Sociological critics believe that the relations of art to society are important. Art is not created in a vacuum. Language itself is a social product. A writer is a member of the society. And he takes his material from the society. A literary piece is not simply the work of a person. It is of an author fixed in time, space and his environment. Taine, the French man, said that literature is the consequence of the moment, the race, and the milieu.
Edmund Wilson traces sociological criticism to the eighteenth century study of Homer’s epics. The study focused on the social conditions of the poet’s period. Literary works are seen as social documents presenting the material condition and the ethos of a given period. Literature mirrors social reality. Chaucer presents a slice of life of his period. Addison, Steele or Fielding portray the bourgeoisie of the eighteenth century. Tolstoy’s works deal with the land owning peasantry of the nineteenth century Russia; Jane Austen, the country gentry of her country of the same period; Dickens and Thackeray of the Victorian World. At the turn of the last century Galsworthy shows us the English upper middle classes. The list goes on.
Sociological criticism is generally concerned with the effect of society upon art. Before the nineteenth century ended, Marx and Engels founded the principles of a special branch of sociological criticism – the Marxist approach. Marxist interpretation of society and literature is based on the philosophy of “Dialectical Materialism”. After the Great Economic Depression, both in England and America authors moved politically to the left. The poetry of Auden, C.Day Lewis, and Stephen Spender is noted for the leftist conviction. Marxist criticism is sociological. Marxism views literature or art as the superstructure of the base – the economy. It focuses on the relationship between the spiritual and the material productions. The relationship is...
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