Eagleton and Beaumont on Eagleton

Eagleton and Beaumont talking about Eagleton, for nine months, transcribed, edited and shaped into themes, is the bones, sinew and meat of The Task of the Critic: Terry Eagleton in Dialogue. Eagleton is a brilliant critic, a provocative writer and an extremely thoughtful man. But as a raconteur . . . . .

What sticks? The long shadow of Raymond Williams. The recasting and reconceptualization of Marxism. And how it ultimately seems less and less helpful. The ephemeral nature of literary criticism. The importance of writing. How universities like Cambridge are so incredibly powerful personal development and thought. The value of teaching and being engaged.

But what does a critic do? The introduction, by Matthew Beaumont, borrows widely in an attempt to frame the following discussions. “A great critic enables others to form their opinion on the basis of his critical analysis,” affirms Benjamin. T.S. Eliot wrote that the task was “the disinterested exercise of intelligence” and “the elucidation of the works of art and the correction of taste.”

Eagleton states that the socialist critic’s job is to participate in the “cultural emancipation of the masses.”

A voice from the past that is worth considering. Oddly, though, after reading this I’d rather curl up with one of his books than share a pint.

David Potash

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