The Event of Literature

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Terry Eagleton

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A renowned literary theorist reconsiders previous stances and offers his latest thinking on the nature of literature and literary study

In this characteristically concise, witty, and lucid book, 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, 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.

In a highly unusual combination of critical theory and analytic philosophy, the author 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, he sheds light on the place of literature in our culture, and in doing so reaffirms the value and validity of literary thought today.

Terry Eagleton is Distinguished Professor of English Literature, University of Lancaster, UK, and Excellence in English Distinguished Visitor, University of Notre Dame, IN.

“Written with his characteristic wit, verve and insight, The Event of Literature marks a new chapter in the developing thought of our pre-eminent literary theorist.”—London Review of Books

"In wry, thrifty prose, [Eagleton] surveys a range of theoretical positions in order to ponder a larger question about 'whether there really are such things as common natures in the world.' . . . A fascinating and often compelling expansion of Eagleton's oeuvre."—Publishers Weekly

“Throughout the book, Eagleton writes with his customary felicity (his aphorism, for example, on significant affinities in Wittgenstein’s theory of family resemblances, ‘a tortoise resembles orthopaedic surgery in that neither can ride a bicycle’, is a delight).”—Stuart Kelly, The Guardian

"The Event of Literature provides an engaging overview of the key questions regarding the nature of literature and of the various answers provided by literary theory."—Liana Giorgi, New York Journal of Books

“This guidebook, which steers us confidently through some of the thickets of literary theory, is of the companionable and clever variety…the skill of the writing is its cultivation of a kind of companionability, the relaxed but alert mood of an intelligence at ease into which Eagleton lulls you.”—Shahidha Bari, Times Higher Education

ISBN: 9780300194135
Publication Date: July 16, 2013
264 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
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