This honors project examines the connections between literature and political theory. Specifically I will follow the journey of the British literary critic Raymond Williams. Williams had a very interesting life. He grew up in the Black Mountains of Wales as the son of a railroad worker: a life he memorialized in his autobiographical novel Border Country (1960). In his obituary of Williams in The New Statesman in 1988, Stuart Hall reminds us how Williams’s deep sense of attachment to the Welsh working class border community of inhabited shared commitments in which he grew up. This community of shared commitments was understood as a “whole way of life.” It was a sense of community that he never lost.
The key concept that Williams produces that starts this transition is “structures of feeling” which is at the heart of this project paper. Williams’s concept of structures of feeling is a way to examine a work of art by looking at it in its present tense. By examining a work of art in its present tense, Williams argued that one can gain an understanding of lived experiences during the time period the art was produced -- studying the emotions/feelings which are generated in the work of art. Scholars such as Fredric Jameson have built upon Williams’s concept of structures of feeling while moving towards affect theory.
Some questions my essay responds to are: What is the significance of Raymond Williams’s struggle with the Marxist concept of ideology? How is this at the heart of the cultural Marxism of the New Left Review? How does this struggle lead to his rejection of the base/superstructure interpretation of Marx and in his study of sociology of literature and Gramsci whom the New Left Review features in the 1960s? How does Williams move to a concept of cultural materialism and how is his development of the concept of “structure of feelings” critical to his struggle, and eventually to the “affect theory” of Fredric Jameson’s cultural Marxism? And how does Williams help generate a political sociology of symbolic world-making power and legitimation struggles that come to be associated with the likes of Alain Tourain (1977) and Pierre Bourdieu (1980, 1988)?
Pride, Patrick, "Thoroughly Under the Skin" (2014). Honors Projects Overview. 92.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.