Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Can the Subaltern Speak? (1988): That [Derridas] own work, Terry Eagleton writes, has been grossly unhistorical, politically evasive and in practice oblivious to language as discourse [language in function] is not to be denied. Eagleton goes on to recommend Foucaults study of discursive practices. (Spivak, op. cit., in C. Nelson & L. Grossberg, eds., Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, Macmillan 1988, pp.271-313; quoting Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction, Minnesota UP, 1983, p.205.)
R. F. Foster, Protestant Magic: W. B. Yeats and the Spell of Irish History [British Academy 1990]: A critic as imaginative as Terry Eagleton might see the crowds of dead people whom Yeats or Elizabeth Bowen discern walking the roads of Ireland as the souls of dispossessed tenants. I do not; but, while accepting the Neoplatonic and Swedenborgian pedigree of ideas about the dead partaking in the life of the living, the particular appeal of the supernatural for Irish Protestants deserves decoding. (In Paddy and Mr Punch, 1996; rep. in Jonathan Allison, ed., Yeatss Political Identities, Michigan UP 1996, pp.83-105; here p.91.)
Dick Walsh, in The Irish Times (7 Sept. 1996) [columnist]: Id imagined that Soviet strategists might have shown an interest in changes in the Republic: the development of a modern, industrial society with the promise of social change, the abandonment of Civil War politics, more understanding of the Protestant working class. / They didnt. And now we have Terry Eagleton and his followers continuing on the old, nationalist tack, acting once more as if in the Ireland of the 1990s nationalism - Orange and Green - were not at the core of our most serious problem.
[ top ]
Denis Donoghue, review of Heathcliff [ &c] , in The New Republic (21 & 28 Aug. 1995), commences with a comical recitation of the plot of the play Saints and Scholars, on Connolly, which follows the Stopfordian technique of making an escaped James Connolly share a cottage in the West of Ireland with Bakhtin and Wittgenstein; quotes from the character Connolly in the play; The British dont believe Ireland is real; they just drop their fantasies here; quotes, Ireland, in this and other ways has come to figure as the monstrous unconscious of the metropolitan society, the secret amaterialist history of endemically idealist England. It incarnates, for Carlyle, Froude and others, the Tennysonian nightmare of a nature red in tooth and claw, obdurately resistant to refinement. When the child of Heathcliff trespasses on the Grange, the neurasthenically cultivated Lintons set the dogs on him, forced for a moment to expose the veiled violence which helps to prop them up.
Seamus Deane review of Heathcliff and Hunger, in London Review of Books [q.d.], p.28; refs. to the bad form of hegemony - accepting colonialism as a boon or as an irretrievable disaster and behaving accordingly. It should be possible to refuse both and to accept the notions of continuity and discontinuity, difference and exceptionalism can be entertained without [abandoning] them for some universal norm that inevitably turns out to be culturally specific despite its pretensions. Notes & Queries, Vol. 240, No. 42 (Sept. 1995), pp.178-79.
Steven Pole, review of Saint Oscar and Other Plays, in Tiems Literary Supplement (4 July 1997): this reviewer takes a strong dislike to the ideological intentions of the author and pillories him for a contradictory tendency in his aesthetic, focusing on the unserviceability of the stage directions; it would be a genius of a wardrobe mistress who could realise the description of a character in Gods Locusts, a heave black comedy set during the Irish Potato Famine, who is dressed like a Victorian version of a modern-day left-wing intellectual; goes on to comment that Eagleton has a horror of naturalism, which is a weapon of the colonial oppressors [ a] claim made in the introduction: If, like Wilde, your history has been largely one of colonial disruption, you are less likely to be enamoured of stable representational forms, which are usually, so to speak, on the side of Caesar. The choice of artist is eccentric, since Wilde wrote possible the most brilliant, traditionally well-made comedy in the English language[Earnest]; But Eagleton does not say what stable representational forms are [ ]; reviewer quizzes the stability of the novel, cinema, painting; quotes Eagleton elsewhere,Modernism was the period in which theorising itself came to be a poetic act, and works of art came to include quasi-theoretical reflections upon themselves [n. ref.], and infers Eagleton to mean that Modernism was the revolutionary broom that swept away representational forms; concludes that if Eagleton is correct, modernism must have begun no later than Plato; cites stage-directions from Saint Oscar: A Courtroom: slightly surrealist, perhaps, to indicate that the scene is only tenuously realist; reviewer challenges Eagletons terms: surrealism is not tenuous realism.) Eagletons aims are painfully clear from the knockabout scene that follows; cites stage-directions for disappearances, a compromise between an apartment or expensive hotel room in London and some more abstract space without formal entrances; More problematic is Eagletons approach to national identity, the theme at the heart of all his plays; The themes are the possibility of revolution, and the duality of the expatriate or colonial subject; reviewer dismisses the flashy tics of the writing and the sardonic songs peppered throughout, singling out the wonderfully brutal absurdist comedy of the two jailers of Connolly before his execution uniquely for praise, and ends citing Wilde on sincerity: a great deal of it is absolutely fatal. (p.19.)
