Lancaster University

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Professor Terry Eagleton

10/17/2008 10:25:11

Professor Terry Eagleton, photograph courtesy of Ben Evans
Professor Terry Eagleton
photograph courtesy of Ben Evans

Professor Terry Eagleton, the internationally celebrated literary scholar and cultural theorist, takes up a Chair within the Department of English and Creative Writing.

Eagleton, who has written around fifty books and is himself the subject of at least two monographs, comes to Lancaster as one of the world’s leading literary critics and, according to The Independent in 2007, ‘the man who succeeded F. R. Leavis as Britain's most influential academic critic.’

Prior to his move to Lancaster, Terry Eagleton was John Edward Taylor Professor of English Literature at the University of Manchester (2001-2008) and before that Thomas Warton Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford (1992-2001). Professor Eagleton is a Fellow of both the British Academy and the English Association, and has held visiting appointments at such universities as Cornell, Duke, Iowa, Melbourne, Notre Dame, Trinity College Dublin, and Yale.

Professor Eagleton’s post at Lancaster will include giving public lectures and offering seminars for both MA and PhD students.

He comments, ‘It is a great pleasure for me to accept a post in such a distinguished academic community, and I am greatly looking forward to working with Lancaster students.’

Professor Simon Bainbridge, Head of the Department of English and Creative Writing, comments that ‘We are delighted to welcome Professor Eagleton into the Department. As one of the outstanding literary and cultural critics of recent decades, he will add significantly to our teaching and research strengths, particularly in the areas of critical theory and religion and literature. His reputation as both a critic and creative writer will also enhance the Department’s innovative work in the critical-creative interface.’

Eagleton obtained his PhD at Cambridge where he was a student of the famous left-wing literary critic Raymond Williams. He then became a Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, the youngest fellow since the eighteenth century, before moving to Wadham College, Oxford in 1968. At this early point in his career Eagleton was a Victorianist but he was always drawn to write on a wide range of periods – among his first books were Shakespeare and Society (1967) and Exiles and Emigrés: Studies in Modern Literature (1970). It was, though, his more theoretical work as a Marxist critic, in such books as Criticism and Ideology (1976), which really established him as a leading figure within literary studies.

In the 1980s, Eagleton engaged extensively with the various tides of continental thought that were impacting upon English Literature and he did so most famously in his book Literary Theory (1983) which remains to this day an academic best-seller. Eagleton’s specifically Marxist take on literary theory is evident throughout this book and clearly informs, in the early 1990s, his continuing work on ideology, most famously The Ideology of the Aesthetic (1990), and his critique of the postmodern turn in cultural theory, witness The Illusions of Postmodernism (1996).

Alongside his theoretical and critical work, Eagleton was, at this time, also developing a creative dimension to his work; this led to the well-reviewed novel Saints and Scholars (1987), several widely-performed plays such as Saint Oscar (1989), the screen-play for Derek Jarman’s film Wittgenstein (1993), and indeed a best-selling memoir, The Gatekeeper (2001). Well to the fore in much of this creative work is Eagleton’s Irish ancestry and his keen interest in the political history of Ireland, an interest which is also evident in such critical work as Heathcliff and the Great Hunger (1995) and Crazy John and the Bishop (1998).

Eagleton’s Irishness connects with a Catholicism which is evident not only in very early books like The New Left Church (1966) but also such recent works as Sweet Violence (2003), Holy Terror (2005), and Trouble with Strangers (2008). These books have played a part in Eagleton’s development as a public intellectual, a role he takes on most obviously in The Meaning of Life (2007). He remains, however, more than ever concerned with the meaning of literature, and even (if you will) the words on the page – hence, The English Novel (2004) and How to Read a Poem (2008).

Terry Eagleton gave his first public lecture at Lancaster University on October 20th. The talk entitled 'Tragedy and Terror' was held in the Faraday Lecture Theatre.