Famous Quotes & Sayings

Terry Eagleton Quotes & Sayings

Enjoy the top 100 famous quotes, sayings and quotations by Terry Eagleton.

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Terry Eagleton Quotes 137552

If history, philosophy and so on vanish from academic life, what they leave in their wake may be a technical training facility or corporate research institute. But it will not be a university in the classical sense of the term, and it would be deceptive to call it one. — Terry Eagleton

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British flight attendants warn you not to tamper with the smoke detectors in the aircraft toilets, whereas American flight attendants warn you not to tamper with, disable or destroy them. — Terry Eagleton

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The celebrated opening image of 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' is another case in point:
Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table ...
How, the reader wonders, can the evening look like an anaesthetised body? Yet the point surely lies as much in the force of this bizarre image as in its meaning. We are in a modern world in which settled correspondences or traditional affinities between things have broken down. In the arbitrary flux of modern experience, the whole idea of representation - of on thing predictably standing for another - has been plunged into crisis; and this strikingly dislocated image, one which more or less ushers in 'modern' poetry with a rebellious flourish, is a symptom of this bleak condition. — Terry Eagleton

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Yahweh is presented in the Jewish Bible as stateless and nationless. He can't be used as a totem or fetish in that way. — Terry Eagleton

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Discussing the character of Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice is a matter of content (of 'what?'), whereas examining Jane Austen's techniques of characterisation is a question of form (or 'how?'). Some may find these fine distinctions scholastic, but then some find any fine distinctions scholastic. — Terry Eagleton

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Statements of fact are after all statements, which presumes a number of questionable judgements: that those statements are worth making, perhaps more worth making than certain others, that I am the sort of person entitled to make them and perhaps able to guarantee their truth, that you are the kind of person worth making them to, that something useful is accomplished by making them, and so on. — Terry Eagleton

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Once thought is pulled up short by a yearning that can only be known existentially, it is inevitable that conceptual discourse should give way to the birth of literature ... — Terry Eagleton

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The trick is to keep cutting the present off from the past. In this way, you can try to deny the fact that the past is what we are made of, and that there would be no present without it. One of the several problems with this way of living is that it is not clear how what is reborn every moment can be said to be you. Personal identity involves a degree of continuity. — Terry Eagleton

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To relate a Beethoven sonata to the testicles is hardly in the style of traditional aesthetics. — Terry Eagleton

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Another anti-theoretical stratagem is to claim that in order to launch some fundamental critique of our culture, we would need to be standing at some Archimedean point beyond it. What this fails to see is that reflecting critically on our situation is part of our situation. It is a feature of the peculiar way we belong to the world. It is not some impossible light-in-the-refrigerator attempt to scrutinize ourselves when we are not there. Curving back on ourselves is as natural to us as it is to cosmic space or a wave of the sea. It does not entail jumping out of our own skin. Without such self-monitoring we would not have survived as a species. — Terry Eagleton

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You've got to have a sense of different audiences. I'm a kind of performer manque - I come from a long line of failed actors! — Terry Eagleton

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The New Testament is a brutal destroyer of human illusions. If you follow Jesus and don't end up dead, it appears you have some explaining to do. The stark signifier of the human condition is one who spoke up for love and justice and was done to death for his pains. The traumatic truth of human history is a mutilated body. — Terry Eagleton

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The past can be used to renew the present, not just to bury it. — Terry Eagleton

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What's wrong with a bit of nostalgia between friends? I think nostalgia sometimes gets too much of a bad press. — Terry Eagleton

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There is no way in which we can retrospectively erase the Treaty of Vienna or the Great Irish Famine. It is a peculiar feature of human actions that, once performed, they can never be recuperated. What is true of the past will always be true of it. — Terry Eagleton

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The most compelling confirmation of Marx's theory of history is late capitalist society. There is a sense in which this case is becoming truer as time passes. — Terry Eagleton

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The truth is that liberal humanism is at once largely ineffectual, and the best ideology of the 'human' that present bourgeois society can muster. — Terry Eagleton

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Instead of seeking fulfilment in an object, the subject must acknowledge that it can flourish only through another of its kind. It is when two free, equal individuals engage in an act of mutual recognition that desire can transcend itself into something rather more edifying. — Terry Eagleton

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You don't bring about major political change simply by changing people's minds. It's their interests that need to be assailed, not their opinions. — Terry Eagleton

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Christian faith, as I understand it, is not primarily a matter of signing on for the proposition that there exists a Supreme Being, but the kind of commitment made manifest by a human being at the end of his tether, foundering in darkness, pain, and bewilderment, who nevertheless remains faithful to the promise of a transformative love. — Terry Eagleton

