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English Department
277 Fenton Hall
State University of
New York at Fredonia
Fredonia, NY 14063
Ph: (716) 673-3125
Fax: (716) 673-4661

Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction (University of Minnesota Press, 1983; 2nd ed., 1996)

"'Times change, values don't,' announces an advertisement for a daily newspaper, as though we still believed in killing off infirm infants or putting the mentally ill on public show..." (11).

What are our values as humans today? And where do those values come from? Language plays a fundamental role in shaping our knowledge of the world as well as our opinions. In fact, language permeates our consciousness so completely that we tend to forget that it shapes our understanding of "reality" itself. People are willing to kill and die for their beliefs … shouldn't we then have some deeper understanding of how to process the language and information that is in our heads and constantly imposed on us by the outside world?

"...If you allow a lot of young people to do nothing for a few years but read books and talk to each other then it is possible that, given certain wider historical circumstances, they will not only begin to question some of the values transmitted to them but begin to interrogate the authority by which they are transmitted" (200). Much of being human is comprised of reflecting on what we believe and how we act out our beliefs. Without this reflection, terrible things can happen.

Terry Eagleton, professor of English at the University of Oxford, is the author of one of the most accessible introductions to literary studies. Utilizing various readings strategies, we can come to understand texts and their impact upon us in a more complex way, allowing for rich discussions of important issues concerning humanity. Eagleton's book "sets out to provide a reasonably comprehensive account of modern literary theory for those with little or no previous knowledge of the topic" (vii).

Wars are fought because people do not fully understand their beliefs or the beliefs of others. "Hostility to theory usually means an opposition to other people's theories [or ideas] and an oblivion of one's own. One purpose of this book is to lift that repression and allow us to remember," Eagleton writes in his preface (viii). If we don't understand our opinions, how can we hope to, or even wish to, understand those of others in the world? Is war worth the price of our humanity?

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SUNY Fredonia - 277 Fenton Hall - Fredonia, NY 14063
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