The prose style of Terry Eagleton

The prose style of Terry Eagleton

Question: Discuss Eagleton’s prose style.


The style is not mere decoration. It is rather a way of searching and explaining the truth. Its purpose is not to impress, but to express. Since Terry Eagleton is the most renowned critic of modern English literature, his critical writing has a number of prominent features.

Dialectical style

One of the key features of Eagleton’s critical prose is the brilliant inverse logical style. He intelligently considers social and cultural conflicts and raises the opposing arguments so strongly in the conflict that they burst and suddenly some unexpected insight or vision is revealed. In this way, the readers feel seemingly ridiculous and far-fetched assumptions. But immediately they discover how precise and reasonable the arguments are.

“In eighteenth-century England, the concept of literature was not confined as it sometimes is today to ‘creative’ or ‘imaginative’ writing.”

The above sentence may be seemed positive but expresses the limited concept of literature since it was not creative and imaginative in the 18th century. Thus, the dialectical style is the soul of his prose style.

Lightening opacity

Absolute ambiguity is one of the most permanent and attractive qualities in Terry Eagleton’s writings. It has helped him to be one of the most colorful and controversial figures in cultural politics today. When we examine his critical writings, we can see that no one explains critical theory with greater clarity than he does. The appeal of his work stems from the bold inquiry. He has introduced the origins and aims of English studies. This is meant that the function of criticism relates to the closely related and equally relentless questions. So, Eagleton’s style is unclear due to the riddle of the question. But whenever questions are solved, his idea shines. His “The Rise of English” is the paradigm of sheer audacity.

Click here: For all the notes of Literary Criticism

Historical references

Eagleton is an outspoken critic of his generation. His best-selling publication “Literary Theory: An Introduction” published in 1983 reflects the breadth of his theory of knowledge. In this book the second chapter entitled “The Rise of English” contains many historical references of literature. His knowledge includes criticism not only of British critics but of Europe, Russia, and America. It is important that Eagleton himself is not a historian but his concept of literature excels the historians. Therefore, he studies how English studies went through changes from adorable drawing rooms of the aristocracy to the venerable middle class and how it replaces religion to perform the ideological platform to enforce social bonding. This approach is certainly unique and has been dispatched in the dialectical style of Eagleton.


Most of the reversal comments in “The Rise of English” are humorous. In this work, Eagleton offers scathing assessments of various currents of criticism. While discussing the concept of value-judgment, he notes:

“Nobody would bother to say that a bus ticket was an example of inferior literature, but someone might well say that the poetry of Ernest Dowson was”.

This is a grossly overdone statement, but one should, by no means, ignore the educational or pedagogical problems of Eagleton’s style.

The satirical reversal in arguments

Another technique often employed by Eagleton is the Swift-like satirical reversal in arguments. He describes in detail a seemingly plausible case only to knock it down unexpectedly with a penetrating observation and expose it with faults. This technique is used to create a great effect in “The Rise of English”. When the critic satirizes the English short-lived poet and politician Ernest Dowson, it creates the Swift-like satirical reversal in arguments.

Tiresome extent

Pointless is not the staple of Eagleton’s prose. In fact, his style is clearer than most of the formal methods. But long stretches of text can be tiring. In spite of the tedious limitations, there is something different in his prose that can regenerate the text and the readers separately and independently.


Thus, writing in a style is accessible. Eagleton has specifically argued in the field of literary theory. His rhetorical skills are perhaps unequaled by contemporary critics. These are something that many critical theorists could benefit from studying.

Ruhul Huda
Ruhul Huda

You can call me Mr. Huda. I am a researcher and doing this work for years. I like to learn everywhere. So, feel free to share your experience with me.

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