In The Australian, Richard King, a journalist and poet, remembers the influence of Terry Eagleton when he was at university:
WHEN I studied literature at university, Terry Eagleton was something of a celebrity. The author of such influential books as Criticism and Ideology and Literary Theory: An Introduction, he seemed to have found a critical register that rejected both appreciation in the narrowly belletristic sense and the wilful obscurantism of most post-structuralism.
He was, and indeed still is, a Marxist, and his literary criticism, like Marx’s philosophy, was an attempt to understand the world with a view to actually changing it.
King finds fascinating new insights to the life of the Marxist critic in The Task of the Critic, a collection of interviews with Matthew Beaumont which covers both his life and development of his thought and politics in a chronological order:
The book takes the form of a series of interviews, each with its own bibliography. The structure is chronological, the emphasis both biographical and intellectual, such that the book effectively serves as an intellectual biography. Thus we move from Eagleton’s childhood in a working-class Irish Catholic community to his academic posts in Cambridge, Oxford and Manchester, to his recent spat with Martin Amis in the British press.
Beaumont, though clearly sympathetic to Eagleton’s criticism generally, does an excellent job of guiding the discussion in such a way as to elucidate the consistencies and inconsistencies in Eagleton’s positions over the years.
The Task of the Critic can be a difficult book but it’s one that rewards careful study.
Terry Eagleton is the author of many books including Criticism and Ideology: A Study in Marxist Literary Theory, Ideology: An Introduction, Walter Benjamin: Or, Towards a Revolutionary Criticism and the The Task of the Critic: Terry Eagleton in Dialogue.
Restless Cities, co-edited by Matthew Beaumont, is forthcoming.