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The Illusions of Postmodernism [Paperback]

By Eagleton (Author)
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Item description for The Illusions of Postmodernism by Eagleton...

In this brilliant new critique, Terry Eagleton explores the origins and emergence of postmodernism, revealing its ambivalences and contradictions. His primary concern is less with the more intricate formulations of postmodern philosophy than with the culture or milieu of postmodernism as a whole. Above all, he speaks to a particular kind of student, or consumer, of popular "brands" of postmodern thought.

Publishers Description
This critique explores the origins and emergence of postmodernism, revealing its ambivalences and contradictions. Its primary concern is less with the more intricate formulations of postmodern philosophy than with the culture or milieu of postmodernism as a whole. Above all, it speaks to a particular kind of student or consumer, of popular brands of postmodern thought.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wiley-Blackwell
Pages   160
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.03" Width: 6.02" Height: 0.51"
Weight:   0.56 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 23, 1996
Publisher   Wiley-Blackwell
Edition  New  
ISBN  0631203230  
ISBN13  9780631203230  

Availability  73 units.
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More About Eagleton

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Terry Eagleton is Professor of Cultural Theory and John Rylands Fellow at the University of Manchester. The Second Edition of his classic Literary Theory: An Introduction appeared in 1996 as did Marxist Literary Theory: A Reader, co-edited with Drew Milne. His numerous other books include Heathcliffe and the Great Hunger (1995), The Ideology of the Aesthetic (1990), William Shakespeare (1986), Walter Benjamin (1976), Criticism and Ideology (1976), and Marxism and Literary Criticism (1976).

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Illusions of Postmodernism?

A valid and persuasive discussion  Apr 9, 2006
Professor Eagleton takes no prisoners in this thorough albeit short critique on the theories of postmodernism. Focus is placed on postmodernism's general theories in relation to philosophy and political theory as opposed to postmodernism's contribution in the arts and architecture. This, in fact, could well be the subject of an entirely new book, however, aesthetics, in this case, is not Eagleton's main concern.

It probably should be stressed that a general knowledge of philosophy, postmodern theory and political science would be advantageous before cracking this text, however, someone with only a slight awareness of these subjects could push through the book (dictionary in hand) without too much difficulty.

By definition, post modernism is hard to define, as it claims no foundational tenets: it is more a method or perspective against established ideas in philosophy. As Eagleton writes, "It is animated by the critical spirit, and rarely brings to bear upon its own propositions." (P.26)

From a socio-political standpoint, postmodern theories are part of a culture of "unmaking". It can be characterized as a rejection of all "metanarratives" or "grandnarratives"; a protest of modernisms inclusion into the established order of the `canon', a snubbing of intellectual elites, a blurring between high and low art, where Bart Simpson sits comfortably with Shakespeare. I would characterize it as a cynical "anti" position on just about any idea that claims validity or application in society. The key principles of all postmodern theories include: "...decreation, disintergration, deconstruction, decentrement, displacement, difference, discontinuity, disappearance, demoralization and delegitimation." (Post Modern Theory, Best, Kellner, 1991)

In one respect, Eagleton applauds postmodernism's huge body of work over a short time, and its stubborn demystification of natural institutions and conventions, though, criticises its blatant lack of self-criticism and ability to offer any alternatives after its deconstruction of all other theories. There is a certain feeling of excitement and freedom after reading such postmodern luminaries as Derrida, Lyotard or Kristiva, but after wading through their dense and at times "cult-like" prose, one is left with the feeling of utter nihilism, realising that these theories are empty rhetoric, that over three thousand years of human progress was all a lie, a "grand-narrative" to keep us chained.

For the most part Eagleton criticises postmodern theory against the theories of Marxism and socialism, and does a remarkable job revealing postmodernism's na?ve, almost adolescent view of the present world situation.

He concludes that postmodern end-of-history thinking gives us no future other than the present. That there are many possible futures, including fascism: how would postmodern theory shape to such a future? In my opinion, not too well.

This book is a valid discussion and a persuasive argument on the many pitfalls of postmodern theory.
You know...  Feb 28, 2006
Terry Eagleton has later admitted that its a book based on rumors and on actual readings of the philosophers mentioned...i guess that says it all.
a great book on POSTMODERNISM!  May 18, 2005
Despite "a reader's" review of the work below, Eagleton is, as usual, clear and convincing in his argument.

"A reader" has made the mistake to come to a book entitled "The illusions of postmodernism" to find advice about sexual orientation. The lack of answers has nothing to do with Eagleton, but with the questioner. I mean, I have questions about the hard drive on my computer, but I wouldn't go to Eagleton for answers.

As for the absence of gays, minorities, and women in Eagleton's texts, one must be familiar with Marxist theory to understand how he approaches the issue. To a Marxist, these are merely artificial divisions created by ideology meant to separate women and men from one another. Thus, they ought not to be confronted as separate entities, but as members of a class. With the breakdown of the classes comes the breakdown of the petty differences perpetuated by the bourgeoisie. Confronting and even fixing issues of ethnicity, sexism, sexual orientation, etc, only puts a band aid on real problem: economic and political inequality.

