Terry Eagleton holding one of his books after a talk in Mechanics' Institute, Manchester in 2008
|Born||Terence Francis Eagleton
February 22, 1943 
|Era||20th- / 21st-century philosophy|
|Books||Literary Theory: An Introduction (1983),
The Ideology of the Aesthetic (1990),
The Illusions of Postmodernism (1996)
|Notable ideas||good utopianism/bad utopianism|
Terence Francis 'Terry' Eagleton FBA (born 22 February 1943) is an English literary theorist and critic, widely regarded as the United Kingdom's most influential living literary critic. Eagleton is currently Distinguished Professor of English Literature at Lancaster University; Professor of Cultural Theory at the National University of Ireland and Distinguished Visiting Professor of English Literature at The University of Notre Dame.
Formerly Thomas Warton Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford (1992–2001) and John Edward Taylor Professor of Cultural Theory at the University of Manchester (2001-2008) Eagleton has held visiting appointments at universities around the world including Cornell, Duke, Iowa, Melbourne, Notre Dame, Trinity College Dublin, and Yale.
Eagleton has published over forty books, including The Ideology of the Aesthetic (1990), The Illusions of Postmodernism (1996) and Literary Theory: An Introduction (1983). A Marxist, in 2011 he published Why Marx Was Right.
Eagleton delivered Yale University's 2008 Terry Lectures and the 2010 Edinburgh Gifford Lecture entitled The God Debate. He gave the 2010 Richard Price Memorial Lecture at the historically radical Newington Green Unitarian Church, speaking on "The New Atheism and the War on Terror".
Eagleton was born to Francis Paul Eagleton and Rosaleen (née Riley). He grew up in a working-class Irish Catholic family in Salford, England, with roots in County Galway. His mother's side of the family had strong 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.
Education and academia
He was educated at De La Salle College, a Roman Catholic grammar school in Salford. He later attended Trinity College, Cambridge, where he earned both his M.A. and Ph.D. In 1964 he became the youngest Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge since the eighteenth century. In 1969 he moved to Oxford where he became a fellow and tutor of Wadham College (1969-1989), Linacre College (1989-1993) and St Catherine's College becoming Thomas Warton Professor of English in 1992. In 2001 Eagleton left Oxford to occupy the John Edward Taylor chair of Cultural Theory at the University of Manchester.
At Cambridge, Eagleton was a student of the left-wing literary critic Raymond Williams. He began his literary studies with the 19th and 20th centuries, then conformed to the stringent academic Marxism of the 1970s. 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. During the 1960s, 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. His most recent publications suggest a renewed interest in theological themes. Another significant theoretical influence on Eagleton is psychoanalysis.
Literary Theory: an Introduction (1983, revised 1996), probably his best-known work, traces the history of the study of texts, from the Romantics of the nineteenth century to the postmodernists of the later twentieth century. Eagleton's approach to literary criticism remains firmly rooted in the Marxian tradition though he has also incorporated techniques and ideas from more recent modes of thought as structuralism, Lacanian analysis, and deconstruction.
As his memoir The Gatekeeper recounts, Eagleton's Marxism has never been solely an academic pursuit. He was active (along with fellow academic Christopher Hitchens) in both the International Socialists and Workers' Socialist League whilst in Oxford. He is a regular contributor to the London Review of Books.
After Theory (2003) represents a kind of about-face: an indictment of current cultural and literary theory, and what Eagleton regards as the bastardisation of both. He does not, however, conclude that the interdisciplinary study of literature and culture that comprises Theory is without merit. In fact, Eagleton argues that such a merging is effective in opening cultural study to a wider range of significant topics. His indictment instead centers on "relativism"—theorists' and postmodernity's rejection of absolutes. He concludes that an absolute does exist: Every person lives in a body that cannot be owned because nothing was done to acquire it, and nothing (besides suicide) can be done to be rid of it. Our bodies and their subsequent deaths provide the absolute around which humankind can focus its actions.
Dawkins, Hitchens and the New Atheism
Eagleton has become a vocal critic of what he has called the New Atheism. In October 2006, he published a review of Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion in the London Review of Books. 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." He concludes by suggesting Dawkins has not been attacking organised faith so much as a sort of rhetorical straw man: "Apart from the occasional perfunctory gesture to ‘sophisticated’ religious believers, Dawkins tends to see religion and fundamentalist religion as one and the same. 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."
Terry and Gifford Lectures
In April 2008 Eagleton delivered Yale University's Terry Lectures with the title of his subject being, Faith and Fundamentalism: Is belief in Richard Dawkins necessary for salvation? constituting a continuation of the critique he had begun in The London Review of Books. Introducing his first lecture with an admission of ignorance of both theology and science Eagleton goes on to affirm, "All I can claim in this respect, alas, is that I think I may know just about enough theology to be able to spot when someone like Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens—a couplet I shall henceforth reduce for convenience to the solitary signifier Ditchkins—is talking out of the back of his neck."
