The Function of Criticism

From the Spectator to Post-Structuralism

Terry Eagleton

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5.5 x 8.5 inches, 112 pp. 2005

ISBN : 9788170462644

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How is it possible that modern criticism, which was born of the struggle against the absolutist state, could be reduced to its current status as part of the public relations branch of the literary industry? How is it that forms of criticism generated in the vibrant context of the eighteenth-century ‘public sphere’—of clubs, journals, coffee houses, periodicals—and which embraced free and open discussion of cultural, political and economic questions could degenerate into post-structuralist exercises carried out by academic literary specialists who revel in their own practical impotence?


Exercised by these issues, Terry Eagleton—Britain’s foremost Marxist critic—traces the birth of criticism in Enlightenment England and its subsequent mutations over time under the pressures of the development of capitalism, the rise of a ‘counter-public’ from below, and the specialization of the intellectual division of labour. In a magisterial survey of the last two hundred years of cultural criticism, spanning from Joseph Addison, Richard Steele and Samuel Johnson to Matthew Arnold, Leslie Stephen and F. R. Leavis, Eagleton firmly places the modern trends of New Criticism, structuralism and deconstruction in a social and historical perspective. However, Eagleton also makes a powerful and passionate case for contemporary criticism to rediscover its original function by reconnecting the cultural and the political, discourse and practice, and thereby to play a role in radical social transformation. 

Terry Eagleton  is currently Distinguished Professor of English Literature, University of Lancaster, England, and Professor of Cultural Theory at the National University of Ireland, Galway. His other books include Marxism and Literary Criticism (1976), Criticism and Ideology (1976), Walter Benjamin (1981), Against the Grain (1986), William Shakespeare (1986), The Ideology of the Aesthetic (1990), Ideology (1991), Heathcliff and the Great Hunger (1995), Literary Theory (2nd ed. 1996), and, co-edited with Drew Milne, Marxist Literary Theory: A Reader (1996). 


Culture Studies
200 Years of Marx
Literary Theory