On Evil Terry Eagleton

Publication date:
26 Apr 2011
Yale University Press
192 pages: 210 x 140mm
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An impassioned argument for the existence of evil from one of the most respected and influential critics of our day

In this witty, accessible study, the prominent Marxist thinker Terry Eagleton launches a surprising defense of the reality of evil, drawing on literary, theological, and psychoanalytic sources to suggest that evil, no mere medieval artifact, is a real phenomenon with palpable force in our contemporary world.

In a book that ranges from St. Augustine to alcoholism, Thomas Aquinas to Thomas Mann, Shakespeare to the Holocaust, Eagleton investigates the frightful plight of those doomed souls who apparently destroy for no reason.  In the process, he poses a set of intriguing questions.  Is evil really a kind of nothingness?  Why should it appear so glamorous and seductive?  Why does goodness seem so boring?  Is it really possible for human beings to delight in destruction for no reason at all?

Terry Eagleton is currently Bailrigg Professor of English Literature at the University of Lancaster, England, and Professor of Cultural Theory at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He lives in Dublin.

“Those who sentimentally indulge humanity do it no favours, argues Eagleton in this brisk, deep and oddly entertaining book about mankind at its very worst.”—The Independent

'Terry Eagleton, in his jaunty and surprisingly entertaining book on the subject, takes the unfashionable view that such a thing as evil does exist…His argument is subtle, intricate, provocative and limpidly expressed.'
-John Banville, Irish Times

'We Christians have had a lot to thank Terry Eagleton for. Not only did he write, in Reason, Faith and Revolution, the most enjoyable response to the new atheism, but he's now published another thoroughly enjoyable book that all but restores evil to its rightful place.'
Richard Coles, The Observer

'Eagleton…has scoured the worlds of literature, psychiatry and politics in a heroic attempt to come up with an all-encompassing definition of what constitutes true evil...On Evil is suffused with many such shafts of mordant wit, which makes it much more en-joyable to read than its subject matter would suggest.'
-Dominic Lawson, The Times

'A marvellous and enjoyable gallop through the subject.'
-David Wilson, Tribune

‘Terry Eagleton raises such questions, but never forgets that he is writing about real destruction and real suffering…His criticism of muddled thinking is incisive.’
-John Lampen, The Friend

‘This is an entertaining and intelligent book.’
-Revd Dr Hugh Payment-Pickard, Church Times

‘An original, wide-ranging reflection.’
-Nicholas Lash, The Tablet