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Reviews407 image rather than reproducing one. Literature is important for us as human beings, according to Iser, precisely because it aUows us to imagine diat which would odierwise remain inaccessible or unavaUable. Through fiction and the imaginary we perceive otherness. Several problems in Iser's earlier work remain unaddressed here. For example , Iser apparently retains die view diat there has been an increase in indeterminacy from die eighteentii century to die present (p. 15) whUe at die same time maintaining diat indeterminacy in any text is potentiaUy infinite (p. 9). He also continues to conceive of die interaction between text and reader in terms of visual images; he writes, for example, about die reader's "task of visualizing the many possible shapes of the identifiable world" (p. 250). More troublesome, however, are the ahistorical assumptions that found and accompany Iser's main arguments. Too often we read about what literature or fiction is, or what it does; about "our own experience" (p. 7) or "the required activity of the recipient" (p. 244). Bodi the phenomenological model from which Iser proceeds and die antiiropological goal to which he aspires are ultimately conceived as norms or ideals outside of the real history of literature and reader response. His thought requires, in short, a good dose ofhistorical hermeneutics and cultural anthropology, as well as a better grounding in institutional history. University of California, BerkeleyRobert C. Holub Beyond Feminist Aesthetics: Feminist Literature and Social Change, by Rita Felski; ? & 223 pp. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989, $25.00 cloth, $9.95 paper. Rita Felski has produced in this book a subtly nuanced dialectic in which various strands of current feminist literary theory and practice are parlayed against one anodier in an effort to demonstrate the complexity of their interaction . Rigorously contextual in her evaluation of prevailing efforts to identify a feminist aesthetic either with a postmodern questioning ofestablished literary norms, or with certain characteristically "feminine" styles, Felski steps back from the dominant literary feminist paradigms to show their rootedness in social and historical conditions. By calling into question the "necessary or privUeged relationship between female gender and a particular kind of literary structure, style, or form" (p. 19), she modulates an argument that urges recognition of 408Philosophy and Literature a multiplicity of forces at work in the production of consciousness, dieory, and literature. Addressing most specificaUy die feminist dieories loosely identified as "French" (i.e., predominantly disruptive and transgressive and based on an oppositional stance widi regard to a supposed phaUocentric symbolic order) and "American" (i.e., based on the search for a distinctively feminine self), Felski sets up and counterpoises in die first two chapters die tools of feminist analysis whose values and limitations wül be demonstrated as they are put to workin the nexttwochapters on some prominentcontemporaryfeminist novels. In discussing contemporary women's confessional and self-discovery style novels, Felski successfully defends die search for individual and communal identity, die blurring ofauthor/reader boundaries, die emphasis on audienticity and intimacy, and the utopia of female sisterhood diat so many of those works put forth. Her defense is not complicit widi the goals of those novels, however. Through an exploration of fiction by major women authors of the past two decades (among diem, Margaret Atwood, Alice Walker, Marilyn French, Doris Lessing, Paule Marshall, Marge Piercy, Kate MUlett, and Marie Cardinal), she seeks to contextualize, and then deconstruct dieir implied discovery of a uniquely feminine subject. The readings carried out in chapters 3 and 4 have a two-pronged intent. Using deconstructive techniques, Felski problematizes die subject, thereby calling into question some basic assumptions of "American" feminism. By also insisting, however, that feminist theory take into account the need for the novels she analyses and their role in creating a feminist public sphere, she chaUenges the "French" feminist emphasis on negativity, experimentalism, and modernity as the hallmarks of feminist literary practice. In her last chapter, "The Feminist Public Sphere," Felski sums up: "The important and wide-spread reappropriation and reworking of such textual models [as autobiography and the Bildungsroman] indicates that the project of modernity is indeed an unfinished history, that concerns with subjectivity and self-emancipation encoded within such narrative structures possess a continuing...


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