08 October 2007

No longer necessary to be 'left'

Terry Eagleton has used the revised Introduction in the latest edition of his book Ideology to criticise Manchester University colleague Martin Amis, implicitly accusing him of lurching to the right. (It would be interesting to get some insider insight on this academic quarrel, say from a fellow Manchester luminary ...)

Eagleton is quoted in the Sunday Times as saying:

The left was in the ascendant [in the 70s] and there was a sense we might break through.
He was quite right of course; the Left did break through, and came to rule the cultural roost. Nowadays, however, leftist philosophy has become absorbed into mainstream culture. More or less everyone in the cultural establishment is (effectively) a leftist, compared to the perspective that was the 'centre' in the seventies. You can see it in 'conservatives' from David Cameron to Gabriel Rozenberg. It has become passé and unnecessary to identify yourself as 'socialist', which is why, in some ways, Eagleton is seen as a bit of a dinosaur. (In spite of this, he is still highly influential.)

With a score of four, Eagleton is the third most quoted individual in the Mediocracy book, after Tony Blair with seven, and Catherine Belsey (via her primer on poststructuralism) with five.

With respect to this incident, Professor Eagleton seems to be aptly demonstrating this particular quote from him:
There is no possibility of a wholly disinterested statement. *
His attack on Amis certainly does not seem disinterested or 'value-neutral'. My favourite among the four Eagleton quotes I used in my book is the following:
Pointlessness is a deeply subversive affair. **
This could be inverted: 'subversion' (the restricted kind approved of by the il-liberal elite) is a deeply pointless affair.

* Literary Theory: An Introduction (Second Edition), Blackwell 1996, p.12.
** After Theory, Penguin 2004, p.39.

Someone left the following comment for me at MyBlogLog, providing a fascinating insight into contemporary lit.crit.
"I loved the thing you wrote about Eagleton. Absolutely on button. I often like to think I can’t get a job in academia because of academics such as him. The mention of Catherine Belsey reminded me of one of the oddest experiences of university when she turned up to give a lecture. Another academic tore into her after a particularly poor lecture on gender and images of cherubs in Renaissance literature and art. He pointed out that she was talking rot, given that you couldn’t actually see penises on any of the Cupids she’d shown us. She was blushing at the end of half an hour after the whole room had spent their Q&A time looking for mythical dicks on angels."