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This article is taken from PN Review 25, Volume 8 Number 5, May - June 1982.

Poetry and Autonomy (II) L. M. Findlay

FOR Marx, in the course of a projected introduction for his Critique of Political Economy in 1857, it was all a matter of subjugation, and imagination had to play its appointed part:


All mythology subdues, dominates and shapes the forces of nature in the imagination and through the imagination; mythology therefore disappears with the establishment of real domination over these forces. What becomes of Fama alongside Printing House Square?


In the 1980s, while we wonder about the future of Fleet Street (not to mention the more general possibility and wisdom of 'real domination' over the forces of nature), Marx's question seems to require an answer. But Marx was not naive in his assessment of the relative potency of myth and technology, so one argument runs; nor is the Marxist model of base and superstructure any more inimical to the imagination than mythology is well-disposed towards it. Imagination has always been an element in a larger system of production, and has realized through mythopoeia a purpose no less imperious and confining than the course determined for it by dialectical materialism. It is, therefore, mere outmoded cultural prejudice that leads people to assume that myth is poetry's only true begetter: with Venus hidden in the Hörselberg, the skies untuned by Newton, and God in the act of disappearing-assuming for the moment that Marx was right about 'mythology'-imagination was situated no worse than before. For all the sentimental polytheism of the poets, Marx was ...


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