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The resurrection for Christians is not just a metaphor. It is real enough, but not in the sense that you could have taken a photograph of it had you been lurking around Jesus's tomb armed with a Kodak. Meanings and values are also real, but you cannot photograph them either. They are real in the same sense that a poem is real. — Terry Eagleton

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With fiction, you can talk about plot, character and narrative, whereas a poem brings home the fact that everything that happens in a work of literature happens in terms of language. And this is daunting stuff to deal with. — Terry Eagleton

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The fascinating is only a step away from the freakish. — Terry Eagleton

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A poem is a piece of semiotic sport, in which the signifier has been momentarily released from its grim communicative labours and can disport itself disgracefully. Freed from a loveless marriage to a single meaning, it can play the field, wax promiscous, gambol outrageously with similar unattached signifiers. If the guardians of conventional morality knew what scandalous stuff they were inscribing on their tombstones, they would cease to do so immediately. — Terry Eagleton

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Nature is a bottom-line concept. — Terry Eagleton

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All of our descriptive statements move within an often invisible network of value-categories, and indeed without such categories we would have nothing to say to each other at all. It is not just as though we have something called factual knowledge which may then be distorted by particular interests and judgements, although this is certainly possible; it is also that without particular interests we would have no knowledge at all, because we would not see the point of bothering to get to know anything. Interests are constitutive of our knowledge, not merely prejudices which imperil it. The claim that knowledge should be 'value-free' is itself a value-judgement. — Terry Eagleton

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[F]or the most part football these days is the opium of the people, not to speak of their crack cocaine. Its icon is the impeccably Tory, slavishly conformist Beckham. The Reds are no longer the Bolsheviks. Nobody serious about political change can shirk the fact that the game has to be abolished. And any political outfit that tried it on would have about as much chance of power as the chief executive of BP has in taking over from Oprah Winfrey. — Terry Eagleton

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In a world in which everything bears the indelible impress of Man, it is refreshing to escape from time to time from this wall-to-wall humanisation. Hence the American enthusiasm for national parks and outdoor activities. It is seductive to see the world as though we were not there to see it. We can always dream of perceiving things as they are in themselves, without the buzz and distortion of human meaning. We can take a vacation now and then from the intolerable burden of sense-making, rather as we do when we treat human flesh as something to be mindlessly indulged. We can shuck off language and confront reality in the raw, as we imagine an innocent child might do. — Terry Eagleton

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On handing the book back to my friend, the woman inquired "Is he gay?" No, said my friend. The woman pondered for a moment. "Is he English?" she asked. — Terry Eagleton

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Most poetry in the modern age has retreated to the private sphere, turning its back on the political realm. — Terry Eagleton

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We live in a society which on the one hand pressurizes us into the pursuit of instant gratification, and the other hand imposes on whole sectors of the population and endless deferment of fulfillment. — Terry Eagleton

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Universities are no longer educational in any sense of the word that Rousseau would have recognised. Instead, they have become unabashed instruments of capital. Confronted with this squalid betrayal, one imagines he would have felt sick and oppressed. — Terry Eagleton

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The fact that people are massed anonymously together may be in one sense an alienation, but in another sense it is a condition of their emancipation. — Terry Eagleton

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It is important to see that, in the critique of ideology, only those interventions will work which make sense to the mystified subject itself. — Terry Eagleton

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To call for close reading, in fact, is to do more than insist on due attentiveness to the text. It inescapably suggests an attention to this rather than to something else: to the 'words on the page' rather than to the contexts which produced and surround them. It implies a limiting as well as a focusing of concern - a limiting badly needed by literary talk which would ramble comfortably from the texture of Tennyson's language to the length of his beard. But in dispelling such anecdotal irrelevancies, 'close reading' also held at bay a good deal else: it encouraged the illusion that any piece of language, 'literary' or not, can be adequately studied or even understood in isolation. It was the beginnings of a 'reification' of the literary work, the treatment of it as an object in itself, which was to be triumphantly consummated in the American New Criticism. — Terry Eagleton

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Evil may be 'unscientific' but so is a song or a smile. — Terry Eagleton

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God chose what is weakest in the world to shame the strong. — Terry Eagleton

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Capitalism cannot survive without a working class, while the working class can flourish a lot more freely without capitalism. — Terry Eagleton

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In the end, the humanities can only be defended by stressing how indispensable they are; and this means insisting on their vital role in the whole business of academic learning, rather than protesting that, like some poor relation, they don't cost much to be housed. — Terry Eagleton

