“Karl Marx Staging ‘English’”
In 1862 Karl Marx published in a Viennese newspaper a short article called « English » (the title was left in English in the original) that, among many things, discussed Shakespeare, the nature of individuality, the English painter Sir Edwin Landseer, the problem of justice, and the value of coats. Little known today, the article also features Marx’s only mature work as a playwright since he gave up writing literature decades before.
My proposed talk will read this article closely, with special emphasis on its own dramatic performance, in order to return to longstanding questions about « Marxism and theater »–questions raised explicitly by Althusser and his theoretical heirs as well as implicitly in Austinian theories of performativity. What does Marx do in « English » that challenges received answers to these questions?
I am Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Rutgers University, New Brunswick (USA). My recent publications include The Theorist’s Mother (Duke University Press 2012) and After Sex? On Writing Since Queer Theory, co-edited with Janet Halley (Duke University Press 2011). I was also co-editor with Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick of Performativity and Performance (Routledge 1995), a collection of essays that helped to inaugurate an ongoing dialogue between speech act theory and performance studies.