English 456: C20 Criticism and Theory

Questions on Gramsci's "The Formation of the Intellectuals"
from Prison Notebooks (Norton Anthology Selection)

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1. How does Gramsci most broadly define the term "intellectual"? In what sense does his interest in the intellectual point to a recalibration of Marxist notions about class and ideology?

2. What is the distinction between "traditional" and "organic" intellectuals?

3. Why do traditional intellectuals consider themselves relatively or even entirely free from the dominant social group? Why is this perception on their part significant for Gramsci's social theory?

4. What kind of new intellectual does Gramsci promote (especially in his early socialist magazine, Ordine Nuovo) -- what leads to the development of this new kind of intellectual, and what will such people accomplish? (1141)

5. What is the difference between an intellectual who is "specialized" and one who is "directive"? (1141) How is this concept of "specialization" significant with regard to Gramsci's Marxist framework of analysis?

6. How does Gramsci delineate what he calls the two levels of superstructure? (1142) What is "hegemony," and how is its operation different from State authority?

7. Ultimately, Gramsci is trying to lend his analysis a kind of suppleness that the older Marxist framework and Leninism lacked. Does this selection on intellectuals and hegemony seem promising in that light? Does Gramsci's view help explain why capitalism has survived longer than Marx and the early Soviets thought it would?

Edition: The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: Norton, 2001. ISBN: 0393974294.