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on 29 August 2010
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. This is particularly disappointing, when you consider that Eagleton criticises Richard Dawkins for this very same thing regarding religion.

In summary, I really enjoyed this book, I'm very glad I read it, but be prepared to be frustrated at points. I would suggest reading Derrida's 'Specters of Marx' and then Derrida, Eagleton, Jameson et al's symposium of this book of Derrida's, entitled 'Ghostly Demarcations', if you are interested in deconstruction's relation to marxism and some far more detailed responses.
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on 31 August 2006
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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on 5 October 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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on 13 January 2016
So this is cultural criticism! Is he 'aving a larf? Canny, corruscating, combative, contrarian and quite impossible to paraphrase this work, but if this is cultural criticism you can count me in. He sometimes soars, borne up by all too righteous indignation (page 26), and sometimes bamboozles, seduced by his own verbosity. The paragraph on postmodernism starting at the bottom of page 57 is sublime, or read him on the 'ritual tentativeness' of the current fad for 'like' (p103-4) but the 8 or 9 pages on happiness from page 111 read like a sermon. The readership for this one-time enfant terrible, one suspects, is aging, much like communities of tea-drinkers, marmalade eaters, attenders of mass or owners of dining room tables* (or indeed of dining rooms). What price revolution now, comrades? The index of (selected) proper names is a helpful and positively old-world courtesy

* In some circles, we're told (not, I should make clear, by Terry) that even tables are unknown, meals being balanced on knees or consumed standing up while staring, no doubt, at a screen
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on 23 October 2003
I'm a Eagleton "fan", if you judge him to have sufficient celebrity to make that possible. I was introduced to his work via Ideology of the Aesthetic as an undergraduate, and I've always been eager to read his pieces when they appear in the popular press. Although I don't go in for it much, I did read The Gatekeeper, which was a entertaining account of his childhood and later life, which contained a good dose of first-hand accounts of the silliness (and seriousness) of liberal theory and practice.
I also have more than a passing interest in high theory, and I've read (and enjoyed) Foucalt, Adorno, Heidegger, Deluze, as well as their acolytes like critic Stephen Greenblatt and philosopher Slavoj Zizek. So I was excited to read After Theory. Here we go, I thought -- a first rate mind comes up against a first rate problem: the status of critical theory in the next generation, and its relationship to the larger culture. Sufficiently excited, even, to order the book from the UK (I'm in the States, and it won't come out here until March 2004.)
I'm incredibly disappointed with "After Theory." It is one long ramble about the history of the world and the history of theory (two things with quite different time spans.) There is next-to-zero citation from theorists to illustrate the rather contentious things Eagleton might say at times about the "true nature" of some theorist's project. There is precious little evidence at all, really, and little argumentative effort invested.
Instead, After Theory rambles like a tourist bus through various hot spots (9/11, WTO protests, conferences on masturbation, ill defined groups of hungry people in Africa), pausing only to issue a vague judgement or two before shuttling you on to somewhere else. Eagleton has lost the ability to distinguish between start and finish in the broad sense where you try to derive an interesting point from something apparently less interesting.
I call it the "Brazil or Indonesia" style of writing. More than once in his chapters (more than once on a page, sometimes), Eagleton will say something very vague and tack on "in Brazil or Indonesia." (Well, sometimes it's Kenya or Indonesia, or Kenya and Ulster -- you get the point.) The problem is that Brazil and Indonesia are (to put it mildly) very different places, and anything you say about the nature of culture or politics that applies to both places is either trivial or contentious or flat out wrong.
So, sadly: give this one a miss.
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on 9 April 2013
have not had time to read this as yet. have skimmed it and will get time soon to read properly
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on 29 November 2004
Terry Eagleton, the one time enfant terrible of the establishment, is now merely an anomaly, a political dinosaur where once existed some semblance of innovation and witty analysis. After Theory sounds like an academic equivalent of a jaded East End gangster, lament the loss of his culture, usurped by those brash upstarts from the Continent (in this case Mad Dog Baudrillard and the like) An argument has no cultural weight if it does not consider the opposing position. Childish throw away comments pepper the book, and where once Eagleton was witty and pertinent, the jokes are tired and the politics jaded. Disappointing. For whilst the current cultural climate suggests an aposite re-evaluation of what postmodernism actually does, and whether its relevance has since been negated, Eagleton remains the uncle at his niece's 18th party, hogging the dancefloor, but the knees are stiffer than once they were, and the dancing is badly outdated.
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