Title

CULTURAL THEORY AND LITERARY CRITICISM IN THE "PRISON NOTEBOOKS" OF ANTONIO GRAMSCI

Date of Completion

January 1981

Keywords

Literature, Romance

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

Antonio Gramsci was jailed by Italian Fascists in 1926. During his imprisonment, he fought against his social isolation through the compilation of notes emerging from his study of problems ranging from economics to popular culture.^ The present dissertation comprises four major sections. The first of these analyzes the particular conformation of the Notebooks and contends that the fragmentary, non-hierarchical nature of the notes is only in part due to the special circumstances of their composition. Indeed, these expressive modes are assessed positively as textual acts challenging the conventions of traditional politico-philosophical discourse.^ The second major division concentrates on Gramsci's critique of the works and import of Benedetto Croce. The "Anti-Croce" of the Notebooks is shown to be the result of a dialectical interchange of rejection and appropriation.^ The third area of concentration locates and analyzes the grammar of Gramsci's theories on the organization of culture in Italy and the West. Attention is focussed on key Gramscian concepts (e.g., structure and superstructure, the traditional and the "organic" intellectual, hegemony, etc.). From this point emerges an analysis of those areas in the Notebooks constituting a possible sociology of literature.^ The last major section examines elements of literary criticism in Gramsci's work. Topics such as the unity of form and content, the Notebooks' analysis of the tenth canto of Dante's Inferno, Futurism, Manzoni, Pirandello and the theater are studied as a critical practice calling to task the postulates of idealist literary criticism and the reductionism of the positivists and vulgar Marxists.^ The general aim of the study has been twofold. First, it has worked to extract and examine critically those areas of the Prison Notebooks contributing to the corpus of non-dogmatic Marxist cultural and literary theory. Secondly, the present study emphasizes points in Gramsci's work of relevance to those seeking a theoretical and practical alternative to the organization of culture and utilization of the creative processes within contemporary capitalist civilization in the West. ^