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The Function of Criticism

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  239 ratings  ·  18 reviews
A history and critique of the last 200 years of cultural criticism, from Addison and Steele to Barthes and Derrida.

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 cult
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Paperback, 138 pages
Published 2006 by Verso (first published 1984)
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Average rating 3.64  · 
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Emma Sea
every time i try to write a review the events of the last two weeks spring into sharp relief and I feel sad.

Maybe on the re-read.
Aung Sett Kyaw Min
Sep 14, 2020 rated it liked it
The critic is always haunted by the question--what is point of criticism? Who is the critic addressing to? Other critics? Other "professionals","intellectuals" or "academics"? Other class anxious bourgeosie? Or finally, is it the public as such, undivided and amorphous? In the classical public sphere of the Victorian era the critic at least had access to some sort of political lever through he could conduct his brand of cultural politics, effectively intervening in the social and against what Ea ...more
Lyndon
May 28, 2011 rated it it was ok
What are critics for? Who benefits or loses from criticism? No, this is not a book about saying mean things to people who you don't like. It is a book (really, an essay) about the decline of what used to simply go by the title 'criticism' but which now has grown appendages to become all varieties of fancy arenas of study: political, feminist, deconstructive, structural and literary; to name a few (also now know as 'college majors'). Criticism, for Eagleton, is the discursive practice of rational ...more
Ed
Jan 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: eagleton
The text on the back cover of the Verso paperback of “The Function of Criticism” calls Terry Eagleton “Britain’s foremost Marxist critic”. Eagleton may well agree with that estimate although one imagines there isn’t much competition for the title.

The rise of the bourgeoisie, with its material basis in the expanding British colonial system, slavery in America and the West Indies providing cheap raw materials and ready-made markets for manufactured goods and accelerating population growth in Engl
...more
Markus
Jun 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
This isn't an easy read but a worthwile one. Eagleton survey's criticism's development from the 18th century to today, marking the ideological development of criticism along with the material development of the times. Although he doesn't mention Marx that often, his arguments are soaked in Marxism, something I do find delightful in cultural theory.
Sarah Hannah
This was mostly torturous, and I don’t really know why I did it to myself. He muddies his own point by arguing in a circular manner that literary criticism is, isn’t, is, and isn’t the same as book reviewing or chilling in literary salons. The final chapter is marginally interesting and not caught up in sounding like a hoity toity critic (funny, since he also tries to make the argument that criticism should be of and for the people but writes like your typical inaccessible academic), but you can ...more
Wendy Liu
Not really what I was expecting (I was hoping for something more in the vein of his excellent Literary Theory: An Introduction). A history of the critic's role over the last few centuries with reference to the bourgeois public sphere, periodicals like The Spectator and The Tatler, New Criticism, and deconstructionism. The goal of this book is summarised in the last few pages:
The role of the contemporary critic, then, is a traditional one. The point of the present essay is to recall criticism to
...more
Martin
Jul 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
I think 'The History of Criticism' would be a more apt title for this book. Eagleton traces the history of the 'field' of criticism starting from the Habermasian bourgeois English public sphere in the eighteenth century, where men of the emerging middle-class gathered in coffee houses and wrote to exchange ideas purely on the basis of reason, to the nineteenth century Victorian man-of-letters, to the state of 'literary criticism' in the twentieth. It offers a very good introduction and overview ...more
Mark
It's Terry Eagleton. This is the only substantive thing I've read by him, and it's hard for me to picture Eagleton as anything other than he was satirized by V.S. Naipaul in Half a Life.

I enjoyed the book. It's refreshing to read a book written in this language that is written in English. Discussing reified concepts and evaluating the progression on a wide scale of thoughts and written opinions is interesting. Beyond that, this book was not original. It was well written for what it did. I could
...more
Roz  Milner
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
An interesting read that starts as a detailed history of literary criticism- all the way back to Pope, Johnson and Addison - and goes up through to the modern day, cutting away at theories like semiotics and deconstruction, while also making a case for the continued relevance of criticism and how to make it useful again.

I read this while also reading Voltaire’s Bastards and the two have some ideas in common: compartmentalization and the obscuring of language that makes such criticism (and conte
...more
Alifah Farhana
Jul 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have re-read this like 3 times already. But for some points i dont really get the meaning, and still confuses me.

But still, this is a good book to excercise my brains😂
Ivan Labayne
Feb 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: teyorya
Handy laging basahin si Eagleton, wala akong masyadong problema sa sinasabi niya. Sa technique at formal chenes nya lang ako may unting duda. I was thinking: too soft ba talaga itong si Eagleton, too soft dahil gustong dumistansya sa hardened tone o lexicon ng Marxist writing (mas pipiliin nya ang "better, more human society" kunwari kesa "socialism") at what explains this softness? Posturang Marxista lang ba sya -- speaking of "more humane" societies to come, kunwari progressive at forward-look ...more
Giovanni Gregory
Aug 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Why do the titles of Eagleton's books promise so much and give so little?
vi macdonald
Mar 13, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5
Aaron
Interesting, but very difficult and not always worth the difficulty.
Lorraine
Sep 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
O, of course eagleton rocks [/fangirl]
Mi
Mar 09, 2014 rated it did not like it
pure bullshit
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Widely regarded as Britain's most influential living literary critic & theorist, Dr Eagleton currently serves as Distinguished Prof. of English Literature at the Univ. of Lancaster & as Visiting Prof. at the Nat'l Univ. of Ireland, Galway. He was Thomas Warton Prof. of English Literature at the Univ. of Oxford ('92-01) & John Edward Taylor Prof. of English Literature at the Univ. of Manchester 'ti ...more

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