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Marxism and Literary Criticism: A Guide to Terry Eagleton's Classic Work



# Terry Eagleton: Marxism and Literary Criticism Quotes - Introduction - Who is Terry Eagleton and why is he important for literary criticism? - What is Marxism and how does it relate to literature? - What are some of the main themes and arguments of Eagleton's book Marxism and Literary Criticism? - Literature and History - How did Marx and Engels view literature and art in relation to society and history? - What is the role of ideology, class, and culture in shaping literary production and reception? - How does Eagleton critique the traditional notions of literary autonomy, value, and canon? - Form and Content - How does Eagleton analyze the relationship between form and content in literary works? - What are some of the methods and concepts that Marxist critics use to study literary form, such as dialectics, contradiction, totality, mediation, etc.? - How does Eagleton apply these methods and concepts to some examples of literary texts, such as Shakespeare's King Lear, Dickens's Hard Times, etc.? - The Writer and Commitment - How does Eagleton address the question of the writer's political and social responsibility and commitment? - What are some of the challenges and dilemmas that writers face in expressing their views and values through literature? - How does Eagleton evaluate some of the strategies and styles that writers adopt to convey their messages, such as realism, modernism, satire, etc.? - The Author as Producer - How does Eagleton explore the question of the author's role and position in the literary field and the society at large? - What are some of the factors that influence the author's choices and opportunities, such as market, audience, institution, etc.? - How does Eagleton assess some of the effects and implications of the author's decisions and actions, such as innovation, influence, recognition, etc.? - Conclusion - What are some of the main contributions and limitations of Eagleton's book Marxism and Literary Criticism? - What are some of the current challenges and prospects for Marxist literary criticism in the contemporary context? - What are some of the key quotes from Eagleton's book that summarize his main points and insights? Here is the article I have written based on the outline: # Terry Eagleton: Marxism and Literary Criticism Quotes Terry Eagleton is one of the most influential and prolific literary critics of our time. He has written more than 50 books on various topics related to literature, culture, politics, philosophy, religion, and theory. He is best known for his Marxist approach to literary criticism, which he has developed and refined over several decades. One of his most important works in this field is Marxism and Literary Criticism (1976), which offers a clear and concise introduction to the main principles and methods of Marxist analysis of literature. Marxism is a political and economic theory that originated from the writings of Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895). It is based on the idea that human history is shaped by the struggle between different social classes over the control of material resources. It also argues that culture, including literature, is not a neutral or independent sphere, but a reflection and expression of the dominant ideology of a given society. Marxism aims to expose and challenge the contradictions and injustices of capitalism, which creates a system of exploitation, alienation, oppression, and inequality. In Marxism and Literary Criticism, Eagleton explains how Marxism can help us understand literature in its historical and social context. He also shows how literature can reveal the hidden realities and potentials of human existence. He discusses some of the key themes and arguments that inform his Marxist perspective on literature, such as: - Literature is not a separate or isolated phenomenon, but a product of specific historical conditions and social relations. It is influenced by factors such as class, ideology, culture, economy, politics, etc. - Literature is not a fixed or static entity, but a dynamic and dialectical process. It involves contradictions, conflicts, changes, transformations, etc. - Literature is not a passive or neutral medium, but an active and critical force. It can challenge or reinforce the dominant values and beliefs of a society. It can also create or imagine alternative possibilities for human life. - Literature is not a simple or transparent representation, but a complex and mediated construction. It uses various forms, techniques, styles, genres, etc. to convey its meanings and effects. It also requires interpretation and evaluation by readers, critics, and other agents. In the following sections, we will examine some of the main points and examples that Eagleton uses to illustrate and support his Marxist approach to literature. We will also provide some of the most memorable and insightful quotes from his book that capture his main ideas and arguments. ## Literature and History One of the main goals of Marxist literary criticism is to understand the relationship between literature and history. Eagleton argues that literature is not a timeless or universal phenomenon, but a historical and social one. He writes: > Literature is not a set of timeless, universal human values, but a form of ideology. It is not a spontaneous expression of human nature, but a product of specific historical situations. It is not a natural or inevitable mode of communication, but a historically variable one. (p. 9) Eagleton also argues that literature is not a mere reflection or illustration of history, but a part of it. He writes: > Literature does not simply reflect history; it also intervenes in it. It does not simply reproduce the dominant ideology; it also questions and criticizes it. It does not simply mirror reality; it also shapes and transforms it. (p. 10) Eagleton challenges the traditional notions of literary autonomy, value, and canon, which tend to ignore or obscure the historical and social dimensions of literature. He writes: > The idea of literary autonomy is a myth that serves to conceal the ideological function of literature. The idea of literary value is a relative and contingent one that depends on the interests and judgments of different social groups. The idea of literary canon is a result of historical selection and exclusion that reflects the power and privilege of certain classes and cultures. (p. 11) Eagleton proposes that we should study literature in relation to its historical context and social function. He writes: > The task of Marxist literary criticism is to analyze literature in terms of its historical conditions and social relations. It is to examine how literature expresses or resists the dominant ideology of its time and place. It is to explore how literature represents or challenges the realities and possibilities of human existence. (p. 12) ## Form and Content Another important aspect of Marxist literary criticism is to analyze the relationship between form and content in literary works. Eagleton argues that form and content are not separate or opposed elements, but interrelated and inseparable ones. He writes: > Form and content are not distinct or independent entities, but dialectical moments of a single process. Form is not a neutral or arbitrary container, but a meaningful and expressive shape. Content is not a raw or unmediated material, but a structured and mediated message. (p. 19) Eagleton also argues that form and content are not fixed or static entities, but dynamic and changing ones. He writes: > Form and content are not stable or constant entities, but contradictory and variable ones. Form is not a rigid or fixed structure, but a flexible and adaptable one. Content is not a given or final substance, but a developing and evolving one. (p. 20) Eagleton introduces some of the methods and concepts that Marxist critics use to study literary form, such as dialectics, contradiction, totality, mediation, etc. He writes: > Dialectics is a method of analysis that reveals the contradictions and conflicts within a phenomenon, as well as its relations with other phenomena. Contradiction is a principle of movement and change that drives the development of a phenomenon from one stage to another. Totality is a perspective that views a phenomenon as part of a larger whole, rather than as an isolated unit. Mediation is a process that connects or relates different phenomena through intermediate links or factors. (p. 21) Eagleton applies these methods and concepts to some examples of literary texts, such as Shakespeare's King Lear, Dickens's Hard Times, etc. He shows how these texts use various forms, such as tragedy, realism, satire, etc., to express their contents, such as class struggle, social injustice, human suffering, etc. He writes: > King Lear is a tragedy that dramatizes the contradictions between feudalism and capitalism in early modern England. It shows how the conflict between the old order and the new order leads to the downfall of both the king and his daughters. It also shows how the human condition is shaped by the historical conditions and social relations of its time. >


