Holy Terror

Holy Terror

Holy Terror

Holy Terror

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

This book is not intended as an addition to the mounting pile of political studies of terrorism. Instead, it tries to set the idea of terror in what I hope is a rather more original context, one which might loosely be termed ‘metaphysical’. As such, it belongs to the metaphysical or theological turn (or full circle) which my work seems to have taken in recent years, one welcomed by some but looked upon with alarm or exasperation by others. As far as the exasperation goes, I would point out to my friends on the left that the politics implicit in this rather exotic talk of Satan and Dionysus, scapegoats and demons, are more, not less radical than much that is to be found in the more orthodox discourses of leftism today.

In any case, terrorism itself is not political in any conventional sense of the term, and as such poses a challenge to the left’s habitual modes of thought. The left is at home with imperial power and guerrilla warfare, but embarrassed on the whole by the thought of death, evil, sacrifice, or the sublime. Ye t these and allied notions, I believe, are quite as germane to the ideology of terror as more mundane or material conceptions. Like a number of my recent books, then, this one seeks to extend the language of the left as well as to challenge that of the right. Perhaps this is partly because I live in a country which used to teach politics and metaphysics together in its national university, and in which it has not been unknown for hairdressers and bus drivers to have a passing acquaintance with notions of natural law or theories of just warfare.

The genealogy I trace for terrorism, all the way from ancient rites and medieval theology to the eighteenth-century sublime . . .

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