[ top ]
Proinsias Ó Drisceoil, review of Crazy Jane and the Bishop , in The Irish Times (21 Oct. 1998): [...] blindness to literature in Irish is something shared by Eagleton with many of the historians he attacks here in Revisionism Revisited, a polemical essay which claims that the British can now confidently rely on the Irish themselves to produce the kind of anti-Irish sentiments which they had previously to disseminate themselves. / He offers the emphasis placed by certain historians on native gombeenism as a cause of the Famine as an instance of such obsequiousness, declaring it a current fashion. If it is a fashion, it is a remarkably persistent one, dating back to William Carletons 1847 novel, The Black Prophet, which blamed the Famine of 1845 on a class of hardened wretches who look forward to a period of dearth as one of great gain and advantage ... Resort to evidence is not a pronounced feature of this particular essay - in contrast, it might be said, to the generally well researched nature of the book - and it is not clear which historians are under attack. However, it is difficult not to conclude that the essays central implication is that the Irish are so warped by history as to be incapable of writing any. / He sees what he believes to be the incapacity of Irish liberals to recall the history of Irish nationalism without feelings of unease as symptomatic of how negatively dependent they remain on a history they believe they have transcended. The entire essay is populated by neurotic stereotypes, bomb victims, spiritually mutilated women ... emotionally autistic men and Dublin advertising executives permanently fearful of returning to a life unemployed and sexually guilt-ridden at the country crossroads [...] [See response from Brendan Glacken, infra.]
Gerry Smyth, Irish Studies, Postcolonial Theory and the New Essentialism, in Irish Studies Review, vol. 7, No. 2 [Irish Studies and Postcolonial Theory Issue] (August 1999), pp.211-220: [ ] the limitations of Eagletons critique of postmodernism are explicit in his own discourse (all the untold havoc which ethnic stereotyping has wreaked in human affairs) revealing the dangers to which any move back towards the authentic is liable (p.216.)
David Lloyd, When cultures clash, review of The Idea of Culture, in The Irish Times (Sat. 6 May 2000): Terry Eagleton, in his stimulating and very readable The Idea of Culture, dives head-on into this proliferation of meanings and associations that swirls around the word. The very title of the book is a paradox, since what Eagleton reminds us is that there is no one idea of culture. His excellent first chapter traces the history of the word and its many associations, from its roots in agriculture to its emergence in the late 18th century as a term to designate the cultivation, not of beets, but of aesthetic taste. As Eagleton recalls, this tradition of culture was meant to cure us of the painful economic and political divisions of industrial society by opposing fragmentation with an idea of wholeness and spiritual freedom that was truly human. [...] Eagleton is passionately committed to retrieving at least some of the universal claims of culture, excoriating the foibles of post-modernity and identity politics which all too often seem to amount to much the same devil. But despite the polemical edge of this manifesto, it is often hard to decipher the definition of culture that he espouses. Thats partly because Eagleton, delighting in ironic mischief, savours so much the vexed dialectic between culture as local and particular and culture as universal, appreciating the moment of truth in each. / At times, especially when he is tilting at identity politics, Eagleton loses his balance and dialectic becomes caricature. [...] Further, Eagleton is at his most persuasive when he himself espouses what most post-1960s identity movements ultimately stand for: a politics of culture that is inseparable from radical socialist change. [...] In seeking to trim the overweening ambition of much that passes for cultural politics, Eagleton risks missing the rich implications of his own insight. The human body is at once the site of affective identity and cultural difference, and a socialism that demands solidarity while dismissing the intricacies of our desire for difference runs the risk of being as dully homogenising as the capitalism it opposes. [... &c.]
