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Figures of Dissent: Critical Essays on Fish,Spivak,Zizek and Others [Paperback]

Terry Eagleton
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Oct 2005
Playwright, literary theorist, fine analyst of the works of Shakespeare, the Brontes, Swift and Joyce, scourge of postmodernism, autobiographer -- Terry Eagleton's achievements are many and his combative intelligence widely admired and respected. His skill as a reviewer is particularly notable: never content merely to assess the ideas of a writer and the theses of a book, Eagleton, in his inimitable and often wickedly funny style, always paints a vivid theoretical and political fresco as the background to his engagement with the texts. In this collection of more than a decade of such bracing criticism, Eagleton comes face to face with Stanley Fish, Gayatri Spivak, Slavoj Zizek, Edward Said, and even David Beckham. All are subjected to his pugnacious wit, scathing critical pen, and brilliant literary investigations.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books (1 Oct 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1859843883
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859843888
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.1 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,241,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Review

"Eagleton has confirmed his standing as second to none among cultural critics writing in the English language today." -- The Guardian

About the Author

Terry Eagleton is Professor of Cultural Theory and John Rylands Fellow, University of Manchester. Previous books published by Verso include Ideology, The Function of Criticism, Healthcliff and the Great Hunger, Against the Grain, Walter Benjamin, and Criticism and Ideology.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly intriguing collection 11 May 2009
Format:Paperback
Terry Eagleton is best known as an, albeit unorthodox, Marxist writer on literary theory, so one could well expect a collection of some of his best literary reviews to be chock-full of impenetrable jargon. But looks can be deceiving: this collection, titled "Figures of Dissent", is in fact quite entertaining, even for those who have no particular training or interest in high-minded lit-crit. The title is somewhat odd, as the subjects under review have nothing in particular in common (except their works being published in English at some point), least of all some sort of status as 'dissenter'. The authors involved are on the other hand all interesting and varied, and this makes the book in fact rather a page-turner.

Most appealing about the reviews is Eagleton's unsurpassed mastery of both style and content. He pairs erudite literary insight with a sharp wit and a strongly developed sense of irony, which makes his reviews both informative as statements on literature and highly effective as polemics. Moreover, in contrast to many collections of such essays by famous theorists, the vast majority of the reviews involved can be considered to be overall 'positive', and Eagleton deftly avoids the grumpy predictability of the entrenched newspaper critic.

Admittedly, one could complain that the collection is rather unduly focused on British literature, and there are many references to literature theorists as well as writers who are not likely to ring a bell with anyone outside the Isles, but this is easily forgiven as Eagleton is the best guide to the subject one might wish for.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "That dreadful Terry Eagleton". 18 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
So said the Prince of Wales quoted on the cover of Eagleton's funny and poignant memoir 'The Gatekeeper'. These essays are occasional pieces and, necessarily, are not thankfully T.G.'s deepest work, all the better for that. They are short reviews ranging from a not altogether condescending surprise piece on the ubiquitous Beckham to some nicely astringent pieces on Theory (one critic calls him 'academic'; well of COURSE; not like the French Theorists are so, though). His is a very readable, very funny and instructive book that is a good if often tendentious introduction to a multitude of people. He is, of course, articulate and clear; not always the case in his own original work, (which I like less as he can be very obscure). This is both a useful and enjoyable contribution to the sub genre and I withhold a 5th star only because of the necessary limitations of the remit he had. Worth a go, certainly; likening Beckham 'writing' to V.S. Naipaul taking a kick is priceless.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Condescending, academic and unhelpful 1 Aug 2008
Format:Paperback
Terry Eagleton's reputation as a firebrand of dissent is a bit of a mystery to those readers who have not spent their adult lives within the academy. The English writer Geoff Dyer once memorably observed that many of Eagleton's most celebrated books of the 70s and 80s seemed to have titles that were permutations on the words 'ideology', 'criticism', 'theory' and 'marxism', and that his essay collection 'Against the Grain' might have been more appropriately titled 'Going With The Flow' or even 'Running Out Of Steam', given the overwhelming tendency of English lit studies during that period.

