Eagleton then moves on to show how these factors helped shape the novels and their form and gave them both insight and limitation. Myths of Power is an important book because Terry Eagleton is a Marxist literary critic of a kind rare in Britain. Terry Eagleton is none of these but is rather a man active in the day-to-day work of socialist politics and organisation and a man prepared to write with the sense that work creates about authors people actually read — Shakespeare, Dickens, the Brontes, Graham Greene, Orwell.
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A last thought. 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.
He began his literary studies with the 19th and 20th centuries, then conformed to the stringent academic Marxism of the s. He then published an attack on his mentor Williams's relation to the Marxist tradition in the pages of the New Left Review , in the mode of the French critic Louis Althusser.
Myths of Power: A Marxist Study of the Brontes
In the s, he became involved with the left-wing Catholic group Slant , authoring a number of theological articles including A Marxist Interpretation of Benediction , as well as a book Towards a New Left Theology. Leavis and his tutor Raymond Williams to Pierre Macherey. This earliest response to Theory is critical and substantive with Eagleton supplying a dense web of categories for "a materialist criticism" which situates the author as well as the text in the general mode of production, the literary mode of production and particular ideologies.
Lawrence , and how this determines textual form in each instance.
In Literary Theory: An Introduction , revised , Eagleton surveys the history of theoretical approaches to literature, from its beginnings with Matthew Arnold, through formalism, psychoanalysis, and structuralism, to post-structuralism. In the process, he demonstrates what is the thesis of the book: that theory is necessarily political. Theory is always presented as if it is unstained by point of view and is neutral, but in fact it is impossible to avoid having a political perspective.
Peter Barry has said of the book that it "greatly contributed to the 'consolidation' of literary theory and helped to establish it firmly on the undergraduate curriculum". As his memoir The Gatekeeper recounts, Eagleton's Marxism has never been solely an academic pursuit. He has been a regular contributor to the London Review of Books. Looking back, Eagleton evaluates its achievements and failures, and proposes new directions needing to be pursued.
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He considers that among the great achievements of Theory were the expansion of objects of study to include gender, sexuality, popular culture, post-colonialism, etc. But in Eagleton's estimation there were also many serious mistakes, for instance: the assault on the normative and the insistence on the relativity of truth leaves us powerless to criticize oppression; the rejection of objectivity and excessively of all forms of essentialism bespeak an unrecognized idealism, or at least a blindness to our human materiality, ultimately born of an unconscious fear of death; and cultural studies has wrongly avoided consideration of ethics, which for Eagleton is inextricably tied to a proper politics.
It is virtue and politics and how they may be realized, among other things, that Eagleton offers as new avenues needing to be explored by cultural studies. And that is the link to his previous work, Literary Theory , which proposed that all theory is ultimately political. After Theory fleshes out this political aspect, tied to ethics, growing out of the fact that humans exist in neediness and dependency on others, their freedom bounded by the common fact of death.
Eagleton has become a vocal critic of what has been called the New Atheism. Eagleton begins by questioning Dawkins's methodology and understanding: "Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds , and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology". Eagleton further writes, "Nor does [Dawkins] understand that because God is transcendent of us which is another way of saying that he did not have to bring us about , he is free of any neurotic need for us and wants simply to be allowed to love us.
This is not only grotesquely false; it is also a device to outflank any more reflective kind of faith by implying that it belongs to the coterie and not to the mass. The huge numbers of believers who hold something like the theology I outlined above can thus be conveniently lumped with rednecks who murder abortionists and malign homosexuals.
Eagleton sees football as a new opium of the people distracting ordinary people from more serious, important social concerns. Eagleton is pessimistic as to whether this distraction can be ended:. For the most part football these days is the opium of the people, not to speak of their crack cocaine.
Its icon is the impeccably Tory, slavishly conformist Beckham. The Reds are no longer the Bolsheviks. Nobody serious about political change can shirk the fact that the game has to be abolished. And any political outfit that tried it on would have about as much chance of power as the chief executive of BP has in taking over from Oprah Winfrey.
In late , a critique of Martin Amis included in the introduction to a edition of Eagleton's book Ideology was widely reprinted in the British press. In it, Eagleton took issue with Amis' widely quoted writings on " Islamism ", directing particular attention to one specific passage from an interview with Ginny Dougary published in the Times on 9 September What can we do to raise the price of them doing this?
There's a definite urge — don't you have it?
We may first dispel … the myth of the three weird sisters deposited on the Yorkshire moors from some metaphysical outer space. The Brontes home, Haworth, was close to the center of the West Riding woollen area; and their lifetime there coincided with some of the fiercest class-struggles in English society.
Eagleton goes on to relate the disruptive social changes that the Brontes lived through and would have observed in their immediate environs. The displacement of thousands of home-based weavers by industrial mills, resulting in episodes of machine-breaking and destitute country people flocking to the towns for work.
This was a period that Marx described in Das Capital as the most horrible tragedy in English history. He saw the relationship between the landed gentry and the new industrial classes, landed and industrial capital, as the essential economic struggle of the age. The Brontes occupied an ambiguous position in this social order.
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Their father Patrick had risen from Irish peasant poverty, working as a blacksmith and linen-weaver before making his way to Cambridge and taking Anglican orders. He was a clergyman but an outsider who did not have the financial security to free his daughters from the need to make a living. The romantic freedom of their lives as children, living in their imaginations, was abruptly halted when they were sent away to school and faced the harsh realities and expectations of society.
In life, like characters in their novels, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne all had to take work as governesses, a social position that placed them just above the servants but not the equals of their employers. The awkward social position of the Victorian governess portrayed by Rebecca Solomon.
Eagleton identifies this tension between romanticism and realism as the underlying structure of the Bronte novels, a fictional analog to the Marxist class struggle. Her rejection of Heathcliff because he is socially inferior leads to destruction and spiritual suicide. Social conflict in the novel pits the labor of the Earnshaws against the idle gentry who benefit from it, the Lintons. When Heathcliff returns, having made his fortune, he represents the victory of capitalist property-dealing over the traditional yeoman economy. All right, at this point you may be forgiven for wanting to swoon over the romantic figure of Heathcliff again instead of interrogating his role in the evils of capitalism!
Anyway Marxist literary theory was soon eclipsed by new fashions in literary criticism. The most recent literary criticism of Wuthering Heights analyzes the novel through the lens of racial studies. Heathcliff was a foundling from the streets of Liverpool, a center of the slave trade at the time.
Earnshaw by an African woman. Heathcliff has been portrayed on the screen many times, notably by Lawrence Olivier. The film had a mixed reception with some questioning the casting. But historians point out that there was a presence of black people in Yorkshire at the time.