Uncovering the “gold-bearing rubble”: Ernst Bloch’s literary criticism

Edwards, Caroline (2013) Uncovering the “gold-bearing rubble”: Ernst Bloch’s literary criticism. In: Utopianism, modernism, and literature in the twentieth century. Palgrave. ISBN 9780230358935

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In 1938, Ernst Bloch and Georg Lukács conducted a public argument concerning Expressionism. Lukács outlined his understanding of totality and of the realist artist’s imperative to reflect those mediations holding the various levels of base and superstructure together. For Bloch, however, reality could only be apprehended through its protean discontinuity – and the so-called “fascist” tendencies of Expressionist writers and painters in actuality revealed their understanding of the popularity of non-contemporaneous, archaic images for ordinary people.
I argue that Bloch’s defence of Expressionism should be read through his powerful and prescient analysis of fascism in Heritage of Our Times (1935). In this little-read text, Bloch expands his future-oriented utopian philosophy of time (his famous concepts of the Not Yet, Novum and Front) to incorporate the past through what he called the Ungleichzeitigkeit (non-contemporaneity) of resistant spaces to capitalism. Fascism understood the importance of anachronistic and irrational myths in German popular culture, and Bloch argued that the Left’s rejection of the radical potential of large sections of the peasantry and petit bourgeoisie was extremely dangerous. Bloch’s critique of sterile variants of Marxist orthodoxy offers, in its turn, a vast analysis of cultural heritage: the myths, dreams and complex modalities of imagined pasts alive within the present, which map out multiple possible futures. This chapter explores the subversive and utopian elements of Bloch’s “multi-temporal” dialectic and argue that Heritage of Our Times remains an extremely important text – posing wider questions concerning the convoluted relations between art, politics and historical time that were central to divergent modernisms and remain just as crucial today.

Keywords:modernism, utopia, Ernst Bloch, literary criticism, Expressionism, Kunstlerroman, colportage, Ungleichzeitigkeit
Subjects:Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q320 English Literature
Divisions:College of Arts > School of English & Journalism > School of English & Journalism (English)
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ID Code:5704
Deposited On:26 May 2012 08:12

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