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Culture as Politics: Selected Writings of Christopher Caudwell


Considered by many to be the most innovative British Marxist writer of the twentieth century, Christopher Caudwell was killed in the Spanish Civil War at the age of 29. Although already a published writer of aeronautic texts and crime fiction, he was practically unknown to the public until reviews appeared of Illusion and Reality: A Study of the Sources of Poetry, which was published just after his death. A strikingly original study of poetry’s role, it explained in clear language how the organizing of emotion in society plays a part in social change and development.

Caudwell had a powerful interest in how things worked—aeronautics, physics, human psychology, language, and society. In the anti-fascist struggles of the 1930s he saw that capitalism was a system that could not work properly and distorted the thinking of the age. Self-educated from the age of 15, he wrote with a directness that is alien to most cultural theory. Culture as Politics introduces Caudwell’s work through his most accessible and relevant writing. Material will be drawn from Illusion and Reality, Studies in a Dying Culture and his essay, “Heredity and Development.”

It is not difficult to see Caudwell as a phenomenon—as an extraordinary shooting-star crossing England’s empirical night.

—E. P. Thompson, historian, author, The Making of the English Working Class

The selection of writings presented here does justice to the richness of Caudwell’s thought, and will introduce a whole new generation of readers to this remarkable thinker.

—Anindya Raychaudhuri, School of English, University of St. Andrews

A revealing set of texts by the most important British Marxist cultural critic before World War II, metculously and lovingly edited by the greatest contemporary expert in the field. Indispensable.

—Edith Hall, Professor of Classics, King’s College University of London

Christopher Caudwell (1907-1937) was the pen name of Christopher St. John Sprigg, a British Marxist poet, writer, and thinker. He joined the Communist Party in 1935, and soon became a dedicated grassroots activist, continuing his writing, even though none of his Marxist works were printed during his lifetime. In 1936, he left for Spain to join the International Brigades in the anti-fascist struggle against Franco. He was killed in the valley of Jarama, February 12, 1937, during his first day of battle.

David Margolies is Professor Emeritus of English at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the editor of the cultural politics journal Red Letters, edited Writing the Revolution: Cultural Criticism from Left Review, and is the author of Monsters of the Deep: Social Dissolution in Shakespeare’s Tragedies

SKU: mrp6868 Categories: , , , Tags: ,
Topics: Marxism Places: Western Europe

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-58367-686-8

eBook ISBN: 978-1-58367-688-2

Cloth ISBN: 978-1-58367-687-5

Publication Date: March 2018

Number of Pages: 184