Robert Tobin, reviewing of Terry Eagleton, The Gatekeeper: A Memoir (Allen Lane), in The Irish Times (24 Nov. 2001), writes: For if there is one thing The Gatekeeper makes plain, it is that Terry Eagleton hates liberals, or more precisely, middle-class Protestant liberals living in suburbs. He never tires of heaping contempt on those whom he sarcastically refers to as ideal utopianists and bright-eyed liberal modernisers, but as the repetition of hackneyed phrases makes obvious, such people never really exist for him save as symbolic abstractions of his own mind. Indeed, the writing would be a lot better generally had it not been treated so often as a mere packhorse for the authors many prejudices. (p.9.)
[ top ]
Gregory Castle, Modernism and the Celtic Revival (Cambridge UP 2001): As Terry Eagleton has recently argued, Ireland is unique among European nations in that as a whole [it] has not leapt at a bound from tradition to modernity.  Instead, it presented an exemplary case of what Marxism has dubbed combined and uneven development. (Heathcliff and the Great Hunger: Studies in Irish Culture, London: Verso 1995, p.274.) Following Perry Andersons analysis of the relationship between modernity and revolution, Eagleton notes that there are three preconditions for a flourishing modernism: [Quotes: The existence of an artistic ancien régime ... Modernism springs from the estranging impact of modernizing forces on a still deeply traditionalist order [....&c. (Ibid., p.297); see longer extract in Quotations [supra]. / For Eagleton, the agonistic relationship between the archaic and the modern creates ideal conditions for the emergence of modernism and these conditions exist most dramatically not in the metropolitan center, which lacks the key criteria of breathtakingly new technologies and social revolution, but on the colonial and decolonial margins: the no-time and no-place of the disregarded colony, with its fractured history and marginalized space, can become suddenly symbolic of a condition of disinheritance which now seems universal. (Ibid., 298.) Irish modernism, then, while it seeks to accommodate new technologies and revolutionary energies, is at the same time very conservative: If there is a high modernism, there is little or no avant garde, and this is so because the Anglo-Irish monopolized modernism by translating political dispossession into cultural production. The deracinating effects of land legislation and an increasingly cynical Liberal party that seemed willing to abandon its client ruling  class to its own ineffectuality left the Anglo-Irish feeling acutely their ambivalent position between colonizer and colonized. Eagleton notes that this in-betweenness was a version of the hybrid spirit of the European modernist, caught between diverse cultural codes and that the Anglo-Irish Revivalists recourse to the celebrated formalism and aestheticism of the modernists was an effective and defiant rationalization of their own rootless condition. (Ibid., p.300.) / Eagletons argument that Irish modernism emerged in the estranging contact of modernity with a traditional or archaic culture finds support in a consideration of the role anthropology played in the development of the Celtic Revivals modernist aesthetic of cultural redemption. This aesthetic is one of the most controversial elements of the Celtic Revival, in part because the anthropological authority behind it renders it internally contradictory, at once complicit with and hostile toward a tradition of representation that sought to redeem Irish peasant culture by idealizing or essentializing its Ccprimitive social conditions. This is true especially for writers like Yeats and Synge, whose meditations on Irish culture employ theories of cultural difference and discursive techniques and strategies borrowed from, or analogous to those found in, anthropology. [...] (pp.2-3.)
Christina Patterson talks to Terry Eagleton about love, sex, God - and the global crisis, Independent [UK] (27 Sept. 2003): quotes, The Politics of Amnesia [chap.]: Quietly spoken middle-class students huddle diligently in libraries, at work on sensationalist subjects like vampirism and eye-gouging, cyborgs and porno movies. Cast adrift in the stormy currents of postmodernism, they prefer to focus their energy on the history of pubic hair or the evolution of Friends, a trend that Eagleton regards as politically catastrophic. Quizzes Eagleton as former post-modernist guru: Inevitably, he adds, more convincingly, those ideas grow out of or are developments of ideas that Ive been involved in. Postmodernism grew out of Marxism and so on, so, to the extent that Ive been involved in that whole game, Im responsible. Of course, he continues, with a huge grin, I would say that Ive been ill-served by my acolytes. Further: History now is such, he explains, with the political drive from the right, that thinking small isnt really an option any more ... There are different ways of thinking big, or deep; There my old Roman Catholicism kicks in, he admits, with disarming honesty. In terms of sensibility, Ive never really got on with the idea that were just raising questions. Even more surprising than his penchant for answers is the omnipresence in the book of God, a figure better known in the annals of postmodernism by his conspicuous absence. Eagleton famously chucked in his Catholicism in his early twenties, but he does not write as one who thinks that God is dead. Does he? I think, he replies with another hearty laugh, you should address that question to the Almighty, who knows far more about that than I do [...] For one thing, he adds, I am quite appalled by how ignorant secular intellectuals are of theology [...] that is to say they tolerate a degree of caricature in that area that they wouldnt possibly countenance anywhere else [...] The second thing, I suppose, is that you never entirely leave Catholicism behind and I dont see anything wrong with that. The genre deeply doesnt matter, says the man who has set his mind to fiction, drama and (hilarious) memoir, as well as lit crit. The way of putting that maybe that Im a creative writer manqué ... I write, he explains with a smile, until somebody drags me from a box in the cupboard and they have to put boxing gloves on to stop me from doing any more. (Independent [online].)
