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Reviews129 Mountain; under "Night," The Stranger, No Exit, Waitingfor Godot; and under "Dawn," Four Çhiartets, the Duino Elegies, and Auden's For the Time Bring. Philosophy in Literature is a good, frequently profound, essentially noble book. Its interpretations of its twelve works, like all other interpretations, may be debatable; but the love of literature that guides its thought is exemplary — the love of literature and of ideas, the first, if not the final, fruits of philosophy. Whitman CollegeThomas D. Howells Literary Theory: An Introduction, by Terry Eagleton, viii & 244 pp. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983, $9.95 paperbound. Even many assiduous readers of this journal are likely to be somewhat baffled by the multi-lateral civil wars (complicated by foreign interventions, mainly from France) which have plagued literary criticism in Anglo-America during the past fifteen or twenty years. These wars, of course, have their roots in earlier conflicts arising out ofthe battles ofonce Young Turks, such as I. A. Richards, F. R. Leavis, the American Agrarians, etc., against the sort of sentimental and biographical criticism which prevailed throughout the nineteenth century despite the best efforts of Matthew Arnold. Mr. Eagleton, a fellow in English at Wadham College, Oxford, has written an extraordinarily helpful book for those who would like to get clearer about parties and issues. He first establishes the historical context in a short and masterly chapter on the rise of English as a professional discipline in Anglo-American universities. Then, in a four-chapter exegetical tour deforce, Eagleton provides a comprehensive account of modern literary theory which makes these theories accessible even to readers with no previous knowledge of the subject. He takes the reader through the labyrinthine precincts of phenomenology, hermeneutics, "reception theory," structuralism and semiotics, various poststructuralisms , and Freudian and post-Freudian psychoanalytic theories of literature, clarifying the complex of sources and derivations, and the deviations and points ofconflict within and between these critical movements and their theories. In die process he clarifies in plain English die rébarbative technical terminology so characteristic of contemporary literary theory, and sorts out the roles of such stellar players as Heidegger, Lévi-Strauss, lser, Jakobson, Empson, Leavis, Foucault, Lacan, and Barthes, as well as many lesser figures. And all of this serious intellectual labor is accomplished with a literary style which is so vivid and witty that it makes it difficult to put the book down; it is a damned good read. Eagleton's book is not, however, just a well-written vade mecum. He has his own axe to grind, and his own views are likely to be as repellent to most readers as they are to me. Eagleton is some indiscernible kind ofMarxist — possibly out ofTrotsky by some member of die Frankfurt School, but I am not sure. His general view of literary theory is diat it is inherently ideological, that it connects, positively or negatively and overtly or covertly, 130Philosophy and Literature with the power structures and relations of society. His final judgment of the theories he examines is that, despite their many valuable contributions, particularly to modes of analysis, they are all in the end species of bourgeois ideology implicated in the maintenance and reproduction of monopoly capitalist bourgeois society. They all pay their way in the world by inculcating the view that there is such a thing as "literature," with its own appropriate methods of study, thus insulating and isolating "literature" (the conventional canon of works from Beowulf to Virginia Woolf) from the other academic disciplines and from society, rendering "literature" decorative and useless. But that there is such a thing as literature is an illusion, according to Eagleton. He quotes Barthes with approval: "Literature is what gets taught," and that is not a matter of ontology, but of ideology; any kind of writing can be literature if the power structure wants or needs it to be, hence "literature" does not demarcate a special class of texts. That is why Eagleton does not counterpose a special Marxist dieory of literature to the theories he examines. Instead he calls for a restoration of rhetoric to displace literary studies socalled . He conceives of rhetoric after the Greek manner as the study of the entire...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 129-130
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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