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I do not know whether to be delighted or outraged by the fact that Literary Theory: An Introduction was the subject of a study by a well known U.S. business school, which was intrigued to discover how an academic text could become a best-seller. — Terry Eagleton

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From the viewpoint of political power, culture is absolutely vital. So vital, indeed, that power cannot operate without it. It is culture, in the sense of the everyday habits and beliefs of a people, which beds power down, makes it appear natural and inevitable, turns it into spontaneous reflex and response. — Terry Eagleton

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It was possible to explore the 'great tradition' of the English novel and believe that in doing so you were addressing questions of fundamental value
questions which were of vital relevance to the lives of men and women wasted in fruitless labour in the factories of industrial capitalism. But it was also conceivable that you were destructively cutting yourself off from such men and women, who might be a little slow to recognize how a poetic enjambement enacted a movement of physical balancing. — Terry Eagleton

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Might not too much investment in teaching Shelley mean falling behind our economic competitors? But there is no university without humane inquiry, which means that universities and advanced capitalism are fundamentally incompatible. And the political implications of that run far deeper than the question of student fees. — Terry Eagleton

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Americans come out of the comparison rather better. They may overdo emotion, but they are not fearful of it. A surplus of feeling has rarely done as much damage as a deficiency of it. — Terry Eagleton

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Like the rest of us, Tom Paulin is a bundle of contradictions. At its finest, his work is brave, adventurous, original and wonderfully idiosyncratic. — Terry Eagleton

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I enjoy popularisation and I think I'm reasonably good at it. I also think it's a duty. It's just so pedagogically stupid to forget how difficult one found these ideas oneself to begin with. — Terry Eagleton

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When one emphasizes, as Jacques Derrida once remarked, one always overemphasizes. — Terry Eagleton

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Those who speak of harmony and consensus should beware of what one might call the industrial chaplain view of reality. The idea, roughly speaking, is that there are greedy bosses on one side and belligerent workers on the other, while in the middle, as the very incarnation of reason, equity and moderation, stands the decent, soft-spoken, liberal-minded chaplain who tries selflessly to bring the two warring parties together. But why should the middle always be the most sensible place to stand? Why do we tend to see ourselves as in the middle and other people as on the extremes? After all, one person's moderation is another's extremism. People don't go around calling themselves a fanatic, any more than they go around calling themselves Pimply. Would one also seek to reconcile slaves and slave masters, or persuade native peoples to complain only moderately about those who are plotting their extermination? What is the middle ground between racism and anti-racism? — Terry Eagleton

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In the deep night of metaphysics, all cats look black. — Terry Eagleton

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Equally serious is the complaint that psychoanalysis as a medical practice is a form of oppressive social control, labelling individuals and forcing them to conform to arbitrary definitions of 'normality'. This charge is in fact more usually aimed against psychiatric medicine as a whole: as far as Freud's own views on 'normality' are concerned, the accusation is largely misdirected. Freud's work showed, scandalously, just how 'plastic' and variable in its choice of objects libido really is, how so-called sexual perversions form part of what passes as normal sexuality, and how heterosexuality is by no means a natural or self-evident fact. It is true that Freudian psychoanalysis does usually work with some concept of a sexual 'norm'; but this is in no sense given by Nature. — Terry Eagleton

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The Kantian imperative to have the courage to think for oneself has involved a contemptuous disregard for the resources of tradition and an infantile view of authority as inherently oppressive. — Terry Eagleton

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A truly common culture is not one in which we all think alike, or in which we all believe that fairness is next to godliness, but one in which everyone is allowed to be in on the project of cooperatively shaping a common way of life. — Terry Eagleton

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Ivory towers are as rare as bowling alleys in tribal cultures. — Terry Eagleton

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Because subjects like literature and art history have no obvious material pay-off, they tend to attract those who look askance at capitalist notions of utility. The idea of doing something purely for the delight of it has always rattled the grey-bearded guardians of the state. Sheer pointlessness has always been a deeply subversive affair. — Terry Eagleton

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It is false to believe that the sun revolves around the earth, but it is not absurd. — Terry Eagleton

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Deconstruction insists not that truth is illusory but that it is institutional. — Terry Eagleton

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Nations sometimes flourish by denying the crimes that brought them into being. Only when the original invasion, occupation, extermination or usurpation has been safely thrust into the political unconscious can sovereignty feel secure. — Terry Eagleton

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Successful revolutions are those which end up by erasing all traces of themselves. — Terry Eagleton

