Bertolt Brecht and the problem of a Marxist dramaturgy.


Emslie, Barry 1988. Bertolt Brecht and the problem of a Marxist dramaturgy. Thesis University of East London
AuthorsEmslie, Barry

It the revolutionary and humanist/ethical poles of
Marxism are to be retained a crucial epistemological
distinction must be made between the marxist analysis of
History when it refers to class-based societies, and when it
refers to the ideal of a communist collective. The normative
core of Marxism is to be found, as a matter of logical
necessity, in the notion of Communism, whether "primitive"
or "mature", and this paradigm is the yardstick by which
both class societies and "revolutionary" Marxism/Leninism
are to be judged.
Marxist aesthetics is privileged in that it is
suggested that the literature of class-based, antagonistic
societies often implies a classless ideal as a result of.
unwittingly or otherwise, exposing the brutalities of
exploitation and expropriation. Literature is thus
ambivalently placed; as not only a tool of false consciousness
and ruling class ideology, but also as an
expression of the utopian core of Marxism. Such a position
rests upon the jamesonian premise that Marxism is a metacommentary
uniquely well-equipped to interpret History. The
drama is deemed of especial value in that its tendency to
focus on the Subject and the problem of subjectivity evokes
the ideal of individual self-fulfilment; an ideal intrinsic
to the Communist paradigm.
Brecht's development of a Left theatrical practice
in the context of an engagement with German politics of the
1920s and 30s and with marxist theory (particularly
Lenin's), is examined in detail precisely because it best
explicates and underpins this interpretation, not least
because Brecht attempted to work through the marxist
definitions of History in terms of a radical assault on
bourgeois notions of subjectivity in the context,
ultimately, of the alternative communist paradigm. There is,
therefore, a vital link between the character of Brecht's
radical experiments in the theatre and several problems
central to marxist theory. This interaction reached a climax
at the end of-Brecht's life; a climax which. while a failure
in theatrical terms. makes the importance of Marxist
Humanism particularly clear.

KeywordsMarxist aesthetics; Bertolt Brecht
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Deposited09 May 2011
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