The next big statement from one of our foremost radical intellectuals, announcing the end of the postmodern era-and the start of the next big way to think about the world we face today.
Contending that we are living in the aftermath of "high theory," Eagleton, the author of the highly popular and groundbreaking Literary Theory: An Introduction, bemoans the current state of cultural studies, wryly noting that while "students once wrote uncritical, reverential essays on Flaubert nowadays they write uncritical, reverential essays on Friends." Marxism, hermeneutics, and semiotics are no longer sexy academic topics, he warns. They have, instead, yielded to a fascination with sex. Students now "huddle diligently in libraries, at work on sensationalist subjects like vampirism, eye-gouging, cyborgs, and porno movies." The democratic impetus behind much cultural study-that because they reflect the everyday life of common people, Survivor and Jay-Z are as worthy of serious study as Sophocles and Joyce-seems appealing, but the Marxist Eagleton cannot reconcile studying "the history of pubic hair while half the world's population lacks adequate sanitation and survives on less than two dollars a day." As always, Eagleton is witty and convincing in his argument that theory should be addressing more important issues in a post-9/11 world politically dominated by a high-handed U.S. administration and terrorist threats. In the end, however, his study offers surprisingly little beyond standard Bush-bashing and repetitive anticapitalist rants. Alas, what could have been great cultural criticism with broad appeal falls short.-William D. Walsh, Georgia State Univ., Atlanta Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.