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The role of the intellectual, so it is said, is to speak truth to power. Noam Chomsky has dismissed this pious tag on two grounds. For one thing, power knows the truth already; it is just busy trying to conceal it. For another, it is not those in power who need the truth, but those they oppress. — Terry Eagleton

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Americans use the word 'dream' as often as psychoanalysts do. — Terry Eagleton

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Schizophrenic language has in this sense an interesting resemblance to poetry. — Terry Eagleton

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If we were not called upon to work in order to survive, we might simply lie around all day doing nothing. — Terry Eagleton

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I hope to show in the process that critical analysis can be fun, and in doing so help to demolish the myth that analysis is the enemy of enjoyment. — Terry Eagleton

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Understanding is always in some sense retrospective, which is what Hegel meant by remarking that the owl of Minerva flies only at night. — Terry Eagleton

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An enlightened trust in the sovereignty of human reason can be every bit as magical as the exploits of Merlin, and a faith in our capacity for limitless self-improvement just as much a wide-eyed superstition as a faith in leprechauns. — Terry Eagleton

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It is silly to call fat people 'gravitationally challenged' - a self-righteous fetishism of language which is no more than a symptom of political frustration. — Terry Eagleton

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All I can claim in this respect, alas, is that I think I may know just about enough theology to be able to spot when someone like Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens - a couplet I shall henceforth reduce for convenience to the solitary signifier Ditchkins - is talking out of the back of his neck. — Terry Eagleton

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Rousseau ranks among the great educational theorists of the modern era, even if he was the last man to put in charge of a classroom. Young adults, he thought, should be allowed to develop their capabilities in their distinctive way. — Terry Eagleton

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We face a conflict between civilisation and culture, which used to be on the same side. Civilisation means rational reflection, material wellbeing, individual autonomy and ironic self-doubt; culture means a form of life that is customary, collective, passionate, spontaneous, unreflective and irrational. — Terry Eagleton

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One side-effect of the so-called war on terror has been a crisis of liberalism. This is not only a question of alarmingly illiberal legislation, but a more general problem of how the liberal state deals with its anti-liberal enemies. — Terry Eagleton

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Interestingly, this speech by Prospero does not contrast the unreality of the stage with the solid, flesh-and-blood existence of real men and women. On the contrary, it seizes on the flimsiness of dramatic characters as a metaphor for the fleeting, fantasy-ridden quality of actual human lives. It is we who are made of dreams, not just such figments of Shakespeare's imagination as Ariel and Caliban. The cloud-capped towers and gorgeous palaces of this earth are mere stage scenery after all. — Terry Eagleton

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People do evil things because they are evil. Some people are evil in the way that some things are coloured indigo. They commit their evil deeds not to achieve some goal, but just because of the sort of people they are. — Terry Eagleton

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To claim that science and religion pose different questions to the world is not to suggest that if the bones of Jesus were discovered in Palestine, the pope should get himself down to the dole queue as fast as possible. It is rather to claim that while faith, rather like love, must involve factual knowledge, it is not reducible to it. — Terry Eagleton

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Historical determinism is a recipe for political quietism. — Terry Eagleton

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So there is nothing inherently subversive about pleasure. On the contrary, as Karl Marx recognized, it is a thoroughly aristocratic creed. The traditional English gentleman was so averse to unpleasurable labour that he could not even be bothered to articulate properly. Hence the patrician slur and drawl, Aristotle believed that being human was something you had to get good at through constant practice, like learning Catalan or playing the bagpipes; whereas if the English gentleman was virtuous, as he occasionally deigned to be, his goodness was purely spontaneous. Moral effort was for merchants and clerks — Terry Eagleton

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A poem is a fictional, verbally inventive moral statement in which it is the author, rather than the printer or word processor, who decides where the lines should end. This dreary-sounding definition, unpoetic to a fault, may well turn out to be the best we can do. — Terry Eagleton

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Morality has precious little to do with feeling in any case. The fact that you feel a surge of nausea at the sight of someone with half their head shot away is neither here nor there as long as you try to help them. — Terry Eagleton

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Readers are less and less seen as mere non-writers, the subhuman other or flawed derivative of the author; the lack of a pen is no longer a shameful mark of secondary status but a positively enabling space, just as within every writer can be seen to lurk, as a repressed but contaminating antithesis, a reader. — Terry Eagleton

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It is true that too much belief can be bad for your health. — Terry Eagleton

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The privatisation of the symbolic sphere is a strictly relative affair, not least if one thinks of the various Victorian contentions over science and religion, the culture industry, the state regulation of sexuality and the like. Today, one of the most glaring refutations of the case that religion has vanished from public life is known as the United States. Late modernity (or postmodernity, if one prefers) takes some of these symbolic practices back into public ownership. — Terry Eagleton

