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The Portrayal of Subjectivity and Ideology in Ginsberg's Poems

Discuss about the Marxist Concept of Ideology Critique.

Ideology is defined as a certain set of ideals, principles of a person which influences the thinking and actions of a person. It is defined as the imaginary relationship between individuals and their surroundings. Subjectivity is defined as how the judgment of a person is influenced by their opinions and feelings. The purpose of this paper is to focus on how Ginsberg shows subjectivity and ideology in his poems. To further analyze these concepts, the poems Howl and America by Ginsberg are chosen.

In his poem America, Ginsberg exposes tensions and conflicts happening within the nation and national identity[1]. He expresses his views against the country, as he feels it is betraying their own ideology. In this poem, he indulges in a conversation with a personified image of his country. He expresses negative opinions about an environment of censorship and oppression within America, and a feeling of hopeless about his life and work in this environment. He also expresses anti-war and anti-militarism mentality in this poem. It rejects all political, social and cultural ideology of the nation and criticizes contemporary American society. He also reveals injustices within society and speaks for oppressed people of the country[2].  During that time there was a strong anti-communist mentality among Americans and the poet expresses his views about this mentality. He openly says he is a communist in this poem. He also discusses about issues like drugs, madness, homosexuality, which are considered as taboo at that time are also stated. In the poem, he combines the challenges related to his personal identity to political identity of the country.  America is identified in this poem as his lost lover, who have prompted him to become a saint. He tries to find something common, in his personal ideology as well as the ideology of America. In this poem, he struggles to relate his ideology of freedom, justice and acceptance with the cultural and political ideology of America[3]. Role of media is also criticized by him along with its effects on the emotional life of fellow Americans.

 Walt Whitman has a significant influence on the political ideology of Ginsberg. He agreed with his idea of equality and individuality, despite having a different view about the country. Using the style of controversial writing expresses negative opinions about the social and political beliefs of his contemporary American society[4]. He wishes to change the perspective of his fellow Americans with the help of his writing. He expresses his views about the rise of xenophobia within the country, especially the fear of Russia and Asia. It also makes a reference to his connections to the Eastern culture and traditions. Ideology is defined to play a significant factor in the development of the personality of an individual and it also plays a significant role in literature. The poem also expresses views about the struggles he has been facing, regarding his relationships with his family, and realizing and accepting his homosexuality. There is a direct relationship between the ideology and subjectivity in this poem. Both of these issues are not considered to be a stable, both of the differences in personal values and beliefs with reality[5]. In this case, he is not happy with the political state of the country and he is confused about his place in the country.  He questions the concepts of capitalism, consumerism and liberal democracy in all of his poems, including America. In one line he also states, that he has given everything to his beloved country and he is left with nothing.  

America

The poet does not have an easy relationship with the contemporary authority and their rules and regulations. His ideology does not match with the reality of the contemporary American society, and he expressed strong opinions against it. It expresses his sentiments towards the Wobblies, a Leftist group of workers. He also states that his sentiments towards this group because of his mother, and he is not ashamed of this fact. It exposes his struggle to validate his feelings and feelings, with the help of modern psychology[6]. In this poem, he tries to justify his lifestyle of shirking responsibility. However, later in the poem, he took responsibility for his actions and opinions.  He uses the colloquial language to ridicule the ignorance of his fellow Americans. The writer suddenly realizes that his own willingness to accept the roles of a career in the context of America allows him to be a part of the country itself. The personified image of America is accused by him to be in a silly mood, and it is preventing him to write about the faults of American society.  This is how he relates the concepts of subjectivity and ideology in his poems.

Ideology is considered as an imaginary relationship between individuals and the real conditions of their existence[7].  In literature, it plays a significant role in the generation of subjectivity in the works of the writers. In Howl, Ginsberg expresses the struggles of the people who were oppressed in his time. This poem can be defined as a destructive poem, as it expresses his opinions about madness, oppression, capitalism, and exploitation. It expresses hatred for everything which is considered normal at the time by the contemporary American society. In the first part, he rejected the idea of American capitalism along with its social and religious values. The poet himself is struggling to find his identity in this society, as his ideology does not match with the ideology of the society[8]. He also has strong views about censorship and cultural oppression, and he also provides a voice to the oppressed. He is inspired by the political views of Whitman and believes in freedom of speech and emotional expression. The author along with others are silenced and forced to hear what the dominant culture has to say. A writer does not have the freedom to just express their views, they are bounded by their political and social conditions while producing their work. Similarly, Ginsberg is also constrained by the political, social and religious conditions.  According to him, the madness suffered by his friends is a result of captivity and the feeling of being outcasts of the society. These individuals are constantly battling with the social and religious uniformity.    

