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After Theory [Hardcover]

Terry Eagleton
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

25 Sep 2003
Today the barriers between high and low culture have crumbled, but, as Terry Eagleton's book asks: does this mean our obsession with "culture" has overtaken everything else? Can we still be politically engaged in today's freewheeling, postmodern era? How is it possible to justify studying "Friends" when half the world's population survives on less than two dollars a day? What kind of fresh thinking does today's urgent global situation demand? Terry Eagleton's work "Literary Theory" inspired a generation and established him as one of the leading thinkers of the Left. In this book he argues that the age of "high" theory has come to a close - and looks at what ought to follow. Tracing the rise and fall of theory from the 1960s to the 1990s, Eagleton explores the cultural and political factors that brought it to birth, examining how path-breaking writers such as Barthes, Foucault, Lacan and Kristeva brought subjects like gender, power, sexuality and ethnicity out of the margins. He offers a candid assessment of the gains and losses of cultural theory, rebutting many of the standard charges against it, but claiming also that it has been silent or evasive about a whole range of vital issues. "After Theory" concludes with the dramatic suggestion that, in the face of a new global narrative of capitalism, postmodernism may now be dead. Instead, the areas that cultural theory has overlooked or denied - love, evil, death, morality, metaphysics, religion and revolution - must urgently be engaged with. As this impassioned, radical treatise on the modern age shows, they matter now more than ever.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; 1st edn edition (25 Sep 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 071399732X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713997323
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.6 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 818,516 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Acclaimed literary scholar and cultural theorist Terry Eagleton is Professor of Cultural Theory at the National University of Ireland, Galway, Professor of English Literature at Lancaster University, and Distinguished Visiting Professor of English Literature at Notre Dame.

Terry Eagleton is the author of many books including The Idea of Culture (2000), Sweet Violence: The Idea of the Tragic (2002), the bestselling text Literary Theory: An Introduction (1983, 1996, 2008), Trouble with Strangers: A Study of Ethics (2009), and the forthcoming On Evil (2010).

Product Description


'Showily, and wittily, Eagleton yearns for a species of salvation or transcendence from cultural theories' Prospect

'...An original thinker whose passion and zest for life, and writing, remain, after years in the famously desiccating groves of academe, undiminished' the Independent Magazine

'After Theory's huge achievement is to show just how formidable a presence the Marxist cultural critic can be, even here in the thronged and dismaying universe of Bush, Blair, Derrida and the celebrated M Jean Baudrilland' Independent on Sunday

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Terry Eagleton is Professor of Cultural Theory at Manchester University. His books include Literary Theory, a trilogy on Irish culture, a novel, several plays, the screenplay for Derek Jarman's film Wittgenstein, and an autobiography, The Gatekeeper (Penguin 2001).

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The golden age of cultural theory is long past. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This is a hugely enjoyable book to read. Filled with wit, laugh-out-loud humour, insight, and written in way where chapters follow effortlessly together, it is no wonder that Eagleton is so highly regarded as a writer as well as a literary critic.

This book is basically about how we stand today, in a world where global capitalism is master of all, fundamentalisms betray the central messages of peace of their own religions, and marxism is all but dead. Eagleton, a marxist, looks at the state of marxism today, what it can still have to say after the abominable acts committed in its name, and also how the left itself has changed over the 20th century and since. The book is called 'After Theory', because, we live in a period after a dramatic rise (and now, subsequent decline) in (largely left-wing) continental philosophy and a new form of literary criticism, where the likes of Foucault, Lacan, Derrida, Kristeva and co. transformed the way we think about our reality. Eagleton is surely right that we can never go back to a time 'pre-theory', we cannot think, and think seriously, as if this earthquake had never happened.

So far so good, so why only 3 stars? The problem with this book is the vagueness regarding Eagleton's 'postmodern' and post-structuralist targets. Frequent reference to 'weaker' postmodern theorists make his own case seem weak, for he never tells you who these weaker theorists are, and whats more, why should we care what weaker postmodern theory says? Shouldnt he be tackling it at its most demanding and challenging if he is going to protect his meta-narrative, a certain marxism, from it? It simply isn't good enough to shoot down un-named weaker targets.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening read 5 Oct 2006
To a certain extent I agree with some of the other reviewers who have complained that Eagleton is all over the place with this book. But it's a hell of a big subject he has chosen to tackle - and inevitably he has aimed for brevity and clarity over completeness.

It's certainly the only book on cultural theory that I have read as a general reader that is witty, thought-provoking and (best of all) understandable.

I read this on a cramped trans-atlantic flight with a 21 month baby asleep on my lap and zipped through it. The number of exciting ideas Eagleton throws up is huge and well worth the cover price.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
After Theory is highly a significant piece of document to read. Some academicians read it and criticize it for its playfulness and its weakness to find a real solution to the problems that face us today. Eagleton is at least pointing out the "questions" one must follow, in order to face the politics of contemporary culture; this may be capitalism, totalitarianism or could be narcissism "western narcissism involved in working on the history of pubic hair while half the world's population lacks adequate sanitation and survives on less than two dollars a day" (Eagleton, p.6) With this brief quaotation, he is simply saying that a theory that wants to change the world should implement a Marxist agenda. Otherwise, it would prove nothing about humanity in general. In other words, in the words of Derrida, "there is no future without Marx". Other than that, he is funny, entertaining and outstandingly political writer. Every student of literature should read After Theory and must come up with something new: something to face the problems of todays world - wars around the world, America's hypocritical politics about terrorism and so forth. Briefly, perhaps what After Theory is suggesting is that literature/theory must not be detached from the politics of our world.

Highly recommended...
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