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The German philosopher Walter Benjamin had the curious notion that we could change the past. For most of us, the past is fixed while the future is open. — Terry Eagleton

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Like all the best radical positions, then, mine is a thoroughly traditionalist one. — Terry Eagleton

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It is on our bodies that the law must go to work, not only on our minds. Reason must govern in collusion with the senses it subdues, rather as an astute sovereign rules in a way that allows each citizen to feel that he is doing no more than obeying the diktats of his own desires. — Terry Eagleton

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Language, identity and forms of life are the terms in which political demands are shaped and voiced. — Terry Eagleton

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Poetry is concerned not just with the meaning of experience, but with the experience of meaning. — Terry Eagleton

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What was needed was a literary theory which, while preserving the formalist bent of New Criticism, its dogged attention to literature as aesthetic object rather than social practice, would make something a good deal more systematic and 'scientific' out of all this. The answer arrived in 1957, in the shape of the Canadian Northrop Fryes mighty 'totalization' of all literary genres, Anatomy of Criticism . — Terry Eagleton

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Anyone can be tolerant of those who are tolerant. — Terry Eagleton

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Not all of Derrida's writing is to everyone's taste. He had an irritating habit of overusing the rhetorical question, which lends itself easily to parody: 'What is it, to speak? How can I even speak of this? Who is this "I" who speaks of speaking? — Terry Eagleton

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Reading a text is more like tracing this process of constant flickering than it is like counting the beads on a necklace. — Terry Eagleton

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The liberal state has no view on whether witchcraft is more valuable than all-in wrestling. Like a tactful publican, it has as few opinions as possible. Many liberals suspect passionate convictions are latently authoritarian. But liberalism should surely be a passionate conviction. Liberals are not necessarily lukewarm. Only the more macho leftist suspects that they have no balls. You can be ardently neutral, and fiercely indifferent. — Terry Eagleton

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Jesus hung out with whores and social outcasts, was remarkably casual about sex, disapproved of the family... urged us to be laid-back about property and possessions, warned his followers that they too would die violently, and insisted that the truth kills and divides as well as liberates. He also cursed self-righteous prigs and deeply alarmed the ruling class — Terry Eagleton

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Language, the unconscious, the parents, the symbolic order: these terms in Lacan are not exactly synonymous, but they are intimately allied. They are sometimes spoken of by him as the 'Other' - as that which like language is always anterior to us and will always escape us, that which brought us into being as subjects in the first place but which always outruns our grasp. We have seen that for Lacan our unconscious desire is directed towards this Other, in the shape of some ultimately gratifying reality which we can never have; but it is also true for Lacan that our desire is in some way always received from the Other too. We desire what others - our parents, for instance - unconsciously desire for us; and desire can only happen because we are caught up in linguistic, sexual and social relations - the whole field of the 'Other' - which generate it. — Terry Eagleton

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Modern capitalist nations are the fruit of a history of slavery, genocide, violence and exploitation every bit as abhorrent as Mao's China or Stalin's Soviet Union. — Terry Eagleton

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Irish fiction is full of secrets, guilty pasts, divided identities. It is no wonder that there is such a rich tradition of Gothic writing in a nation so haunted by history. — Terry Eagleton

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We do not charge an author with unpardonable ignorance because his twelfth-century characters never stop arguing about The Smiths. It is possible that the writer, having only a feeble grasp of history, really does believe that The Smiths were around in the twelfth century, or that Morrissey is such a superlative genius as to be timeless. But the fact that this occurs in a work of fiction inclines us to the charitable view that the distortion is deliberate. This is highly convenient for poets and novelists. Literature, like an absolute monarch among his fawning courtiers, is where you can never be wrong. — Terry Eagleton

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A revolution which can transform modes of production but not types of speech, social relations but not styles of architecture, remains radically incomplete. — Terry Eagleton

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Dawkins considers that all faith is blind faith, and that Christian and Muslim children are brought up to believe unquestioningly. Not even the dim-witted clerics who knocked me about at grammar school thought that. — Terry Eagleton

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Without the Ermen & Engels mill in Salford, owned by Friedrich Engels's textile-manufacturing father, the chronically impoverished Marx might well have not survived to pen polemics against textile manufacturers. Something — Terry Eagleton

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Scratch a schoolboy and you find a savage. — Terry Eagleton

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Today, nostalgia is almost as unacceptable as racism. — Terry Eagleton