Terry Eagleton on Alain Badiou, Ethics. A French conundrum: can radical universality be philosophically crossed with romantic epiphany?
SUBJECTS AND TRUTHS
There is a paradox in the idea of transformation. If a transformation is deep-seated enough, it might also transform the very criteria by which we could identify it, thus making it unintelligible to us. But if it is intelligible, it might be because the transformation was not radical enough. If we can talk about the change then it is not full-blooded enough; but if it is full-blooded enough, it threatens to fall outside our comprehension. Change must presuppose continuity—a subject to whom the alteration occurs—if we are not to be left merely with two incommensurable states; but how can such continuity be compatible with revolutionary upheaval?
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Jameson and Form
Identifying Fredric Jameson’s literary style as one of his signal achievements, Eagleton asks whether his formal emphases also serve to stave off questions of content: morality, sexuality, subjectivity.
Samuel Beckett’s work for the French Resistance set against his dogged refusal of all ideology. The traces of Ireland’s history—hunger, deferment, deflation, indeterminacy—in his exile art.
Capitalism and Form
If bourgeois society requires both ceaseless economic dynamism and permanent ethical stability—disorder of invention and desire, order of labour and justification—what figures of the imagination offer a synthesis of these contradictory demands? The intertwining of routines and romances, virtues and villainies, in Scott and Goethe, Dickens and Balzac, Zola and Mann.
Terry Eagleton on Russell Jacoby, The End of Utopia. What surer sign of accommodation to the status quo than pompous funerals of the utopian imagination? Masks and corollaries of political resignation.
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