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Criticism and Ideology: A Study in Marxist Literary Theory

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The relationship between Marxism and literature is long and troubled. One of the consequences of this history is the absence of a systematic and rigorous exposition of what a materialist approach to literary criticism might resemble. In Criticism and Ideology, Terry Eagleton - renowned as Britain's foremost radical literary theorist - sets himself the challenge of filling this intellectual void. Drawing on the approach of the French Althusserian philosopher Pierre Macherey, Eagleton subjects traditional literary criticism in the mould of F.R. Leavis to devastating critique, whilst also highlighting weaknesses in the work of fellow-Marxist and cultural critic Raymond Williams. Reviewing the contributions of Lenin, Trotsky, Brecht, Adorno, Benjamin, Lukacs and Sartre, Eagleton develops a theoretical framework for understanding literature which places particular emphasis on notions of ideology and contradiction. Applying this perspective to a range of canonical writers - George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Joseph Conrad, Henry James, T. S. Eliot, W. B. Yeats, James Joyce and D. H. Lawrence - Eagleton distances himself from simplistic conceptions of 'false consciousness' and demonstrates how ideology can also play a productive and self-subverting role. Finally, Eagleton tackles the vexed and complex question of aesthetic value and its entanglement with bourgeois ideology. Hide synopsis

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