Marxism and its Importance inthe Secondary Classroom A SOCIOCULTURALIST APPROACH TO LITERACY CRITICISM.
What is Marxism? Marxism is a branch of literary criticism that emphasizes differences in social class or material wealth between members of society. Named for Karl Marx, who was the first to notably explore these themes.
Socioculturalist Theory and Marxism Socioculturalism: Students bring their cultural values and traditions to the classroom. Student learning is aided by determining cultural significance of the material. Students can easily apply Marxism in a socioculturalist lesson plan.
How? Teachers can add cultural significance to a text by asking students to relate to the social class of the characters involved. They push students to find examples of socially advantaged and disadvantaged characters in the text, and use Marxism to rationalize the characters’ actions. Students can insert themselves into the text and write about how their actions would differ from the actions taken by the characters. Examples?
…Examples! Marxism in Atlas Shurgged (Ayn Rand) Socially advantaged characters: Dagny Taggert was the daughter of a man who built railroads Francisco D’anconia: Inherited world’s largest copper mines. Socially disadvantaged characters: Hank Reardon: Humble upbringings; founded Reardon Metal Jeff Allen: Homeless “everyman”
Examples!! (Part Two) Marxism in To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) Socially advantaged characters: Scout Finch: Daughter of a lawyer Link Deas: Employs many of the characters, including Tom Robinson. Socially disadvantaged characters: Bob Ewell: Alcoholic patriarch of town’s poorest family. Tom Robinson: Lower-class Black worker accused of rape.
Examples!!! (Part Three) Marxism in The Jungle (Upton Sinclair) Socially disadvantaged characters: Jurgis Rudkus: Lithuanian immigrant striving for a better life. Elzbieta: Matriarch; cares for many disabled children. Socially advantaged characters: Phil Connor: Factory Boss; Rapist. Pat Callahan: Corrupt Judge; Xenophobe. Mike Scully: Head of Democratic party. Freddie Jones: Son of a wealthy man.
Marxism & Socioculturalism: A Lesson Plan Readers look at literature through a “social lens.” Students create a ladder that represents the class levels in the literature. They place each character on a rung of the latter. Students place themselves on the ladder. They then write about which characters they identify with the most in a journal entry. What actions to they agree with? What would they do differently? How do social constructs of society influence their actions?
The Downside to teaching Marxism It’s Communist! No, it is not. But it is perceived as being anti-American or subversive. Some parents, students, or administrators may be hesitant to teach Marxism.
Recap Marxism can be effectively combined with the socioculturalist learning theory. Students who read literature with a social lens can insert themselves into the text, and more easily write about the literature. Examples: Atlas Shrugged To Kill a Mockingbird The Jungle
References Appleman, Deborah. (2009) Critical encounters in high school English: Teaching literary theory to adolescents. New York: Teachers College Columbia University. Ormrod, Jeanne. (2011). Educational Psychology: Developing Learners (7th edition). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.