Recurrent Terms in Marxist Literary Criticism

Base vs. Superstructure: "Base" in Marxism refers to economic base. "Superstructure", according to Marx and Engels emerges from this base and consists of law, politics, philosophy, religion, and art.

Ideology: the shared beliefs and values held in an unquestioning manner by a culture. It governs what that culture deems to be normative and valuable. For Marxists, ideology is determined by economics. A rough approximation: "tell me how much money you have and I'll tell you how you think."

Hegemony: coined by the Italian theorist Antonio Gramsci, this "refers to the pervasive system of assumptions, meanings, and values - the web of ideologies, in other words, that shapes the way things look, what they mean, and therefore what reality is for the majority of people within a given culture".

Reification: often used to describe the way in which people are turned into commodities useful in market exchange. For example, some would argue that the media's obsession with tragedy (e.g. the deaths of Jon Benet Ramsay, Diana Princess of Wales, John F Kennedy Junior, the murders at Columbine High School in Colorado) make commodity out of grief. The media expresses sympathy but economically thrives on these events through ratings boost.

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