Marxism and Literary Criticism by Terry EagletonIs Marx relevant any more? Why should we care what he wrote? What difference could it make to our reading of literature? Terry Eagleton, one of the foremost critics of our generation, has some answers in this wonderfully clear and readable analysis. Sharp and concise, it is, without doubt, the most important work on literary criticism that has emerged out of the tradition of Marxist philosophy and social theory since the nineteenth century.
Eagleton has published over forty books, but remains best known for Literary Theory: An Introduction , which has sold over , copies. He has also been a prominent critic of postmodernism , publishing works such as The Illusions of Postmodernism and After Theory He argues that, influenced by postmodernism, cultural theory has wrongly devalued objectivity and ethics. His thinking is influenced by Marxism and by Christian faith. His mother's side of the family had strong Irish republican sympathies. He served as an altar boy at a local Carmelite convent where he was responsible for escorting novice nuns taking their vows, a role referred to in the title of his memoir The Gatekeeper. At Wadham, Eagleton ran a well-known seminar on Marxist literary theory which, in the s, metamorphosed into the radical pressure group Oxford English Limited and its journal News from Nowhere: Journal of the Oxford English Faculty Opposition , to which he contributed several pieces.
Marxist literary criticism is becoming increasingly important in Europe as a whole, and interest in the subject is rapidly growing in this country. In this book, Dr. Eagleton analyses the major issues that the subject presents, discussing the writing of Marx and Engels themselves and the work of such critics as Plekhanov, Trotsky, Lenin, Lukacs, Goldmann, Caudwell, Benjamin and Brecht. They are seen from four viewpoints central to Marxist thought: the relation of literature to history, the problem of 'form' and 'content' in literature, the question of literature and political commitment, and the importance of production and technology in art. Eagleton's exploration of these critical stances throws useful light on the connection between the Marxist approach and structuralism. The author stresses, however, that Marxist criticism cannot be seen simply in academic terms.
Terence Francis Eagleton b: , a student of Raymond Williams , is a literary theorist, and since the s, widely regarded as the most influential British Marxist critic. In Criticism and Ideology , he argues that a literary text is not merely an expression of ideology, but the production of ideology. Also, he examines various ideologies outside the text and the particular ideology of a text. Literary Theory: An Introduction traces the history of the study of texts, from the Romantics of the nineteenth century to the postmodernists of the later twentieth century. In The Ideology of the Aesthetic , he presents a history and critique of the idea. His After Theory presents a kind of indictment of current cultural and literary theory, and what Eagleton regards as the bastardisation of both.
Material production is regarded as the ultimate determining factor of social existence and class struggle is viewed as the central dynamic of historical.
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His specialities are literary and cultural theory and the English-language literature and culture of Ireland, on which he has recently completed a trilogy of works. He is also becoming rather more broadly involved in comparative literature, and a recent book on tragedy considers the literature of various European cultures. There is simply no other cultural critic writing today who can match his popularity or his prolific output. His work has made an impact on the teaching of literary and cultural studies throughout Europe, and in almost every part of the world including China, Japan, India, Russia, Australia, Canada and the United States. In The Gatekeeper: A Memoir , Eagleton discusses his large output of work with humour and self-effacement.