Terry Eagleton on postmodernism

Jon Beasley-Murray jpb8 at acpub.duke.edu
Sat Sep 21 14:28:17 MDT 1996

I too saw the Terry give the same talk, though here at Duke rather then
in Nottingham.

Essentially, I thought it was stand-up comedy.  However, sadly the jokes
fell a little flat in the second half or so, so the thing dragged.

The room was extremely crowded--everyone wanted to go see Terry--but I
think most everyone was disappointed.  Certainly, he'd misjudged his
audience if he really wanted to communicate anything; his hit-or-miss
jokes from his persona as "a plain man speaks" weren't about to change
anyone's mind (not that I really think he cares).

However, as he pretty much said, he sees his role as gentle
"schoolmarm-like" chiding.  I asked a question about this: where was his
sense of praxis nowadays if he thought the role of Marxist academics was
to produce patronizing semi-selfparodic light entertainment for
intellectuals.  For this I was accused of ultra-leftism (which I myself
thought fairly amusing): saying that if he was getting attacked from the
left as well as from the right, then he must be doing something right.

Well, the point remains that he knows he could get up on a rostrum and
fart and people would come to see him do it.  However, I have a feeling
he doesn't give too much of a damn, and thinks his energies are more
productively engaged in being a critic of Irish literature.  Myself,
while I can see what he's (not) saying, and while I don't know enough of
his recent work on Irish literature to comment on that, I think it's a pity
that someone who is perhaps the closest to a Marxist public intellectual
that the academy has produced should wish to avoid the intellectual when
in public (preferring rather this strange version of academic "panto")
and avoid the public when intellectual, essentially retreat back into
the Ivory Tower.

Take care


Jon Beasley-Murray
Literature Program
Duke University
jpb8 at acpub.duke.edu

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