Brimming with lively wit and penetrating insight, Holy Terror offers a profound and timely investigation of the idea of terror, drawing upon political, philosophical, literary, and theological sources to trace a genealogy from the ancient world to the present day.
Famed critic Terry Eagleton offers here a metaphysics of terror with a serious historical perspective. Writing with remarkable clarity and persuasiveness, Eagleton examines a concept whose cultural impact predates 9/11 by millennia. From its earliest manifestations in rite and ritual, through its rebirth as a political idea with the French Revolution, to the 'War on Terror' of today, terror has been regarded with both horror and fascination. Eagleton examines the duality of the sacred (both life-giving and death-dealing) and relates it, via current and past ideas of freedom, to the idea of terror itself. Stretching from the cult of Dionysus to the thought of Jacques Lacan, the book sheds light into ideas of God, freedom, the sublime, and the unconscious. It also examines the problem of evil, and devotes a concluding chapter to the idea of tragic sacrifice and the scapegoat.
Written by one of the world's foremost cultural critics, Holy Terror is a provocative and ambitious examination of one of the most urgent issues of our time.
With the knowledge of a library's worth of theology and literature in his back pocket, leading literary critic Eagleton (After Theory) sets out to trace the "genealogy" of terrorism by describing its role in societies throughout history. Composed of six brief, brilliant, dense chapters, the book draws on a vast assortment of myths, fictions and religious texts, contending that the critic can begin to comprehend the mind of the terrorist through an examination of Dionysus or Lear or Faust. Like the work of Umberto Eco, the book is learned, ironic and complex enough for numerous rereadings, particularly if the reader wants to form the kind of counterarguments the book implicitly demands. Indeed, its provocative circumspection may leave both liberals and conservatives sputtering. Though too dense and allusive for a general audience, Eagleton's "metaphysical" and aesthetic approach to the crisis of terror provides the kind of philosophical context to current events that will satisfy fans of Derrida, Lacan and Eagleton himself. (Nov.)
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Oxford University Press, Incorporated
October 31, 2005
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