Terry Eagleton

Terry Eagleton has written around fifty books, including, most famously, Literary Theory: An Introduction (1983), and around eighty LRB pieces. His subjects have included critics (Erich Auerbach, Mikhail Bakhtin, Georg Lukacs, I.A. Richards, Stanley Fish, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak), Richard Dawkins’s God Delusion and many novels. He taught for many years at Oxford, becoming the Warton Professor of English Literature in 1992, and then at Manchester and Lancaster.

Because the social world is constructed, Bull’s sceptical stance can be transformative. You can ‘make less’ of society, in the sense of questioning its apparently inexorable laws; and if enough people do this it can make a difference, in a way that questioning the existence of marmalade doesn’t. You need to loosen things up, weaken their force, inject more uncertainty into our knowledge, so as to bring the world into line with our experience of it as ambiguous and contingent.

FredricJameson points out in this study that Walter Benjamin never wrote a book, or not of a traditional kind. His account of German baroque theatre, translated into English as The Origin of German Tragic Drama, was written in the early 1920s as an academic thesis, though it was later published as a book. Since the examiners couldn’t understand a word of this stunningly original...

Antigone on Your Knee

Terry Eagleton, 6 February 2020

When​ we were students, a friend of mine discovered that he could trump anything anybody else said by using the word ‘tragic’. If someone said he needed a new pair of glasses or was thinking of joining the civil service, the two terse, dismissive syllables were enough to bring the conversation to a halt. ‘Tragic’ is a powerful, semi-sacred word, and the artform it...

A Long Way from Galilee: Kierkegaard

Terry Eagleton, 1 August 2019

There are​ a number of modern thinkers who might be described as anti-philosophers. Anti-philosophers aren’t simply people who don’t reckon much to philosophy, but thinkers who are dissatisfied with the dominant style of philosophising of their time, and feel this way for philosophically interesting reasons. A number of them have come from peripheral nations: Kierkegaard from...

A Row of Shaws: That Bastard Shaw

Terry Eagleton, 21 June 2018

It is​ no surprise that Irish studies has become something of a heavy industry in academia. Ireland is a small nation – ‘an afterthought of Europe’, as James Joyce put it – and marginality is much in vogue at the moment. Yet it is also home to a magnificent body of literature, much of it written with wonderful convenience in the world’s premier language, and so...

Is it really so wrong? Evil

Glen Newey, 23 September 2010

English has a problem with the morally bad. Terry Eagleton reports his son’s approving reaction when told that his father was writing a book on evil: ‘Wicked!’ Words like...

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In the age of Sophocles or of Shakespeare, tragic drama concerned the deaths of nobles and notables, individuals whose lives were closely entwined with the health of the state. In the 19th...

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Putting on Some English: Eagleton’s Rise

Terence Hawkes, 7 February 2002

In the United States, ‘English’ can mean ‘spin’: a deliberate turn put on a ball by striking it so that it swerves. It’s a subtle epithet, perhaps recording a canny...

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Soft Cop, Hard Cop

Seamus Deane, 19 October 1995

Terry Eagleton’s new book, not merely a series of studies in Irish culture but one of the most noteworthy contributions to it of recent times, realigns Irish writing within contemporary...

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Saint Terence

Jonathan Bate, 23 May 1991

In 1978 Terry Eagleton wrote an essay on John Bayley in the New Left Review. It is a ritual excoriation of that most tactful of ‘liberal humanist’ critics, punctuated with predictable...

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Who can blame him?

Frank Kermode, 5 April 1990

‘Something is happening to the way we think,’ said Clifford Geertz in 1980, and Stanley Fish is right to add that Geertz was partly responsible for the shift. But Fish, in a bold essay...

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R.W. Johnson, 8 February 1990

Raymond Williams’s death in January 1988 has been followed by an avalanche of obituarial tribute. To some extent, the tributes were a matter of the Left giving a last, sad cheer for one of...

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Unquiet Deaths

Patrick Parrinder, 3 September 1987

According to John Ruskin, ‘in the work of the great masters death is always either heroic, deserved, or quiet and natural.’ Not so in Marguerite Yourcenar’s world. She is...

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Pamphleteer’s Progress

Patrick Parrinder, 7 February 1985

Terry Eagleton’s books have been getting shorter recently. It is eight years since he offered to re-situate literary criticism on the ‘alternative terrain of scientific...

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From Plato to Nato

Christopher Norris, 7 July 1983

Eagleton’s book is both a primer and a postmortem. It surveys the varieties of recent and present-day literary theory, only to suggest – in its closing chapter – that they had...

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Michael Wood, 5 May 1983

‘All the unhurried day,’ Philip Larkin wrote, addressing a long-dead girl who had been drugged and raped in London, ‘Your mind lay open like a drawer of knives.’ All that...

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