Lucien Goldmann

Lucien Goldman was born in Bucharest, Romania. He studied law, political economy, literature and philosophy at universities in Bucharest, Vienna and Zurich. He is regarded as a humanist socialist. He himself called his work dialectical as well as a humanist. In the 1960s, he developed the theory of “genetic structuralism” and is known as its founder.

Goldman is one amongst those Marxist thinkers (Lois Althusser and Pierre Macherey) who moved away from the Hegelian line of thought and were under the influence of structuralist movement which was a rejection to the individual agency in favor of the broader system or structure that constructs the individual agency.

On the one hand, Louis Althusser’s structuralist Marxism is a rejection to the traditional Marxist view that favored humanist and historicist readings of Marx and authorial intention in literary texts.

On the other hand, Goldman Goldmann was averse to the idea of individual creativity. He held the view that texts are productions of larger mental structures and accepts the idea that mental structures are social construct. He developed the idea of “homology” to explain the roleplay of larger social forces and principles in literary texts. In his attempt, he sees parallels between artistic and social forms.

Goldmann attempted to bring together the genetic epistemology of Piaget and Marxist view of Lukacs and founded the theory of genetic structuralism. This attempt was made in his book The Hidden God: A Study of Tragic Vision in the Pesees of Pascal and the Tragedies of Racine.

The book, on the one hand, aims at developing a scientific method to study literary and philosophical works. On the other hand, it traces a link between a set of texts with their differences. 

In the preface to this book, Goldmann views that “facts concerning man always form themselves into significant global structures, which are at one and the same time practical, theoretical and emotive. He further emphasizes the scientific study of these structures in order that they are comprehensible within a practical perspective with a set of values.

Following this method, Goldmann explores “the tragic vision” which, he says, helped him understand and analyze the essence of phenomena of theology, philosophy and literature and their relationships which were unnoticed before.

His concept of tragic thought in the book concerns with the coherent unity of Pensees rather than its fragments. He studies the coherent unity through a general method and leaves the fragments to readers so that they are able to see if the fragments fit his general pattern or not.