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I've become very interested in critical theory recently, especially in the areas of Marxist Criticism and Cultural Studies. I've been reading some of the primary texts of these movements in an effort to understand where they are coming from and how they can be used in literary criticism and beyond. So far I have finished a number of short excerpts and essays as well as two books, including The Long Revolution by Raymond Williams. While all of this reading has been truly enlightening, The Long Revolution has stood out to me as one of the most interesting and mindblowing pieces of nonfiction I have ever read.
In this book, Williams sets out to describe the state of literature, democracy, education, and culture in England, how it got there, and where it's going. He does so by tracing the history of various institutions, including public education, the popular press, and standard English, and showing how they have become what they are. Using many (somewhat exhausting) pages of facts and statistics as evidence, Williams comes to stunning and revolutionary conclusions. I was absolutely blown away by his ideas because they seemed so right and felt so honest.
First, Williams sets down definitions for important terms that he will be using for the rest of the books. These terms have so many uses in casual speech that he defines the way he wants the reader to understand them in the context of his book. He defines what it means to be creative, and shows how all people create to some degree in their everyday lives. He also defines culture, not just as art and clothes and the lie, but as structures of feeling, the way people thought and felt about things, the general sense of what it was like to live in a time.Read more ›