(Eagleton, Edelstein and Phyllis Brown)
He also explained that he'd been more reconciled to the idea of death, thinking that the future was huge crowds moving towards him "mesmerized by a small electronic square." He said that he was always seeing people forever shouting boring things across from him on train, things like, "Have you got the invoices?"
Father (Fr.) Mick McCarthy, an administrator and Religious Studies faculty member asked: Could you explain your writing process because you're known for writing very quickly? And in your career looking
back--what were your significant intellectual surprises?
Eagleton said that he suffered from "hypergraphia." He said they'd finally come up with a diagnosis for his excessive writing. "I can't stop writing," he said, relating that he has three books in the pipeline while continuing to conceive of others. He enjoys writing, and that he's of the category
of people who are writers--it's not a matter of what they write, only that they
write. He said he's written for the theater and even a film script--it's artificial
the difference between creative and scholarly; what I write rather more
contingent. I'm more one who creates in the act of writing. If only
I disliked it a bit more, I might slow down and others might catch up.
Someone suggested that if he were more interested in sports perhaps he might feel less compelled to write less.
He said, being Irish, I lack a visual and spatial sense--good
verbal sense, not much visual sense, I'm always blundering around the
I asked Professor Eagleton if he had a daily writing schedule so as to keep up with his writing.
He responded, "I don't have a daily schedule, I can do it anytime
like combing your hair, I can pick it up and put it down again.
I don't tend to [go back and forth between projects]. I only work on one project, except for short journalism, and finish a book
at a time."
Dr. Stephen Carroll asked if he goes back while he's writing to revise as he's writing?
"No. Revise? I revise more than I used to. I'm fairly
obsessive about style. I might be the same category--to sell grandmother
for a turn of phrase."
Eagleton answered: "I write with an eye for style and then go back with
the same aim in mind. As I get older, I find myself polishing a lot
more. I might polish a whole manuscript where I might not have done
that when I was younger. Perhaps it doesn't come as right as it did before.
I suppose...I could go all the way back through
again and never feel satisfied, ...stylistically."
Dr. Marilyn Edelstein: You were critical for theory not engaging
the material world?
You wrote After Theory , when you look at that high
theory moment--did the high theory not engage enough with the real world?
Eagleton: "I think it would be a mistake from a materialist
point of view to believe that ideas can by themselves can change everything.
History is a great sorter-outer...Marxist criticism experienced the
rolling back of the left. It managed to hang on in some ways. One has
to look at theory historically. I've been a critic of post-modernism
is that it did on the whole bring theory down to earth. Post-feminism,
ethnic politics, they're much more concerned with social relations--it's
a category mistake to put textual literary interpretive methods; you
can't classify with socialism and feminism that are political movements;
in certain ways it brought these discourses down to earth."
From a Modern Language Faculty member, there was a question about French theorist.
"It's been a while since France has been intellectual
capital. I spoke with Bourdieu and Bourdieu said that hadn't been popular--he had never been asked to speak on a French
campus. Par excellence, there's a hierarchy in discourses. Derrida speaks
about art and Bourdieu counts how many people go into museum.
Towards the end of the discussion, the questions were faster and the
answers quicker; however, here are a highlight of some of what was said:
"Frederick Jameson has carried on in a period when
a lot of literary critics fell by the wasteside. God clearly doesn't
like literary theorist. Not many survivors from that period."
"Deconstruction doesn't travel well. Derrida declared
many a time that deconstruction was political and not textual."
"It is the responsibility for radical critics to popularize their
work outside of a narrow audience; I had a lot of responses that came from my Literary Theory
from people outside who wanted to know what's going on; popularizing
is an art."
Towards the end, I asked if he had recommendations for teaching writing--a question that was perhaps lost in translation as his response was geared towards creative writing as opposed to composition.
"So-called creative writing is new in Britain; after
years of snobbish in British universities, it's beginning to be studied. I suppose when I talk to
undergraduates--as though they were human beings what I always say to
them--there is one rule to writing: literary criticism is to look at
what is said and how it's said.
Generation of teachers who do not do it that way.
You read half a line a day, eight months to read a Blake poem. If a
student can talk about tone, pace and texture--better than being able
to give a decent summary of text--that's why I wrote How to Read a Poem
and How to Read Literature."