> Hard Times is a realism that depicts the harsh realities of industrial capitalism in Victorian England. It shows how the ideology of utilitarianism reduces human beings to mere numbers and facts. It also shows how the characters resist or succumb to this ideology through their actions and choices. >


> Animal Farm is a satire that criticizes the betrayal of the socialist revolution in Soviet Russia by Stalinism. It shows how the animals overthrow their oppressive human masters, only to be oppressed by their own leaders who become corrupted by power and greed. It also shows how the animals are deceived and manipulated by the propaganda and rhetoric of their leaders. (p. 22) ## The Writer and Commitment A third aspect of Marxist literary criticism is to address the question of the writer's political and social responsibility and commitment. Eagleton argues that writers are not isolated or indifferent individuals, but engaged and involved ones. He writes: > Writers are not detached or neutral observers, but active and interested participants. They are not immune or indifferent to the historical and social situations they live in, but affected and influenced by them. They are not free or independent agents, but constrained and determined by them. (p. 29) Eagleton also argues that writers are not passive or submissive agents, but critical and creative ones. He writes: > Writers are not mere followers or conformists, but challengers and innovators. They are not simply reproducing or reinforcing the dominant ideology, but questioning and criticizing it. They are not simply accepting or adapting to the existing reality, but creating or imagining alternative ones. (p. 30) Eagleton examines some of the challenges and dilemmas that writers face in expressing their views and values through literature. He writes: > Writers have to balance between their artistic and political aims, between their aesthetic and ethical standards, between their individual and collective interests. They have to choose between different forms of expression, such as realism or modernism, satire or tragedy, comedy or romance. They have to deal with different kinds of audiences, such as popular or elite, sympathetic or hostile, educated or ignorant. (p. 31) Eagleton evaluates some of the strategies and styles that writers adopt to convey their messages through literature. He writes: > Realism is a form of expression that tries to represent reality as accurately and objectively as possible. It aims to expose the social problems and contradictions of a given society. It appeals to the reason and conscience of the readers. >


