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New Left Review I/92, July-August 1975

Terry Eagleton

Reply to Francis Mulhern (NLR 91)

I am grateful for Francis Mulhern’s penetrative comment on my essay, which raises some methodological problems of first importance to Marxist criticism. He is right, I believe, that the necessarily elliptical character of my article excluded certain central issues (notably, ideological determinations other than those of ‘class situation’, and the writer’s submission to an ineluctable lineage of literary forms) to the point where some of my formulations could reasonably be accused of residual historicism. But the thrust of the essay was, in intention if not in effect, quite different. Rather than grasping ideological positions as totalizations of class-determined authorial situations, my point was to demonstrate the relations between the ideological sub-ensembles in which the authors were historically set, and the dominant ideology itself. It is this, not some ‘expression’ of class-ideology, which sets the ideological matrix of the fiction itself. The ‘real’ ideological situation of the writer is significant, not as the source of the text’s ideology, but as an index of the specific mode of insertion of an ideological sub-ensemble into the dominant ideology as a whole.

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Terry Eagleton, ‘Reply to Mulhern’, NLR I/92: £3

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