Fredric Jameson (1934-) - Key Figures in Literary Theory

The Blackwell Guide to Literary Theory - Gregory Castle 2007

Fredric Jameson (1934-)
Key Figures in Literary Theory

Fredric Jameson was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and educated at Haverford College and Yale University. He received his doctorate in 1959 from Yale and began teaching at Harvard University. In 1967 he moved to the University of California, San Diego, where he taught French and comparative literature. In 1976 he returned to Yale as a professor of French, and remained until 1983. In that year, he moved to the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he taught in the History of Consciousness program. In 1986, he was named William A. Lane, Jr. Professor of Comparative Literature and director of the Graduate Program in Literature and Theory at Duke University.

His first book, Sartre: The Origins of a Style, focused on the politics and ethics of existential philosophy and their relation to the problem of style. His next two works, Marxism and Form (1971) and The Prison House of Language (1972), are steeped in Marxism and the Russian formalist tradition. His first major work, The Political Unconscious (1981), is a Marxist analysis of the early Modernist novel, stressing the ways in which ideological MASTER NARRATIVES operate at an unconscious level in the text. Following Louis Althusser’s theories of IDEOLOGY and structural causality, Jameson regards the novel as the purveyor of ideological codes that can only be grasped by the critic capable of reading the text’s “political unconscious.”

Jameson’s renown as a theorist came from his application of “postMarxist” methodology to Postmodern cultural texts. In 1984, he published his landmark essay, “Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism,” in the New Left Review. In this essay, he inaugurated a materialist critique of the Postmodern in literature, architecture, and the arts. The collection of essays by the same name, published in 1991, established Jameson as a leading theorist of Postmodernism. Much of his work in the 1990s was dedicated to the critique of Postmodernism and its relation to modernity and to a new analysis of MODERNISM, especially its relation to imperialism. Of special note is the collection of essays on the Postmodern, The Cultural Turn (1998) and a study of modernity and literary Modernism, A Singular Modernity (2002). Jameson continues to explore the implications of Postmodernism and to champion Marxism as a still-relevant approach to the study of society and culture.


Jameson, Fredric. The Ideologies of Theory: Essays 1971-1986. 2 vols. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988.

---- . The Jameson Reader. Ed. Michael Hardt and Kathi Weeks. Oxford and Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2000.

---- . The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981.

---- . Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press, 1991.

---- . A Singular Modernity: Essay on the Ontology of the Present. London: Verso, 2002.