Bill Sweeney, review of Holy Terror, in The Irish Times (17 Sespt. 2005), Weekend: With this new publication, Eagleton offers a short reflection on terror and displays his trademark erudition and originality to signal effect. Terrorism began its political life as a strategy of the state, not of shadowy individuals pitting their guile and muscle against it. Its historic authorship points to Robespierre, not Bin Laden. The term terrorist is intended to separate the agent of violence from any coherent set of ideas - exemplified in the wests refusal to hear any explanation of suicide bombing. It is rather like labelling someone a copulationist, writes Eagleton, in order to rubbish their high-minded justification for everyday fornication. / Here we see Eagleton at his most imaginative, at times poetic, juxtaposing some pithy observations of the contemporary - with psychoanalysis, he tells us we have moved from the godly to the genital - with some dense literary analysis and indeed some impenetrable prose to boot. (Writing of medieval images of God, for example, he proclaims: This paradox of a violent void or abrasive form of nothingness returns in late modernity under the name of the Real. This, to be sure, is the bad late-modern or postmodern sublime; the good one is to be found in the postmodern celebration of whatever defeats representation. Yeah, right.) [...] (See full text, in Library, Reviews, infra.)
[ top ]
Nicholas Grene, review of Sweet Violence, in The Irish Times (26 Oct. 2002), Weekend, p.12: [...] What is striking throughout the book, in fact, given Eagletons reputation as a leading leftist cultural critic, is how often the interpretations he offers are Freudian - and Christian - rather than Marxist. If the Freudian Lacan is a major influence throughout, Pascal and St Paul are cited just as respectfully as Benjamin and Bakhtin. Original sin is the theological equivalent to the rooted guilts of the psyche. / There is a tension running through the book as to whether the tragic is to be considered as a universal and irremediable part of the human condition, or a historically grounded and potentially alterable state of things. / Eagleton argues strenuously that his idea of tragedy is compatible with political revolution. The tragic rhythm of death and regeneration, he tells us, involves relinquishing a form of life which is inherently exploitative so that another, more just one may be brought to life. What remains obscure is just how and when this might happen or how the experience of tragedy might help to bring it about. It cannot be linked directly to socialist revolution for, Eagleton admits, in the wake of the catastrophe of Stalinism, the most we can muster is a Marxism without a name. It is in some less politically defined way that the extremity of suffering witnessed in tragedy may augur its opposite: When humanity reaches its nadir, it becomes a symbol of everything that cries out for transformation, and so a negative image of that renewal. In this process, the emphasis is on the tragic protagonist as scapegoat or martyr, and the ultimate type of the tragic is the Passion of Christ. [...] (See full text, infra.)
Marjorie Perloff, review of Martin Amis, The Second Plane, in Times Literary Supplement (15 Deb. 2008): Amis wants you to know that what he hates is not so much Islam itself as what he takes ot be the Wests excessive tolerance of Islam. / A fine distinction to say the leats, but one meant to counter tose - and there have been many, most notably Terry Eagleton - who have in recent months attacked Amis as racist. In the introduction to the second edtion of his book Ideology (2007), Eagleton calls Amiss father a racist, anti-Semitic boor, a drink-sodden, self-hating reviler of women, gays and liberals, and adds: Amis fils has clearly learnt more from [his father] than how to turn a shapely phrase. This insinuation led to brouhaha at the end of last year, in the pages of the Guardian and elsewhere, especially since Eagleton and Amis are now colleagues at the University of Manchester, the former as Professor of Cultural Theory, the latter of Creative Writing. One need not take sides in a nasty war of words - the novelist Elizabeth Jane Hower, Kinglsey Amiss second wife, called Eagleton an spitting cobra, while Eagleton referred to Martin Amiss talk of the definite urge to inflict suffering on the Muslim community as stomach-churning - to find The Second Plane an off-putting book.
[ top ]