a review of Terry Eagleton’s The Event of Literature
Eagleton’s broad brush strokes are both a strength and a weakness. They’re a strength in that they enable him to uncover the commonalities between a diverse set of thinkers and theorists. But, here as elsewhere, Eagleton has a weakness for straw men. At his most glib, Eagleton isn’t as funny as he thinks he is: ‘if the theorists are open-neck-shirted, the philosophers of literature rarely appear without a tie,’ runs one dreary routine. A more serious shortcoming is that his rhetoric of robust ‘common sense,’ which deploys everyday counter-examples against the confusions of theorists and philosophers alike, often only holds up at this anecdotal level. In such cases, when Eagleton ranges competing ideas against each other, it’s pretty clear that he’s the one pulling the puppet strings.