Terry Eagleton (1943-) - Key Figures in Literary Theory

The Blackwell Guide to Literary Theory - Gregory Castle 2007

Terry Eagleton (1943-)
Key Figures in Literary Theory

Terry Eagleton was born in Salford, England, and educated at Cambridge University. While at Cambridge, he was a student of Raymond Williams, the most important Marxist critic of the era (1960s) and one of the founders of British Cultural Studies. Eagleton earned his doctoral degree at twenty-one and became a tutor of English at Wadham College, oxford University. He has proven to be Williams’s successor not only in Marxist literary theory but also, especially since the 1990s, in Cultural Studies.

Eagleton’s early works were devoted to literature and society, with a focus on Shakespeare and the Brontes. His Myths of Power (1975) was a tour de force Marxist reading of the Bronte’s works that made his reputation as a theorist. At this time, he also published important works on Marxist theory, including Criticism and Ideology (1976). In the 1980s, he produced monographs on a number of literary and theoretical figures, notably Walter Benjamin and Samuel Richardson. He also published his most widely-read book, Literary Theory: An Introduction (1983). No simple primer, Literary Theory begins by examining critically the concept of literature and the institutional setting in which it is taught. It then offers historically grounded surveys of the major theoretical fields, concluding with an appeal for “political criticism.” The 1990s found Eagleton exploring aesthetics, nationalism, ideology, and Postmodernism. He contributed two volumes of essays on Irish literature and culture, Heathcliff and the Great Hunger (1995) and Crazy John and the Bishop (1998), both of which bear the distinct hallmarks of Williams and the English Marxist tradition. In the first few years of the twenty-first century, Eagleton wrote books on tragedy, literary theory, and the “idea of culture.” In After Theory (2003), he announced the death of theory, though he continues to teach it at the University of Manchester.


Eagleton, Terry. Criticism and Ideology: A Study in Marxist Literary Theory.

London: NLB; Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press, 1976.

---- . The Eagleton Reader. Ed. Stephen Regan. Oxford and Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1998.

---- . Heathcliff and the Great Hunger: Studies in Irish Culture. London and New York: Verso, 1995.

---- . The Idea of Culture. Oxford, UK and Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2000.

---- . Literary Theory: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983, 1996.