Terry Eagleton Quotes (displaying: 1 - 30 of 45 quotes)
What we consume now is not objects or events, but our experience of them. Just as we never need to leave our cars, so we never need to leave our own skulls. The experience is already out there, as ready-made as a pizza, as bluntly objective as a boulder, and all we need to do is receive it. It is as though there is an experience hanging in the air, waiting for a human subject to come alone and have it. Niagara Falls, Dublin Castle and the Great Wall of China do our experiencing for us. They come ready-interpreted, thus saving us a lot of inconvenient labour. What matters is not the place itself but the act of consuming it. We buy an experience like we pick up a T-shirt.
One of the most moving narratives of modern history is the story of how men and women languishing under various forms of oppression came to acquire, often at great personal cost, the sort of technical knowledge necessary for them to understand their own condition more deeply, and so acquire some of the theoretical armoury essential to change it. ... There is no reason why literary critics should not turn to autobiography or anecdotalism, or simply slice up their texts and deliver them to their publishers in a cardboard box, if they are not so politically placed as to need emancipatory knowledge.
Critics do not have the satisfaction of working on things that actually exist, like sick dogs or dental cavities. So they are tempted to pluck a virtue out of necessity and claim that they toil in an altogether superior realm, that of the imagination. This implies, rather oddly, that things which do not exist are inevitably more precious than those that do, which is a fairly devastating comment on the latter. What kind of a world is it in which possibility is unquestionably preferable to actuality?
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.
It is characteristic of poetic language that it gives us not simply the denotation of a word, but a whole cluster of connotations or associated meanings...[but] if connotation is a kind of free associating, how can a poem ever come to mean anything definite? What if Shakespeare's line 'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?' reminds me irresistibly of fried bananas? The brief answer to this is that meaning is not a matter of psychological associations. Indeed, there is a sense in which it is not a 'psychological' matter at all. Meaning is not an arbitrary process in our heads, but a rule-governed social practice; and unless that line 'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?' could plausibly, in principle, suggest fried bananas to other readers as well, it cannot be part of its meaning.
...it is most certainly Christianity itself which is primarily responsible for the intellectual sloppiness of its critics. Apart from the single instance of Stalinism, it is hard to think of a historical movement that has more squalidly betrayed its own revolutionary origins...For the most part, it has become the creed of the suburban well-to-do, not the astonishing promise offered to the riffraff and undercover anti-colonial militants with whom Jesus himself hung out...This brand of piety is horrified by the sight of a female breast, but considerably less appalled by the obscene inequalities between rich and poor.
Modern poets like Frost still want to make 'deep' statements; but they are also more sceptical of such high-sounding generalities than many of their forebears. So, rather like T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, they gesture enigmatically to such profundities while at the same time being nervous of committing themselves to them.
It is conceivable that not knowing the meaning of life is part of the meaning of life, rather as not counting how many words I am uttering when I give an after-dinner speech helps me to give an after-dinner speech. Perhaps life is kept going by our ignorance of its fundamental meaning, as capitalism for Karl Marx
What we have witnessed in our own time is the death of universities as centres of critique. Since Margaret Thatcher, the role of academia has been to service the status quo, not challenge it in the name of justice, tradition, imagination, human welfare, the free play of the mind or alternative visions of the future. We will not change this simply by increasing state funding of the humanities as opposed to slashing it to nothing. We will change it by insisting that a critical reflection on human values and principles should be central to everything that goes on in universities, not just to the study of Rembrandt or Rimbaud.
The imagination is also sometimes commended for offering us in vicarious form experiences which we are unable to enjoy at first hand. If you can't afford an air ticket to Kuala Lumpur, you can always read Conrad and imagine yourself in South-East Asia. If you have been monotonously married for forty years, you can always lay furtive hands on a copy of James Joyce's letters. Literature on this view is a kind of supplement to our unavoidably impoverished lives - a sort of spiritual prosthesis which extends our capabilities beyond their normal restricted range. It is true that everyone's experience is bound to be limited, and that art can valuably augment it. But why the lives of so many people should be imaginatively impoverished is then a question that can be easily passed over.
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
[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.
That Hitchens represents a grievous loss to the left is beyond doubt. He is a superb writer, superior in wit and elegance to his hero George Orwell, and an unstanchably eloquent speaker. He has an insatiable curiosity about the modern world and an encyclopaedic knowledge of it, as well as an unflagging fascination with himself. Through getting to know all the right people, an instinct as inbuilt as his pancreas, he could tell you without missing a beat whom best to consult in Rabat about education policy in the Atlas Mountains. The same instinct leads to chummy lunches with Bill Deedes and Peregrine Worsthorne. In his younger days, he was not averse to dining with repulsive fat cats while giving them a piece of his political mind. Nowadays, one imagines, he just dines with repulsive fat cats.