TERRY EAGLE-TON, MARXISM AND LITERARY CRITICISM, Methuen and Co., London, 1976, £ 1.00.
TERRY EAGLETON, MYTHS OF POWER : A MARXIST STUDY OF THE BRONTES, Macmillan, London, 1975, £ 6.95
Western academic attitudes to Marxist literary criticism have been changing from contemptuous dismissal or deliberate distortions to cautious assimilation and honest qualifications. After decades of 'exposing' or ^burying' Marxism we find more and more intellectuals giving it a sympathetic attention in the hope of finding radical solutions to the intractable economic and cultural problems confronting the affluent societies. Dr Eagleton teaches Marxist criticism at Oxford University. One does not normally expect an Oxford don to produce literary criticism infused with Marxist principles. Now that Oxford has accommodated Marxist criticism in its academic curriculum, departments of English in Indian Universities may pluck up enough courage to acquaint their students with this significant trend in contemporary criticism.
Dr Eagleton's Marxism and Literary Criticism is a short introductory work aiming at outlining some of the basic issues of Marxist literary theory. He makes a distinction between Marxist criticism and sociological criticism and characterises the work of L Schuecking, R Escarpit, R D Altick, Raymond Williams, A Swingewood and M Bradbury as a suitably ^tamed, degutted version" of Marxism appropriate for Western consumption. He points out that the originality of Marxist criticism lies ^not in its historical approach to literature, but in its revolutionary understanding of history itself" (p 3). Eagleton steers clear of the vulgar sociological .approach to problems of the relation between ideology and material infrastructure. His pointed illustrative analysis of certain aspects of Conrad and Eliot shows that Marxism can explain the effectiveness of their artistic representation of contemporary reality without vulgar sociological simplifications often resorted to in the past by some Marxist theorists.
Eagleton's attitude towards the theory and practice of socialism is neither objective nor informed. He wrongly finds the antecedent of socialist realism, '^cobbled together by Stalin and Gorky and promulgated