Recovering and Reconstructing Leftist Shakespeares Open Access
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Even though the name Karl Marx has survived in Shakespeare studies, more than two decades removed from the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union, Marxist Shakespeare scholars tend to shy away from deep political polemics. Marxism, in general, has lost its political charge in academia as it has become canonized as a cultural and intellectual tradition. In "Recovering and Reconstructing Leftist Shakespeares," I aim to recover a neglected Marxist history and reconstruct a Leftist political discourse in Shakespeare studies by retrieving the politics of Vladimir Lenin. To accomplish this, I turn to Shakespeare's history in the American proletarian movement of the 1920s and 1930s--a Leftist movement characterized by its support of Marxism-Leninism. By examining American proletarian literary theory, appropriations and adaptations of Shakespeare, and creative writing, I exhume this buried tradition and provide a corrective history of Shakespeare's cultural authority. I examine the relationships between art and propaganda and between proletarian culture and popular culture, and I advocate an active Leftist partisan approach to Shakespeare studies. A Leftist approach will take the intellectual Marxist tradition and re-politicize it by focusing on economic and political class relations that will complement gender, race, religious, and materialist theories. I argue that class is a social dynamic that is not mutually exclusive from any form of discrimination, and a shift to class-specific relationships with Shakespeare will ultimately complement progressive theoretical discourses.