to this particular quotation, it is possible to argue that through the character of Miles, Henry James is acknowledging the work conducted by the French structuralist Marxist, Louis Althusser11 (1918-1990). His work was mainly centred on the analysis of what he termed ‘the state and the subject’ and through this work; he provided clear distinctions between the terms of ‘ideologies’, which he said was mainly historical and social, and ‘ideology’, which he denoted as the main structure of the society in which we live in. From this distinction, he made the acknowledgment that within civilised society, there is a need for a number of employees, which are low and middle classes and also there is a need for employers.
Within this distinction, Althusser provided the term of “willing subjects” for those workers who worked within manual labour that were able to be employed by the employers and provided them with the term of ‘Interpellation’. From this it is possible to see that through the use of ‘Interpellation’, we do take into consideration class structures, as it ultimately defining the differences from Working Classes and Middle Classes. Because of this factor, it is possible to say that it is showing the binary opposition of the notion of ‘Marxism’ and therefore it is showing a new Ideology.
In regards to Henry James novel ‘The Turn of the Screw’, it is possible to suggest that the term of ‘Interpellation’ is evident through the representation of the servants at Bly in comparison to such characters as the Master and Miss Jessel, this is clearly evident within the quotation of:
“Mrs. Grose, since then, in a way of manners and
things, had done as she could for Flora; and there
were, further, a cook, a housemaid, a diarywoman, an
old woman, an old groom and an old gardener, all likewise
From this particular quotation, it is possible to argue that it is clearly demonstrating the concept of ‘Interpellation’, as it is showing the collective representation of the working class community within the house of Bly and also a clear distinction between themselves and the Master. In relation to the question, it is therefore possible to argue that it is disregarding the notion of Marxism. However, it is a clear demonstration of Ideology and therefore it is possible to suggest that through the medium of literature, authors such as Henry James are able to express different interpretations and therefore it is possible to argue that literature on a whole is means to show ideological expression.
Another important argument provided by Althusser was the meaning of words, which he suggested that words do not reflect the world, but produces a perception of it. From this, it is possible to argue that term of ‘Interpellation’ is another way of viewing the world. In relation to Henry James novel, ‘The Turn Of The Screw’, it is possible to argue that through the relationship that exists between Miles and the Governess, Henry James is demonstrating the notion of ‘Interpellation’, this is evident within the quotation of:
“I pressed again, of course, the closer for that. “You
are reminded that Quint was only a base menial?13.”
From this particular quotation, it is possible to argue that this is clearly showing the notion of ‘Interpellation’, as it is reinforcing the class differences that exist between the characters of Miles and Quint. However, it is also possible to suggest that this particular quotation is a demonstration of the Governesses influence over Miles, as she is reinforcing the notion of ‘Interpellation’ into Miles as an attempt to over-rule his own Marxist perspective on life. The reason for this might be due to the fact that she comes from a lower class then the family, and she feels that they should not mix with the lower classes.
From this, it might be important to take into consideration the work conducted by the Italian writer Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937)14, in particular, the importance of Hegemony. The notion of Hegemony involves a low regime sustains power within society; this can be achieved through either ‘consent’, which is the role of persuasion or ‘enforce’, which is the role of gaining power through force. This is clearly evident within Henry James novel, ‘The Turn of the Screw’, and the quotation of:
“He has put them in possession of Bly, which was
healthy and secure, and had placed at the head of
their little establishment – but below stairs only-
an excellent women, Ms Grose…15″
As you are able to see from the quotation that I have provided, it is possible to argue that within the household at Bly, Antonio Gramsci’s notion of Hegemony has been put to full effect and therefore it is creating a class rank within the novel in regards to a hierarchal structure of the household. Therefore, in relation to the original question, it is possible to argue that this particular extract of Henry James novel is undermining the dominant modes of Marxist thought, and presenting a new ideology in relation to the structure of class and society.
Another issue that we might take into consideration in regards to the notions of ‘Marxism’ and the characterisation of Miles is his relationship with Quint. Through their friendship, Miles is disregarding the status structures within society and thus is being as Marxist himself, this is evident within the quotation of:
“It was neither nor less then the particular fact
that for a period of several months Quint and
the boy had been perpetually together.16″
From this particular quotation, it is possible to see the qualities in which Miles characterisation processes, which is to disregard the attributes that is associated with the class structure, and thus making it possible for his to befriend who ever he wishes. Through this, it is possible to argue that Miles is echoing the work conducted by Louis Althusser.
In conclusion, it is possible to suggest that the relationship between Literature and Ideology in regards to how they comment upon Marxist debates, is that it allows the authors to choose an Ideological perspective and use their novel as a demonstration of the particular perspective. Through the use of Marxism, it is possible to suggest that we are able to comprehend the issues that are presented within Henry James novel and this allows use, the critic, to use the novel as a clear demonstration of the issues that presents the key aspects of Marxism and thus makes it easier for use to comprehend.
Within this assignment, I have used the following books:
1. Peter Barry
Beginning Theory – An Introduction To Literary And Cultural Theory
Manchester University Press
2. Henry James
The Turn Of The Screw
Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press
3. Warren Montag
Within this assignment, I have used the following Internet search engines:
Within this assignment, I have used the following Internet articles:
1. Terry Eagleton
Ideology – An Introduction
2. Marry Klages
Louis Althusser’s “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses”
4. Richard Wolff
Ideological State Apparatus
5. Louis Althusser’s “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses”
6. Daisy Miller
The Turn of the Screw
7. Richard Strickland
Confrontational Pedagogy and the Introductory Literature Course
Word count = 1656
1 Terry Eagleton is Thomas Warton, Professor of English at the University of Oxford.
2 This quotation was taken from an Internet article, which is fully referenced in my bibliography as number 1.
3 This was an approach to literature that, proceeding from the tenets of Structuralism, maintains that, as words have no absolute meaning, any texts is open to an unlimited amount of interpretations.
4 Notion presented by Friedrich Wilhelm, mainly surrounding the concept of the Superman and the rejection of traditional Christian values.
5 Notion presented by the German philosopher, he expounded the view that will is the creative primary factor and idea the secondary receptive factor.
6 German socialist leader and political leader. He collaborated with Marx on The Communist Manifesto (1840).
7 Peter Barry (ed), Beginning Theory – An Introduction To Literary And Cultural Theory, Second Edition, (Manchester University Press, Manchester, Clays Ltd, 1992) Page 157, Lines 9 – 10.
8 Peter Barry (ed), Beginning Theory – An Introduction To Literary And Cultural Theory, Second Edition, (Manchester University Press, Manchester, Clays Ltd, 1992) Page 157, Lines 2 – 3.
9 Henry James, The Turn Of The Screw, (Hampshire, Macmillan Press Ltd, 1997) Page 23, Lines 14-17
10 Henry James, The Turn Of The Screw, (Hampshire, Macmillan Press Ltd, 1997) Page 23, Line 14
11 French Marxist philosopher, author of For Marx (1965) and Reading Capital (1965).
12 Henry James, The Turn Of The Screw, (Hampshire, Macmillan Press Ltd, 1997) Page 26, Lines 25-28
13 Henry James, The Turn Of The Screw, (Hampshire, Macmillan Press Ltd, 1997) Page 23, Lines 20-21
14 Information obtained from an Internet article, which is fully referenced in my bibliography as number 3.
15 Henry James, The Turn Of The Screw, (Hampshire, Macmillan Press Ltd, 1997) Page 26, Lines 9-12
16 Henry James, The Turn Of The Screw, (Hampshire, Macmillan Press Ltd, 1997) Page 60, Lines 10-12