[ilds] Takes on Takes

Charles Sligh Charles-Sligh at utc.edu
Sun Aug 16 13:52:45 PDT 2009

Bruce Redwine wrote:

>         Hear, hear!  Yes, absolutely.  In graduate school in the
>         seventies, I was initially taught to appreciate a work of
>         literature on its own terms.  Then along came Paul de Man and
>         "theory" took over.  I guess the current emphasis on critical
>         "theory" has displaced the old approach. 

I will not deny that the professional study of literature today trends 
toward "sheep eat sheep."  There are precious few brave or singular 
folk, but I think that this is may be a truth universal across the 

And all of that "sheep eat sheep" culture might be one among several 
reasons behind Eagleton's caper.  The celebrated critic finds himself 
asked to review a biography of Lawrence Durrell, onetime celebrated 
author.  Or the celebrated critic is invited to travel in order to share 
his views in seminar with people who actually read and attend the 
writings of Lawrence Durrell.  What happens? 

In both cases, Eagleton floats one through, pretending to knowledge that 
he has not earned.   After all, he has "become a name."  And who of like 
stature might object and ride out to champion old Larry Durrell.  Seemed 
a quick buck, an easy enough take-down, in that old Virgilian sense,  
the rugged Pyrrhus bringing the hammer down on old grandsire Priam at 
the altar. . . .

I might make a small friendly qualification to your statement about the 
need to "appreciate a work of literature on its own terms," Bruce.  And 
I would make it by means of two of my touchstones, the writings of 
Lawrence Durrell and Walter Pater. 

As Pater writes in the "Preface" to /The Renaissance/:

>         "To see the object as in itself it really is," has been justly
>         said to be the aim of all true criticism whatever, and in
>         aesthetic criticism the first step towards seeing one's object
>         as it really is, is to know one's own impression as it really
>         is, to discriminate it, to realise it distinctly.

I think that Pater's sentence could serve as an appropriate abstract or 
epigraph for  /The Alexandria Quartet/, capturing not only what Darley 
must come to see about his lovers and the City, but also what the reader 
learns while reading.

Stay strong--keep on reading.


Charles L. Sligh
Assistant Professor
Department of English
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
charles-sligh at utc.edu

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