The writings of Karl Marx initiated a historically new and unprecedented interest in the relationship between literature and society. Although his predecessor G. W. F. Hegel, in his Aesthetics, had paved the way for a thoroughgoing historicization of literature, arguing that works of art in general must be understood as “of their time,” Marx put forward a position whereby the literary work becomes a reflection of the society from which it springs. 1 The work reflects society in the ideological sense of being a coded (and for Marx ultimately illusory or misleading) representation of the interests of the dominant class. However, it also reflects society in the sense of being a reflection upon it and hence a source of significant social critique. The tension between ideology and critique, as well as the various ways in which these can be played out against each other, suggesting that in this tradition the social and the cognitive function of literature have been pivotal concerns, forms the basis for most of the debates that have raged over the promise and prospects of a Marxist literary criticism.