You are on page 1of 3

GROUP 3- Eng 11 THR Prof.

Edel Garcellano

Reaction Paper on “After Theory”


Chapter 1 Politics of Amnesia

The ever changing world makes you wonder: where did it all begin? When were the first ideas or
theories made? And how did these people come to these points? Many questions arise from the very
thought of what makes ideas, theories, the arts and literature. Most of them only get one answer, and
that answer is based on the norms of the society.

Terry Eagleton, the author of After Theory, wrote about cultural theory in the first chapter of his
book. It seems that he finds it difficult for the new generation to have a clean slate after many years
of remarkable writers of culture. What we mean by this clean slate is the opportunity to give fresh
and new ideas or theories worth passing on to the next generations. What could be more
“intellectual” than the ideas of structuralism, feminism, socialism, and the like? The forefathers who
created these ideas make it seem hard for us to make our own mark in this world, which in the end,
would result to following their footsteps and picking up on what they already discovered long ago.
Even so, the new generation tries to make new ways of creating topics. Writers from different walks
of life go against the “cultural”, the usual way of writing, and write about what they think are
interesting topics, most of which reflect what they experience in everyday life. The topics of interest
nowadays are mostly about sexuality and popular culture. In contrast to the topics of the writers in
the past, which are mostly written by the elite class, it is evident that it is difficult to go after the
“originals” because there is a big gap or difference in the topics that these writers choose to write
about.

In the past, what was invisible to the eye was worth studying. Those writers who are now probably
dead are the ones worth researching about. Many of the norms made in the past had to be subjected
to the standards of the state, or for that matter, the elite. This gave rise to the ideas like Marxism and
one of the greatest forces ever to influence many nations—Western colonialism. Because of all
these, they gave rise to the revolutionary movements of the low class. The ideas of the elite in the
past were somehow oppressive for the low class. But still, the low class, or the peasants and workers
were the bulk of the society. Thus, political uprisings, especially from Third World countries became
rampant in this time of oppression.

Even though there were revolutions in the past, these did not give guarantee that the society would
be well off and that the government and economy would be stable. The revolutions by the Third
world countries were not as successful as they thought they would be because these revolutions gave
rise to postmodernism and post-colonialism. The society still had it in them, the colonial mentality,
through which margins and minorities were created, or to be exact, given too much attention. The
idea of capitalism, which seemed to be the solution to the economy of the society, made way for
classes, groups, the majorities and the minorities. Because of this, there were norms to be followed,
most of which are not that different from the norms that were created by the previous generation.
Also resulting from capitalism is globalization. We aim so much for our economic success that we
forgot how we once believed that nationalism was an effective anti-colonialism force. Now, we are
more focused on how to colonize ourselves in the modern world. It’s ironic how the society aimed
for freedom, but still ended up being oppressed by the very ideas that they choose to believe in.

The Politics of Amnesia, seems like a reminder for us of how we never got to experience the past,
like others who are part of that past. We develop, add and criticize to the ideas of the “originals”, but
we will never get the chance to relive and actually experience these ideas. And amnesia, in this case,
is somehow good. We live in a changing world, and experience the things that maybe those in the
past also never got to experience. It cannot be a crime for having ideas far from the ones in the past.
If writers in the past all became united at one point because of their theories, then it must mean that
there is a chance for the new generation to experience that “unity in diversity”, also uniting the
society through its fresh ideas and giving solutions to the problems which arose from the past.

Chapter 2
The Rise and Fall of Theory

‘Change’ is the only permanent thing in the world. As for this essay, culture and theory are
presented as merely objects of the inevitable change per se. The first paragraph testifies to this
account. It mainly talks about hermeneutics or the science of interpretation. What we do not really
know about this body of knowledge is the real score on why and how the author formulated it. On
one instance, he was concerned about how we could somehow understand the beliefs of the people
in New South Wales even if at first, they are foreign to him. Here, the author wants the reader to
realize that nothing changes unless he considers the roots in historical reality. For us, the title ‘Rise
and Fall of Theory’ refers to the changes occurring as new cultural ideas have sprouted through time.
First, the author gives a definite meaning of the world ‘culture’. ‘Culture was about values rather
than prices, the moral rather than the material, the high-minded rather than the philistine. It was
about the cultivation of human powers as ends in themselves rather than for some ignobly utilitarian
motive’. Culture serves as haven for those people who, at some point in their lives, felt
discrimination or social biases from other people or classes in the society. Culture enters here when
these people are given importance as humans as well and provide them their own identities because
basically, culture is one thing that connects us all. Before, culture was seen as tradition people used
to practice and faith they use to believe. But in the essay, it has been stressed that culture also covers
other areas like film, image, fashion, lifestyle, marketing, advertising, and communications media.
Now it has been given a broader definition and seems to have no limitations pertaining to the scope
of its study.

