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Eagleton, Terry

Entry updated 26 October 2021. Tagged: Author, Critic.

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Working name of UK journalist, critic, literary theorist and author Terence Eagleton (1943-    ), active from the mid-1960s. The combination of an adventurous and contentious Marxism (shaped in part by his long combative association with Raymond Williams), and a sophisticatedly undoctrinaire quasi-Christian theism (which noncombatants might fail to distinguish from deism, even as heated as here) marks him as being not dishonourable of his time. Literary Theory: an Introduction (1983) and its follow-ons was a radical spur to the English literature establishment, successfully demonstrating that practical criticism without a theoretical matrix was both ignorant and culture-bound. What he perhaps did not take into account was that, in the hands of those less talented than he, theoretical insights could easily replace readings. His analyses of the Utopian impulse in the Western world are acute.

Though his critical work has not focused noticeably on the general field of Fantastika, his one novel, Saints and Scholars (1987), is of some interest as an example of the para-historical symposium, where various historical and/or imagined characters meet and converse. In this case, around the middle of 1916 four main figures converge in Ireland: James Connolly (who had been in fact executed by the British earlier that year); Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) and Nikolai Bakhtin (1866-1940) (brother of the more famous Mikhail), who were both in Ireland at something like the right time; and Leopold Bloom, from James Joyce's Ulysses (1922). Though the narrative displays some disjointedness typical of the Mainstream Writer of SF, the conversations themselves can be both brilliant and hilarious: but in no way has Eagleton attempted to create an even remotely arguable Alternate World in which these conversations might take place, or a novel whose storyline might have an arguable consequence on the world created. His lines of discourse lead elsewhere. [JC]

Terence Francis Eagleton

born Salford [ie Manchester]: 22 February 1943

works (highly selected)


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