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New Left Review I/160, November-December 1986


Paul Coates

Pynchon’s Aesthetic Radicalism

Terry Eagleton’s recent article on ‘Capitalism, Modernism and Postmodernism’ (nlr 152) concludes one of its sections with the following sweeping, brilliant statement: ‘The autonomous, self-regarding, impenetrable modernist artefact, in all its isolated splendour, is the commodity as fetish resisting the commodity as exchange, its solution to reification part of that very problem.’ [1] Terry Eagleton, ‘Capitalism, Modernism and Postmodernism’, nlr 152, July–August 1985, p. 67. Apt as this is, its very sweepingness is problematic. All modernist literature is condemned as in thrall either to fetishism or to reification. One is left wondering whether or not Eagleton considers any recent authors worth reading (perhaps Walter Benjamin scrapes through, but then he, like Eagleton, is a critic . . .). His gesture almost rivals the notorious Leavisite dismissal of post-war literature for barrenness. So who are we left with? Which authors can be said not only not to hinder the Marxist project, but actually to promote it?

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