The Function of Criticism
This wide-ranging book argues that criticism emerged in early bourgeois society as a central feature of a “public sphere” in which political, ethical, and literary judgements could mingle under the benign rule of reason. The disintegration of this fragile culture brought on a crisis in criticism, whose history since the 18th century has been fraught with ambivalence and anxiety.
Eagleton’s account embraces Addison and Steele, Johnson and the 19-century reviewers, such critics as Arnold and Stephen, the heyday of Scrutiny and New Criticism, and finally the proliferation of avant-garde literary theories such as deconstructionism.
The Function of Criticism is nothing less than a history and critique of the “critical institution” itself. Eagleton’s judgements on individual critics are sharp and illuminating, which his general argument raises crucial questions about the relations between language, literature and politics.
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able academic actively Addison amateur argued Arnold audience authority becomes bourgeois bourgeois public sphere capitalism century claim classical public sphere common consensus course criticism cultural deconstruction discourse dominant early economic effect eighteenth eighteenth-century England English equal essay exchange existence experience fact force functions hand historical humanism humanist ideal ideological individual institutions intellectual interests John Johnson journals judgement knowledge language late later Leavis less letters liberal literary literature London longer marked Marxism mass material means mediator moral movement natural object once particular periodicals political popular possible practice precisely production professional public opinion question Quoted radical rational reader reading realm reason reflect relations response Review role ruling sage Scrutiny seen sense signifi social society space speak specialized Spectator Stephen structures task term theory tion traditional truth universal Victorian whole writes
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