Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Andrew McLaughlin

Committee Members

Peter Caws

Marshall Cohen

Subject Categories



This thesis deals with the philosophy of art of the British Marxist, Christopher Caudwell. It begins with a general discussion of the intellectual environment of Caudwell's day–i.e., the 1920s and 30s in Europe and especially in England. It then procedes to a presentation of Caudwell's basic philosophical position with major emphasis on his work Illusion and Reality. This is followed by a review of the critical assessment Caudwell's ideas evoked and a number of detractors and supporters are discussed. Special attention is then placed on a review of the aesthetic theory of Socialist Realism and Caudwell's relation to it. Following this discussion the aesthetics of G. W. F. Hegel are analysed and compared to those of Marxism. Caudwell is seen to be in fundamental agreement with the Hegelian and Marxist dialectical approach to the understanding of reality while yet differing on some specific judgments concerning the nature of poetry and artistic creation. Caudwell's relationship to Freud is next taken up, and by concentrating on Herbert Marcuse's Eros and Civilization, as well as Caudwell's critique of Freud, it is determined that Caudwell cannot be classified within the Freudian tradition, but also that that tradition has a more progressive and revolutionary potential than it is usually given credit for. Finally, contemporary critics of Caudwell are discussed, critics dating from the 1970s, and it is established that Caudwell's positions are usually misunderstood and mislabeled due to unfamiliarity with the methods of dialectical thinking on the part of many of the authors who have attempted to classify Caudwell as either a non-Marxist or an inconsistent one.


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