On the other hand, the essay talks of the feasibility of theories. Objectively speaking, the
word itself, ‘theory’, has its own definition. But then, this definition would be inconsistent and
subjective once a person applies it to himself. We reflect the purposes and assumptions and this
critical self-reflection forces us into a new self-consciousness about what we are doing. But still, it
was there to remind us of the art, pleasure, gender, power, sexuality, language, madness, desire,
spirituality, the family, the body, the ecosystem, the unconscious, ethnicity, lifestyle, and hegemony
it has disobeyed over the years.

As for Marxism, the author points out that much of the new cultural theories were actually
born from it, or rather by “experimenting” with it. The politics of Marxism brought forth a new
breed of thinkers that drove us to a new era of ideas; most of which are born in attempts to go around
it. And so, the author says, this particular school of thought turned into dogmatism-- which is what
precisely tempted thinkers into trying to modify it or change it, and thus the cascading of ideas. We
then conclude that as with the case of Marxism, society, which is somewhat didactic, sparks thoughts
of change as we imagine ways of improving the state of affairs that we are immersed in at the
moment. This is achieved through self reflection. As with arts and literature, to quote the author,
“Would you not need to change society in order to flourish as an artist?” To create worthwhile art,
you do not simply copy society-- you infuse a bit of yourself in it, of how you view it and of how
you interpret it. In a society that presses upon us, the moment we become sentient, we learn to dream
and imagine alternatives to reality, the actual. As with literature, everything that is written, could try
to copy reality, or maybe try to change it, possibly, try to go around it and try and dispose of it
altogether and in the case of the latter-- surely fail. For no literature can detach itself from the actual.
But from this reality, sparks new ideas which fuel thinkers, artist, writers to give birth to versions or,
say, alternatives to what is actually happening.

Less of what has been discussed in the previous paragraphs; let us now divert our attention to
the essay’s form and style in writing. The paragraphs/sentences in the paragraph may be described as
‘non sequitur’, as there was an inconsistency in the arrangement of ideas and as such, these
inconsistencies builds more complications to mainly understanding the essay per se. i.e. fourth
paragraph talks about culture while the succeeding paragraph shifts this to the discussion of
knowledge and how students in Europe reacts to it. Second, there were some conflicts of interest
presented in the essay. At one point, the author persuades you to let yourself think the thoughts and
ideas he stresses out, but then you will find yourself stuck with what you already made believe, and
what the author, as the essay progresses, points in contradicting this belief- making it obscure and
vague at first few pages of reading. i.e. Elitism was now a thought-crime only slightly less grievous
than anti-Semitism. Everywhere one looked, the upper middle classes were assiduously at work
roughening up their accents and distressing their jeans. The working-class hero was triumphantly
marketed. (Here, the author clearly stated what he wants to point out about how people respond to
elitism.) Yet this politically rebellious populism also paved the way for the rampantly consumerist
culture of the 1980s and 90s. What had for a moment shaken middle-class complacency was soon to
be co-opted by it. (There is the obvious shift of view- that is, from positive, as is the use of the words
‘less grievous’ to the negative, as is the word ‘rebellious’.) Aside from that, the essay jumps from
one idea to another without proper transition, which could be quite confusing, adding to the fact that
his examples are so specific that only one well versed in theory and history could understand it. The
reader is then left to guess of what precise idea is it that led the author to connect one idea or
example to another. It is very much like connecting dots that are too far away from each other.
Lastly, the conclusion does not completely conclude everything. There were so many ideas and
arguments presented in the essay, but the last part or the conclusion just told of the significance of
looking from all directions at the same time when considering theories in a literary work, because ‘it
is where the most intensely creative ideas stem from’.