The Function of Criticism: From The Spectator to Post-Structuralism

The Function of Criticism: From The Spectator to Post-Structuralism

Product ID: 15541

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Author: Terry Eagleton
Publisher: Seagull Books
Year: 1984
Language: English
Pages: 107
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8170462649


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.