Cultural Materialist Studies

Marlow, Christopher (2020) Cultural Materialist Studies. In: The Arden Research Handbook of Contemporary Shakespeare Criticism. Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781350093225

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Looking backwards can be dangerous, politically speaking – and cultural materialism is nothing if not a way of speaking politically about Shakespeare. As Jonathan Dollimore, one of the originators of cultural materialism, notes, ‘the politically committed person looks forward – is committed to a better future. In other words he or she is progressive whereas nostalgia is regressive’. Nonetheless, for cultural materialists the past does have value, and has often been shown by them to offer a radical corrective to the simplistic celebration of previous eras – and our own – peddled by reactionary thinkers. By contrast, cultural materialism is multi-faceted: it is engaged with the past, but informed by the present and committed to the future. Its task is to combine theory, politics, close reading, and an analysis of the contexts within which texts are produced and received in order to generate new interpretations of Shakespeare.

But if nostalgia is dangerous, what value can there be in returning to the theoretical ‘big bang’ of the 1980s in yet another attempt to ‘Make Cultural Materialism Great Again’? One answer lies in the subtitle of the final book written by Alan Sinfield, the other originator of the approach: there is ‘unfinished business in cultural materialism’. So while in this essay I will discuss the central tenets of cultural materialism, I will also show why it is not, in fact, something that needs to be revived. For cultural materialism is ongoing – it has always been an ‘evolving project’.

Keywords:Cultural materialism, Shakespeare, Critical theory
Subjects:Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q300 English studies
Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q320 English Literature
Divisions:College of Arts > School of English & Journalism > School of English & Journalism (English)
ID Code:40806
Deposited On:15 Jun 2020 13:22

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