Eagleton's Terry lectures were published in 2009, in Reason, Faith, and Revolution.
Comments on football
During the 2010 Football World Cup, Eagleton described the mass following of football as an impediment to political change. He wrote in The Guardian, "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." Eagleton concluded: "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."
Criticism of Martin and Kingsley Amis
In late 2007, a critique of Martin Amis included in the introduction to a 2007 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 London Times on September 9, 2006.
What can we do to raise the price of them doing this? There’s a definite urge—don’t you have it?—to say, ‘The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.’ What sort of suffering? Not letting them travel. Deportation—further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan... Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children...It’s a huge dereliction on their part.
Eagleton criticised Amis for the passage, and expressed surprise as to its source, stating: "[these are] not the ramblings of a British National Party thug ... but the reflections of Martin Amis, leading luminary of the English metropolitan literary world." Eagleton drew a connection between Amis and his father (the novelist Kingsley Amis). The younger writer, Eagleton went on to write, had learnt more from his father—whom Eagleton described as "a racist, anti-Semitic boor, a drink-sodden, self-hating reviler of women, gays and liberals" and "reactionary"—than merely "how to turn a shapely phrase". Eagleton went on to argue that "there is something rather stomach-churning at the sight of those such as Amis and his political allies, champions of a civilisation that for centuries has wreaked untold carnage throughout the world, shrieking for illegal measures when they find themselves for the first time on the sticky end of the same treatment".
The essay became a cause célèbre in British literary circles. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, a commentator for The Independent, wrote an editorial about the affair; Amis responded via open letter, calling Eagleton "an ideological relict" who would be "unable to get out of bed in the morning without the dual guidance of God and Karl Marx". Amis said that the view Eagleton attributed to him as his considered opinion was in fact his spoken description of a tempting urge, in relation to the need to "raise the price" of terrorist actions.
Eagleton's personal comments on Amis' father, the novelist Kingsley Amis, prompted a further response from Kingsley's widow, the novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard. Howard wrote to The Daily Telegraph, noting that for a supposed "anti-semitic homophobe", it was peculiar that the only guests at the Howard-Amis nuptials should have been either Jewish or gay. As Howard explained, "Kingsley was never a racist, nor an anti-Semitic boor. Our four great friends who witnessed our wedding were three Jews and one homosexual." In a later interview, Howard added: 'I have never even heard of this man Eagleton. But he seems to be a rather lethal combination of a Roman Catholic and a Marxist ... He strikes me as like a spitting cobra: if you get within his range he'll unleash some poison.'
Eagleton defended his comments about Martin and Kingsley Amis by article in The Guardian, claiming that the main bone of contention—the substance of Amis' remarks and views—had been lost amid the media furore.
William Deresiewicz wrote of After Theory, Eagleton's book, as follows:
- "[I]s it that hard to explain what Eagleton's up to? The prolificness, the self-plagiarism, the snappy, highly consumable prose and, of course, the sales figures: Eagleton wishes for capitalism's demise, but as long as it's here, he plans to do as well as he can out of it. Someone who owns three homes shouldn't be preaching self-sacrifice, and someone whose careerism at Oxbridge was legendary shouldn't be telling interviewers of his longstanding regret at having turned down a job at the Open University."
- Some of Theory's achievements are genuine and permanent additions to knowledge, or intellectual self-knowledge. Eagleton is quite right to assert that we can never go back to a state of pre-Theory innocence about the transparency of language or the ideological neutrality of interpretation ... But like all fashions it was bound to have a limited life of novelty and vitality, and we are now living through its decadence without any clear indication of what will supersede it. Theory has, in short, become boringly predictable to many people who were once enthusiastic about it, and that After Theory is most interesting when its focus is furthest from its nominal subject is perhaps evidence that Terry Eagleton is now bored by it too.
- The New Left Church [as Terence Eagleton] (1966)
- Shakespeare and Society
- Exiles And Émigrés: Studies in Modern Literature (1970)
- The Body as Language : outline of a new left theology (1970)
- Criticism & Ideology (1976)
- Marxism and Literary Criticism (1976)
- Walter Benjamin, or Towards a Revolutionary Criticism (1981)
- The Rape of Clarissa: Writing, Sexuality, and Class Struggle in Samuel Richardson. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982
- Literary Theory: An Introduction. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983
- The Function of Criticism (1984)
- Saint Oscar (a play about Oscar Wilde)
- Saints and Scholars (a novel, 1987)
- Raymond Williams: Critical Perspectives (editor) Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1989.
