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98 THE MINNESOTA REVIEW disturbing prospect. Have we truly reached the point where critics and historians agree with White that "our interpretations of history and society can claim no more authority than our interpretations of literature can claim" (see his essay in Diacritics, March 1978, p. 9)? A pluralist presents himself as tolerant and holistic, and would surely chastize a critic like Girard, who is so adamant about the centrality of his own theory. But in assembling "many views," pluralism serves, I think, to keep its material in separate compartments, and to prevent the appearance of any method that regards our social practice as something other (and more demanding) than "one more interpretation." An interpretation that claims or holds title to authority may be, as White suggests, "fictive," based upon a certain figure or trope. But its status as a verbal fiction does not mean that its power is diminished: authority may still be a source ofpower, command allegiance, and exclude forms of opposition, whatever our insistence on its linguistic character. White's argument might be turned around: if the dominant authority is not factual, not a given, then we are free to disobey and work to change it. William E. Cain George Bisztray, MarxistModels ofLiterary Realism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1978. 212pp. Bisztray argues that the recent renewed interest in Marxist literary theory is an interest in the concept ofrealism. He hopes by the examination of models derived primarily from Lukács and Gorky, and also from Mehring, Plekhanov, Garaudy and Fischer, to clarify the literary background of realism in Marxist cultural history. The tradition he defines rather narrowly, exluding "interesting quasiMarxist critical groups and leading socialist intellectuals" such as Benjamin, Block, the Frankfurt school, radical American critics of the thirties and the French structuralists of the sixties. Bisztray's Marxist tradition has as its central feature the debate between socialist realism and the critical realism of Lukács. Though he surveys the inheritance of Hegal as well as of Marx, Engels and Lenin, he wishes also to arrive at a viable concept of realism, one which assumes that literature reflects social reality, and which takes into account both material reality and the workings of consciousness. Even the extreme party definitions of this construct, Bisztray contends, partake of a certain theoretical validity which politics may have obscured, or perverted. Gorky's socialist realism delineates a didactic literature which is radically new—that is, connected to the fate of the communist party. Bisztray, following Lukács, argues for the historical continuityofnineteenth century realism with elements ofwhat Gorky wishes for. a programmatic literature showing collectivism as the main factor shaping man. Nevertheless, Gorky, Zhdanov, and later Brecht as well, insist upon a realism which is committed to social change, showing political consciousness. This ^identification of the writer's ideology with his powers ofperception and description Bisztray contrasts with Lukacs revised orthodoxy, using the Marxist-Leninist idea of consciousness REVIEWS 99 lagging behind perception to argue for the writer's commitment to his own objectivejudgement and capacity to reflect experiences in a dialectical way, without correct ideology. The problem of the two realisms for Bisztray thus centers on how a work ofart expresses political consciousness as well as the totality of the perceived world. Socialist realism, distorted by party constraints from the thirties through the fifties, tended to promote a Soviet elitism and ethnocentrism. But the interestingproblems for Bisztray are more theoretical: Gorky and Lukács represent a dialectic of presecriptive and descriptive forms of realism. Mehring and Plekhanov provide the model of a materialistic criticism which makes realism a kind of social determinism, subordinating the work of art to economic realities. Lukács again provides a counter, with his objections to the lack of subject-object dialectic in materialistic realism and his criticismof the reification ofman and institutions. However, Bisztray wishes to emphasize the value of the documentary and information theories to criticism, and to emphasize that they have their origins in a Soviet sociological tendency which is in itself relevant and challenging, worthy of further development. He claims, for example, that Goldmann's theory of homologies is "merely repackaging an old tradition," and that he "supersedes in no respect...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 98-99
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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