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This article is taken from PN Review 40, Volume 11 Number 2, November - December 1984.

The Terry Eagleton Story Bernard Bergonzi

Terry Eagleton's position as our top Marxist critic and literary theorist remains unchallenged. But in 1983 he reached the age of forty and thus joined what Péguy called le parti des hommes de quarante ans, membership of which is likely to complicate one's ideological stance. In that year, too, Eagleton published his tenth book, Literary Theory: An Introduction, which looks as if it will be his most popular and widely read. This seems a good occasion on which to look back over his intellectual career, which though limited in location - being entirely confined to Cambridge and Oxford - has been marked by rapid movements between the many mansions in the spacious house of Marxist criticism.

The title of Eagleton's first book, The New Left Church (1966), recalls that he grew up as a Lancashire Catholic, and that as a young man he was a leading member of a group of left-wing Catholics whose commitment to social justice led them to attempt a fusion of Marxism and Catholicism, and who disseminated their ideas in the journal Slant. What began as an attempt at intellectual and practical co-operation between Catholics and Marxists ended as virtual absorption by the latter; at least, several one-time members of the Slant group are no longer Catholics. The New Left Church ambitiously draws together literary criticism, Catholic theology and liturgy, and Marxist political analysis. It is a very 1960s book in its easy eclecticism, where all sorts of names are cheerfully thrown into ...

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