Howl

In this poem, Ginsberg views himself as an outcast too, and he laments that many of his generations are suffering from madness. He uses his writing to speak as a counterculture insider to engage with the American public and their issues[9]. He fears that he too can suffer from madness and is struggling to cope with the idea. It expresses his anger at the contemporary society and the ideologies associated with it.  Here the military, industrial and nationalist complex of fellow Americans is targeted by him. This complex plays a significant role in developing a certain kind of mentality among them, which is described by him as unthinking patriotism.  The second part focuses on Moloch, which symbolizes the effects of American capitalism[10].  During this time, the country started developing atom bombs, which have the capacity to destroy the entire world. It examines the ideology of the country for which the best and capable minds of America was sacrificed. Here he refers to Moloch as an ideological apparatus, capable enough to frighten him out of his happiness and natural ecstasy. it criticizes the ideology of industrial modernity and its effects on the society. He describes the Government as the reason of sorrows and bad news for the citizens of the country. He has always faced the challenge to fit right into the society. He asks questions about his living in his poems, and he is uncertain of his own identity.  

The writer refers to madness as the rebellion against the effects of American consumerism and capitalism. He did not have a good relationship with government and authority in his entire life, which is reflected well in his writings. His personality is shaped with the help of his ideology, which is justice and equality[11].  It also raises a voice against state institutions and asylums designed to control non-conformism with the main culture among Americans.  His uncertainty regarding his identity is clearly expressed in his poems. He considers himself different from society, he is able to observe his actions along with others. He faces a dilemma in his life, which influences his writing to a significant extent. In the footnotes of the poem, he celebrates holy cleansing, which is able to remove the effects of consumerism and capitalism[12]. The third part of the poem represents the post-war counterculture, which rebels against the mainstream culture of America. The practices which do not conform to the social norms of the country at that time is referred as sanity and ecstatic by the poet. He does not like the way America is heading either politically or socially.

Conclusion

It can be concluded from the paper that Ginsberg has used his writing to rebel against American consumerism and capitalism. The poet uses both ideology and subjectivity and the interrelation to express his views about the political, social and religious norms of the country.

References

Aslanidis, Paris. "Is populism an ideology? A refutation and a new perspective." Political Studies 64, no. 1_suppl (2016): 88-104.

Bennett, Andrew, and Nicholas Royle. An Introduction To Literature, Criticism, And Theory. Taylor and Francis, 2016. 

Donaldson, Stewart I., Maren Dollwet, and Meghana A. Rao. "Happiness, excellence, and optimal human functioning revisited: Examining the peer-reviewed literature linked to positive psychology." The Journal of Positive Psychology 10, no. 3 (2015): 185-195.

Gunster, Shane. "This changes everything: Capitalism vs the climate." (2017): 136-138.

Hanauer, David I. "Measuring voice in poetry written by second language learners." Written Communication 32, no. 1 (2015): 66-86.

Khalifa, Muhammad A., Mark Anthony Gooden, and James Earl Davis. "Culturally responsive school leadership: A synthesis of the literature." Review of Educational Research 86, no. 4 (2016): 1272-1311.

Ledesma, María C., and Dolores Calderón. "Critical race theory in education: A review of past literature and a look to the future." Qualitative Inquiry 21, no. 3 (2015): 206-222.

Radstone, Susannah, and Katharine Hodgkin. "Introduction: contested pasts." In Memory, History, Nation, pp. 1-22. Routledge, 2017.

Shin, Hyunjung, and Joseph Sung-Yul Park. "Researching language and neoliberalism." Journal of multilingual and multicultural development 37, no. 5 (2016): 443-452.

Slater, Graham B. "Education as recovery: Neoliberalism, school reform, and the politics of crisis." Journal of education policy 30, no. 1 (2015): 1-20.

Strickland, Ronald. "The western Marxist concept of ideology critique." VNU Journal of Science: Social Sciences and Humanities 28, no. 5E (2016).

Türken, Salman, Hilde Eileen Nafstad, Rolv Mikkel Blakar, and Katrina Roen. "Making sense of neoliberal subjectivity: A discourse analysis of media language on self-development." Globalizations 13, no. 1 (2016): 32-46.

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