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396Philosophy and Literature By focusing on the strategy ofexample in the audiors he has chosen to study, Lyons succeeds in giving us new and insightful readings oftexts that are among the most revered in the Western tradition. Each of the chapters in his book can stand as a discrete unit; thus a reader who is especially interested in one or die odier of die audiors under examination can turn to diat chapter and read it with profit and pleasure. At the same time, however, Lyons is engaged in a broader enterprise, for his study of die evolution of example (and tiius of representation) in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is also a study ofan ideological shift similar to, but not identical with, die shift Foucault discussed in his analysis of die difference between the Renaissance and the classical episteme. Lyons maps the history of example onto die history of modern (what Foucaultians usually call Cartesian) subjectivity. Example serves, Lyons notes, "as an instrument for relating the individual to sources of authoritative knowledge" (p. 237). In the early humanist period, authoritative knowledge was assumed to be located in die past. With the increased stress on direct observation of die phenomenological world, the present became a source from which exemplary material could be drawn. Examples from die present, however, tended to be inscribed in an idiosyncratic and subjective discourse that undermined example's ability to support a general statement, to persuade, or to appeal to shared knowledge. Example became a problematic figure diat seemed increasingly external to the main business of discourse. Learned and elegantly written, this book is indispensable for anyone interested in the literature of early modern France and Italy. Ohio State UniversityRobert D. Cottrell Ruin tL· Sacred Truths, by Harold Bloom; 204 pp. Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 1989, $20.00. Among the book's many dun, gnomic statements, this one could serve as thesis: "Poetry and belief wander about, togedier and apart, in a cosmologica! emptiness marked by the limits of trutii and meaning" (p. 4). Professor Bloom sees poetry and belief as antithetical modes of knowledge; consequently, the great literary artists are ruiners ofsacred truth. This relates to Bloom's obsession widi die agon between ancient and modern poets. Poetic strength is a lust for priority; it requires that the new song, "one's own, always must be a song of Reviews397 one's self . . ." (p. 125), in which die sacred truths receive corrective revision. He discusses diis agon from the Bible to Freud and beyond. Reading this book is a disquieting adventure. Bloom is not a cautious, didiering academic; his propositions are often audacious, sometimes brazen, and at times infuriating. He makes global statements with Johnsonian assurance. Lear's tragedy has a "poignance unmatched in literature" (p. 72). Milton in book five provides "die most profound allegory of poetic origins ever given to us . . ." (p. 104). Occasionally one can only mutter humph—for example, to his claim diat Oscar Wilde "was always right" (p. 130). How can such peccadilloes matter, diough, in view of his vivid discussion of Shakespeare. Bloom speaks of him with hyperbolic grandeur: we owe to him "most of our supposedly modern ways of representing cognition by writing and reading" (p. 53); Shakespeare anticipates everydiing. Yet none of diis has die formaldehyde odor of the usual Shakespeare hype. No normal person yearns for a further discussion of Hamlet, but Bloom manages to overcome diis queasiness. Instead of yet another attempt to bludgeon us into seeing Hamletas a prince ofaction, he is interested in Hamletas the peculiarly haunting character, so original that "he contains us, and has fashioned our psychology of motives ever since" (p. 58). Death and insight focus the play. We don't think of Hamlet as royal, but as noble, that is, a seeing soul. Bloom sees Milton as a monist ruining the sacred trudis of Paul and all odier dualists, and all odier monists as well. Milton was supremely self-sufficient, possessed of a rock-like ego, a sect of one, whose desire was "never to be different, never to be elsewhere" (p. 91), a sublime vitalist. Contra C S. Lewis et al., he sees Milton's God as a Ronald...


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