In his new book The Event of Literature Terry Eagleton returns to the discipline to which he has devoted his career: literary theory. The book reconsiders previous stances of lit theory and offers fresh takes on much-studied books and critical theories. Here he discusses his witty new book, and the return of his beloved discipline.
In his characteristically concise, witty, and lucid new book The Event of Literature, Terry Eagleton turns his attention to the questions we should ask about literature, but rarely do. What is literature? Can we even speak of “literature” at all? What do different literary theories tell us about what texts mean and do?
In throwing new light on these and other questions he has raised in previous best-sellers (including On Evil, Why Marx was Right and Reason, Faith and Revolution), Eagleton offers a new theory of what we mean by literature. He also shows what it is that a great many different literary theories have in common.
The Event of Literature is a highly unusual combination of critical theory and analytic philosophy, in which Eagleton sees all literary work, from novels to poems, as a strategy to contain a reality that seeks to thwart that containment, and in doing so throws up new problems that the work tries to resolve. The “event” of literature, Eagleton argues, consists in this continual transformative encounter, unique and endlessly repeatable.
Freewheeling through centuries of critical ideas, Eagleton’s The Event of Literature sheds light on the place of literature in our culture, and in doing so reaffirms the value and validity of literary thought today.
Here, in this exclusive author video, Terry discusses his conscious return to pure literary theory, and the implications of this in contemporary culture.
The Event of Literature is available to buy now from Yale University Press.