Reading "a reader's" review one would think that Eagleton's work is solely about white, middle class, men. It's not. In this case, it is about a cultural movement (not sociological distinctions), and thus, Eagleton writes about the artists, artistry, and theorists that engage the movement, including women, minorities and gays. But, I guess if Eagleton doesn't reduce his work to labeling every person about whom he writes a "minority" then it doesn't count for some. Don't make the mistake of assuming every person mentioned without a cheap qualifier is a white, straight, male.

Concerning Jameson, Eagleton has been very clear in all of his texts that Jameson is the premier Marxist in the west, so I don't know of the rivalry that "a reader" has conjectured between the two. Writing that Jameson has "said it all, in terms of Marxism" is utterly naive however. Jameson is brilliant, but such a comment disregards the revolutionary work of Aijaz Ahmad, Chidi Amuta, Teresa Ebert, Antonio Negri & Michael Hardt, Pierre Macherey, Julia Kristeva, and a litany of other Marxist theorists who have defined the field in recent years. No woman or man, no matter how influential, can "say it all" within a philosophy as complex and infinite as Marxism, something about which "a reader" has no apparent knowledge.
I Still Need Answers  Mar 25, 2005
As a gay man, I could not possibly come to Terry Eagleton for help or advice. He is like the university professor who throws his hands up in the air and says: "I can't help you gay people become great critics and theorists; go see Judith Butler or Eve Sedgwick!" Eagleton is a white heterosexual male who has ONLY one thing going from him: class analysis. If he didn't have that, he wouldn't have anything. In fact, all he can talk about is class. Look very carefully in Eagleton's texts: gays, women, and minorities do not hold a very high place . . . if they are ever even mentioned at all. I suppose Eagleton would prefer they simply weren't there, clouding up reality. Eagleton must be a very troubled man: not only is he himself a bourgeois academic, Fredric Jameson is superior to him in every way and has said it all (in terms of Marxism), leaving Eagleton with only re-chewed polemics.
A brilliant critique  Aug 16, 2004
In his attempt to find a working definition, Eagleton makes a distinction between postmodernism and postmodernity. For him, postmodernism is a style of culture reflecting something of the epochal changes during the historical phase of postmodernity. In this book he explores the culture and milieu of postmodernist philosophy as a whole and does not much discuss particular works of art or specific theorists. Eagleton's approach is to look at what a student today might believe about postmodernism and to prove that most of that is false. Although his view is mainly negative, he judges both postmodernism's strengths and its failures from a broadly socialist political and theoretical perspective.

The book draws extensively on the author's writings in the London Review Of Books, Times Literary Supplement, Monthly Review, Textual Practice and Socialist Register and is divided into the chapters Beginnings, Ambivalences, Histories, Subjects, Fallacies and Contradictions. Eagleton's sense of irony and gift of satire ensure an engaging text, especially when he comes up with turns of phrase like: " ... from Lyotard to leotards ...". He also touches on subjects are disparate as Madonna, graphic novels and gothic architecture, which enliven the text.

Eagleton considers the politics of postmodernism to have been both enrichment and evasion. For all its supposed openness, Pomo can be just as censorious and exclusivist as the orthodoxies it opposes. He explains that it is a type of orthodox heterodoxy that needs its straw men in order to stay in business. In its attempt to cut the ground from under its opponents' feet, Pomo unavoidably pulls the rug from under its own, the author observes. He explores pomo's hatred of essentialism (the specific "whatness" of a thing) and concludes that if enlightenment universalism is exclusivist in practice, ethnic particularism can be exclusivist in both practice and theory.

Eagleton concludes that pomo is not just some theoretical mistake. It is the ideology of a particular historical epoch in the West when reviled and humiliated groups discovered something of their history and selfhood. But its inherent failings are its cultural relativism, moral conventionalism, cynicism, localism and lack of any adequate theory of political agency. As such, he observes that postmodernism cannot confront ideologies like fascism.

In simple parlance, pomo thought with its relativism denies distinctions between right and wrong or good and evil, whilst claiming that everything is just a power game and we are all victims. It in fact provides a fertile breeding ground for fascism, something that Eagleton is perhaps too polite to spell out. But his book has broadened my perspective on this jargon-jaded phenomenon, all thanks to his elegant prose and intellectual acuity. The book concludes with notes and an index. I also recommend Intellectual Impostures (Fashionable Nonsense) by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont, an investigation of how postmodernist theorists twist and abuse the language of the natural sciences.

Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault

Intellectual Morons: How Ideology Makes Smart People Fall for Stupid Ideas

The Anti-Chomsky Reader

Indoctrination U:The Left's War Against Academic Freedom

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