- The Significance of Theory (1989)
- The Ideology of the Aesthetic (1990)
- Nationalism, Colonialism, and Literature. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990
- Ideology: An Introduction (1991/2007)
- Wittgenstein: The Terry Eagleton Script, The Derek Jarman Film (1993)
- Literary Theory. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996
- The Illusions of Postmodernism (1996)
- "Heathcliff and the Great Hunger" (1996)
- Marx (1997)
- "Crazy John and the Bishop and Other Essays on Irish Culture" (1998)
- The Idea of Culture (2000)
- The Gatekeeper: A Memoir (2001)
- The Truth about the Irish (2001)
- Sweet Violence: The Idea of the Tragic (2002)
- After Theory (2003)
- Figures of dissent: Reviewing Fish, Spivak, Zizek and Others (2003)
- The English Novel: An Introduction (2004)
- Holy Terror (2005)
- The Meaning of Life (2007)
- How to Read a Poem (2007)
- Trouble with Strangers: A Study of Ethics (2008)
- Literary Theory. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008
- Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate (2009)
- On Evil (2010)
- Why Marx Was Right (2011)
- The Event of Literature (2012), Yale University Press
- Prof Terry Eagleton, FBA Authorised Biography – Debrett’s People of Today, Prof Terry Eagleton, FBA Profile
- T. Eagleton, Ideology: An Introduction (1991), p. 131.
- Vallelly, Paul (13 Oct 2007). "Terry Eagleton: Class warrior". The Independent. "...the man who succeeded F R Leavis as Britain's most influential academic critic."
- Professor John Sitter, Chairman of the English Department at the University of Notre Dame and Editor of The Cambridge Companion to Eighteenth Century Poetry, describes Eagleton as "someone widely regarded as the most influential contemporary literary critic and theorist in the English-speaking world" 
- "Eagleton himself has also replaced Leavis as the best known and most influential academic critic in Britain." Duke Maskell cited by Nicholas Wroe 
- "Terry Eagleton is arguably the most influential contemporary British literary critic and theorist." James Smith. Cited in the Introduction to Terry Eagleton: A Critical Introduction (Key Contemporary Thinkers) Polity Press, 2008
- Blakey, Marie (11 May 2009). "Terry Eagleton Returns to ND as Distinguished Visitor in English Department". College of Arts and Letters. University of Notre Dame.
- Departmental web page at Lancaster
- "Professor Terry Eagleton". College of Humanities & Social Science. University of Edinburgh.
- "Terry Eagleton to speak at Newington Green". Hackney Citizen. 2010-08-29. Retrieved 2011-12-30.
- ‘EAGLETON, Prof. Terence Francis’, Who's Who 2012, A & C Black, 2012; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2011 ; online edn, Nov 2011 accessed 23 Sept 2012
- Andrews, Kernan (18 December 2008). "Terry Eagleton — taking on the capitalists and atheists in Galway". Galway Advertiser.
- Wroe, Nicholas (2 February 2002). "Guardian Profile: High priest of lit crit". The Guardian (London).
- Eagleton, Terry (2006-10-19). "Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching". London Review of Books 28 (20). Retrieved 2006-11-26.
- Terry Eagleton (lecturer) (2008-04-01). Christianity Fair and Foul (rm) (Podcast). Yale University. Event occurs at 6:23. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
- Eagleton, Terry (1-10 Apr 2008). "Faith and Fundamentalism: Is Belief in Richard Dawkins Necessary for Salvation?". Dwight H. Terry Lectureship. Yale University.
- Eagleton, Terry (2010-06-15). "Football: a dear friend to capitalism". The Guardian (London).
- The voice of experience | Ginny Dougary :: Award-winning journalist and writer
- Eagleton, Terry (10 October 2007). "Rebuking obnoxious views is not just a personality kink". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2008-07-01.
- Brown, Jonathan (12 October 2007). "Amis launches scathing response to accusations of Islamophobia". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
- Cockcroft, Lucy (10 October 2007). "Family defends 'racist' Sir Kingsley Amis". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
- Levy, Geoffrey (11 October 2007). "Spicier than a novel, the literary feud raging between the Amis dynasty and the Marxist critic". Mail Online.
- Deresiewicz, William (29 January 2004). "The Business of Theory". The Nation. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
- Lodge, David (27 May 2004). "Goodbye to All That" (fee required). The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
- James Smith, Terry Eagleton, Polity, 2008.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Terry Eagleton|
- "High Priest of Lit Crit", The Guardian February 2, 2002 – profile on the publication of his memoir, The Gatekeeper
- Some articles by Eagleton from the London Review of Books
- Article on socialism
- "The roots of terror"
- Terry Eagleton at British Council: Literature
- Tim Adams, "The Armchair Revolutionary" (interview), The Observer, 16 December 2007
- Dawkins/Eagleton knol by Klaus Rohde
- Jonathan Derbyshire, "The Task of the Critic: Terry Eagleton in Dialogue" (interview), New Statesman, March 11, 2010
- Terry Eagleton, "In Praise of Marx" (article), The Chronicle Review, April 10, 2011
- "An Interview with Terry Eagleton (Oxonian Review)" with Alex Barker and Alex Niven