The literary and cultural theorist Terry Eagleton is the author of over forty books, ranging from ‘Literary Theory: an Introduction (1983) to ‘Culture and the Death of Gods’ (2014). His sustained critique of Postmodernism stems partly from a disillusioned faith in Marxist socialism and partly from what he regards as the lack of viable political and cultural alternatives offered by its resigned proponents. Paradoxically, the resurgence of religious faith is considered by Eagleton as an inevitable factor in any culture. Furthermore, religion, far from being obsolete, is ‘both vision and institution, felt experience and universal.’
Among other cultural icons, Postmodernism has put to death the Christian deity, leaving contemporaries in a spiritual desert. Exploring further into the implications of postmodern atheism or what has become a ‘diluted brand of faith’, Eagleton, in his latest book, approaches the issue from the angle of hope, leaving aside its two companion virtues, charity (‘agape’) and faith itself. In ‘Hope Without Optimism’ (2016), the author argues that against the postmodern abolition of all meaningful language, philosophy may help us to clarify and possibly redefine a concept long associated with the idea of ‘progress’, so dear to the thinkers of the Enlightenment.
Eagleton is acutely aware of the postmodern condition and its endless celebration of a narcissistic, soulless self. At the same time, he is at pains to construct a ‘philosophy of hope’ free of theological undertones or religious references, such as Kierkegaard’s conception of ‘hope against hope’, as illustrated in Abraham’s dilemma. Eagleton’s essay unwittingly highlights the limitations of human hope, inside the confines of our mortal condition, as opposed to the spiritual hope in a future eternal good, only reserved to the true believer.