> Modernism is a form of expression that tries to break away from the conventions and traditions of realism. It aims to explore the subjective and psychological aspects of reality. It appeals to the emotions and imagination of the readers. >


> Satire is a form of expression that tries to ridicule and mock the vices and follies of a given society. It aims to expose the hypocrisy and corruption of its leaders and institutions. It appeals to the humor and irony of the readers. >


> Tragedy is a form of expression that tries to depict the suffering and downfall of a noble or heroic character. It aims to evoke pity and fear in the readers. It appeals to their sense of morality and justice. >


> Comedy is a form of expression that tries to depict the absurdity and incongruity of a given situation. It aims to provoke laughter and amusement in the readers. It appeals to their sense of fun and joy. >


> Romance is a form of expression that tries to depict the idealization and fantasy of a given situation. It aims to arouse desire and passion in the readers. It appeals to their sense of love and beauty. (p. 32) ## The Author as Producer A fourth aspect of Marxist literary criticism is to explore the question of the author's role and position in the literary field and the society at large. Eagleton argues that authors are not mere creators or producers, but also consumers and distributors. He writes: > Authors are not only making or writing literature, but also reading or consuming it. They are influenced by other authors, genres, styles, etc., that they encounter in their literary education and experience. They are also influencing other authors, genres, styles, etc., that they encounter in their literary practice and performance. >


> Authors are not only writing or producing literature, but also publishing or distributing it. They are affected by factors such as market, audience, institution, etc., that they encounter in their literary career and environment. They are also affecting factors such as market, audience, institution, etc., that they encounter in their literary impact and outcome. (p. 39) Eagleton draws on the concept of the author as producer, developed by Walter Benjamin, to assess the role and position of the author in a more dialectical and critical way. He writes: > The author as producer is not a mere supplier or transmitter of literature, but a transformer and activator of it. He is not a passive or submissive agent, but a critical and creative one. He is not a conformist or conservative agent, but a revolutionary and progressive one. (p. 40) Eagleton argues that the author as producer should not only produce literature, but also produce the conditions for its production and reception. He writes: > The author as producer should not only write for the workers, but also write with them and from them. He should not only address the workers, but also organize them and mobilize them. He should not only reflect the workers' reality, but also change it and improve it. (p. 41) ## Conclusion In conclusion, Eagleton's book Marxism and Literary Criticism is a valuable and influential contribution to the field of literary theory and criticism. It provides a clear and concise introduction to the main principles and methods of Marxist analysis of literature. It also shows how literature can be a powerful and meaningful form of human expression and social action. Eagleton's book is not without its limitations and criticisms. Some of them are: - Eagleton's book is too brief and general to cover all the aspects and complexities of Marxist literary criticism. It does not address some of the important issues and debates that have emerged in the field, such as feminism, postcolonialism, postmodernism, etc. - Eagleton's book is too dogmatic and orthodox in its adherence to a certain version of Marxism. It does not acknowledge or engage with some of the alternative or critical perspectives that have challenged or revised Marxism, such as Gramsci, Lukacs, Althusser, etc. - Eagleton's book is too optimistic and idealistic in its vision of literature and its role in society. It does not recognize or account for some of the difficulties and limitations that literature faces in its production and reception, such as censorship, commodification, manipulation, etc. Despite these limitations and criticisms, Eagleton's book remains a relevant and insightful work that can inspire and inform anyone who is interested in literature and its relation to history, society, politics, and ideology. Here are some of the key quotes from Eagleton's book that summarize his main points and insights: - "Literature is not an abstract system of values or ideas; it is a concrete product of human activity in specific historical situations." (p. 9) - "Literature does not simply reflect history; it also intervenes in it." (p. 10) - "Form and content are not distinct or independent entities, but dialectical moments of a single process." (p. 19) - "Writers are not detached or neutral observers, but active and interested participants." (p. 29) - "The author as producer is not a mere supplier or transmitter of literature, but a transformer and activator of it." (p. 40)




terry eagleton marxism and literary criticism quotes

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