This book, like so many others, demonstrates Eagleton's strengths as well as his weaknesses. I am prepared to admit that it's no bad thing that Eagleton points out the stupidities, illogicalities and authoritarian tendencies in a writer like Stanley Fish, with the caveat that I'm not totally convinced how important it is that one literary academic is shooting down another one, however convincingly he does so. I would, however, take issue with Eagleton's condescending dismissal of James Kelman's collection of essays. Eagleton doesn't really bother to contend with what Kelman says, but instead damns him with faint praise as a good 'activist' but ridicules Kelman's complaints about the programming practice of the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe. Kelman is a major Scottish writer with a serious reputation and one Booker Prize (plus one nomination for same) to his credit, and the substance of his accusation is that a major festival is not willing to put its money where its mouth is and offer concrete financial and marketing support to the work of writers like him.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb collection from one of our finest critics. 9 Dec 2003
By Augustus Caesar, Ph.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Terry Eagleton is perhaps the best-known academic literary critic writing in English today. Author of nearly 30 books on topics ranging from critical theory to Wittgenstein, Eagleton remains the political conscience of modern criticism and (with Fredric Jameson) the foremost Marxist theorist of our time. His deep literary and philosophical erudition and commitment to a more humane approach to looking critically at our culture have made him an important voice in academia since the mid-1960s.
In "Figures of Dissent," Eagleton turns his penetrating gaze to topics ranging from Lukacs to David Beckham, and his wit, learning, and elegant prose make this his most accessible and diverse collection of essays yet. Unlike such earlier essay collections as "Against the Grain," this book contains many of Eagleton's mainstream writings. While it includes reviews of critical theorists like Gayatri Spivak, Paul de Man, and Stuart Hall, there are also examinations of popular history, fiction, and the culture of late capitalism. Those with little interest in the abstract world of literary theory (Eagleton's academic specialty and principal interest) will find essays on other topics to entice them.
Overall, this is a fine collection from Eagleton, who remains an indispensable and passionate voice for Leftist thought in our tumultuous times.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly intriguing collection 15 July 2007
By M. A. Krul - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Terry Eagleton is best known as an, albeit unorthodox, Marxist writer on literary theory, so one could well expect a collection of some of his best literary reviews to be chock-full of impenetrable jargon. But looks can be deceiving: this collection, titled "Figures of Dissent", is in fact quite entertaining, even for those who have no particular training or interest in high-minded lit-crit. The title is somewhat odd, as the subjects under review have nothing in particular in common (except their works being published in English at some point), least of all some sort of status as 'dissenter'. The authors involved are on the other hand all interesting and varied, and this makes the book in fact rather a page-turner.

Most appealing about the reviews is Eagleton's unsurpassed mastery of both style and content. He pairs erudite literary insight with a sharp wit and a strongly developed sense of irony, which makes his reviews both informative as statements on literature and highly effective as polemics. Moreover, in contrast to many collections of such essays by famous theorists, the vast majority of the reviews involved can be considered to be overall 'positive', and Eagleton deftly avoids the grumpy predictability of the entrenched newspaper critic.

Admittedly, one could complain that the collection is rather unduly focused on British literature, and there are many references to literature theorists as well as writers who are not likely to ring a bell with anyone outside the Isles, but this is easily forgiven as Eagleton is the best guide to the subject one might wish for. It does help to have a particular interest in Anglo-Irish literature, as this is Eagleton's specialty and a recurring theme in the book, and perhaps choosing this as the subject of the first two or three reviews in the book was not well-chosen. But the reader discovers soon enough that Eagleton has something intelligent to say about pretty much any subject from Dario Fo to Bill Gates, and his short-and-to-the-point criticisms of ideology hit home like so many arrows of Artemis (one will find the book very quotable). The high point of this collection as well as his artful irony is when Eagleton reviews David Beckham's autobiography, which is mercilessly dissected in a very comical dry style without ever becoming condescending to its subject.

Much recommended to anyone who enjoys English language literature.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting and instructive collection of reviews 4 Dec 2007
By S. Lee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I spent some time this summer reading Eagleton, beginning with After Theory. This was a long time after his Literary Theory: An Introduction, which was a must-read back when I was in college. Yet, other than this one must-read, I really didn't read any of his books, which, I was surprised to find out, now total over 30 titles. Solely on the basis of Literary Theory, Eagleton didn't seem a particularly witty writer to me, so I was delighted and intrigued by his way of making light of heavy topics with humor. With this discovery on hand, if you go back to his early books, heavy-handed seriousness toward a subject was indeed rarely his way from the beginning. There are many passages in Literary Theory (or Against the Grain, and other early titles) where his deeply ironical stance toward the topics obviously of great importance to him, or at times surprisingly savage wit, makes you laugh.

Quite a few reviews in this book have hilarious one-liners or otherwise laughter-provoking comments. One of my favorite is one written for Harold Bloom and his How to Read and Why. Bloom is a "figure of dissent" in his way, who, according to Eagleton, was "once an interesting critic" when he came up with a theory of literature as an oedipal drama, and then much later, after his "critical wheel has come full circle," began distancing himself from the US academia by "preaching the unversal humanity in a New York accent." Eagleton's concluding comment, that "if there is Bloom the self-therapist, there is also Bloom the American TV evangelist, full of windy moralistic rhetoric about how to 'aprehend and recognize the possibility of the good, help it to endure, give it space in your life'," is so very correct.

Laughter aside, the book contains a lot to learn from. To me, this can be a field manual to book reviewers, and those who want to be good readers. In some reviews, for example the one done on Rolf Wiggershaus' The Frankfurt School, Eagleton seems to spend almost the whole of the space in discussing what *he* thinks and knows about the subject the reviewed book deals with, giving the book in question a space of just a paragraph or two toward the very end. In the end, such an approach is always a well-taken one, since it gives the book a more precise location in not only the cultural/intellectual climate where it appeared but also the personal context where it's read and appreciated.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eagleton sobre sus pares 8 May 2011
By SamNC - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Esencialmente, este libro es una colección de ensayos críticos y reseñas publicadas en varias revistas y/o medios académicos. El mismo incluye perfiles biográficos y comentarios sobre muchas de las grandes luminarias del horizonte crítico de finales del siglo XX, desde los miembros de la Escuela de Frankfurt hasta Fredrick Jameson, así como de algunas personalidades más pedestres como es el caso del futbolista británico David Beckham. El libro es, sin duda alguna, y como todos los libros del autor, riguroso al tiempo que divertido de leer. Su crítica raya a veces en lo mordaz y otras en lo apologético. Sin embargo, su prosa exquisita y su erudición hacen de la lectura un placer en cada etapa del camino.
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