What does Terry Eagleton want to explain to us in "Introduction: What Is Literature?" in Literary Theory: An Introduction?

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Eagleton is a socialist critic, and in this groundbreaking book, he argues that all literary theory is ultimately political. Like Barthes and other socialists, he grounds reality in lived history. For Eagleton, there is no ethereal space of "pure" criticism that is "universal," floating above and transcending the historical. He argues that those like the New Critics of Cambridge University in the 1920s and 1930s, who tried to examine literature as a "science" of plots, themes, symbol, ambiguity, and other literary analyses divorced from the historical and political, were themselves political.

In contrast to the New Critics and the formalists, who tried to float literature in a space "above" the historical, Eagleton's introduction firmly ties literature as an academic discipline to particular historical changes. Most specifically, he links the growth of the field to the rise of the working class and night-school universities that arose in England in the late nineteenth century to educate...

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