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Terry Eagleton Biography

(1943– ), Exiles and Emigrés, Walter Benjamin, The Rape of Clarissa, Literary Theory: An Introduction

British critic, born in Salford, educated at Trinity College, Cambridge; he became Warton Professor of English Literature at Oxford. A lively and committed literary reviewer, Eagleton's abiding interest, as a Marxist from a working-class Catholic background, has been in what he calls the politics of power, and more precisely, in the influence of buried or denied historical conditions on works of art and views of literature. In Exiles and Emigrés (1970) he makes connections between biographical facts and fictional themes in modern writing. Later work, like Walter Benjamin (1981) and The Rape of Clarissa (1982), elegantly combines Marxist thought with developing Continental literary theory and philosophy. Eagleton's best-known book, much read by students both tempted and baffled by the new terms of literary debate, is his witty and polemical Literary Theory: An Introduction (1983), a survey which is also a statement of theory's current account. Perhaps less widely read, but more substantial, is The Ideology of the Aesthetic (1990), a sustained pursuit of a sequence of ideas, from Kant to Adorno, to their various philosophical and literary lairs. A controversial figure, Eagleton has seen his role as that of challenging orthodoxies, including the orthodoxy of relativism, or of simple, unreflecting opposition to all versions of truth or order. Recent works include Ideology: An Introduction (1991), Heathcliff and the Great Hunger (1995), and the script for Derek Jarman's film Wittgenstein (1993). See also Marxist Literary Criticism.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Dutchman to Paul Engle Biography