Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of English

Content Description

1 online resource (iii, 244 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Teresa L Ebert

Committee Members

Michael K Hill, Bret Benjamin


Critical Theory, Dialectics, Hermeneutics, Interpretation, Marxism, Reading, Dialectic, Dialectical materialism, Capitalism and literature, Postmodernism

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Comparative Literature | Philosophy


Fredric Jameson’s theory and practice of reading, in the name of critical interventions into the dominant hermeneutics in literary and cultural texts, have limited transformative readings and provided interpretive alibis, though an ever-receding utopian writerly space, for cultural reform within capitalism. Deploying a materialist analytics, The Dialectics of Reading draws out Jameson’s interpretive ambivalence, unlayers its class interests and demonstrates how in Jameson’s interpretations—from his Sartre: Origins of Style to An American Utopia: Dual Power and the Universal Army—the dominant material relationships are grasped as dialectical reading. In a detailed interpretation of his interpretation of “Walmart,” The Dialectics of Reading marks the (class) crisis that fashions Jameson’s (late) dialectic and the logic of his utopia. In his readings, Jameson inverts dialectics into an apparatus of equilibrium by claiming that to grasp complexities of a text one has to trace their meditations—the valences. Mediation in his reading becomes a balancing of opposing social forces of affirmation and negation, Ideology and Utopia. In his writings, dialectic becomes a “stalled dialectic,” which is another way of saying that after tracing mediations and by means of a thick eclecticism in which texts of Marxist thinkers are woven into writings of bourgeois theorists, in Marxist vocabularies, his readings, reify the way things are. Theorizing in the tradition of Marx’s Grundrisse, The Dialectics of Reading undoes Jameson’s formalism by arguing that reading the complexities of texts of culture is always and ultimately a reading of the (class) contents of texts which is the effect of dialectics of relationships of labor and capital. The form is the plane of appearance of this dialectics. One of the main issues that The Dialectics of Reading raises is Jameson’s concept of “History” through which he unravels Marxist theory of history as class struggles. His “Always historcize!” is, in other words, the putting in ruins of the Marxist concept of “mode of production.” Jameson’s “complexity”—the most valued of values in dominant hermeneutics—The Dialectics of Reading argues, has been a highly influential instrument of class mystification, a feature that he shares with such anti-dialectical thinkers as Bruno Latour. His interpretations which are represented as transgressions of limits of readings imposed by the culture of capital, it turns out, are part of a powerful tendency in liberal thought that affirms capitalism from its left and since it is from the left it is all the more effective. Jameson’s anecdote, “someone once said that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism” (“Future City,” in New Left Review, 21 May-June 2003), turns this affirmation into a cultural meme. The Dialectics of Reading is an argument against this interpretive fatalism.