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Reviews415 matism is said to have religious affinities but to require no religious foundation nor to entaü an overtly religious perspective. It demands only a secular faith in the existential value of a life whose irreducible crises and traumas are incapable ofjeopardizing die romanticist's eternal hope; and a commitment to solidarity with culture's marginalized groups—Christianity's "wretched of the earth." Since West does not explain how these goals can be articulated without the invocation of (religious) terms oftranscendence, or conversely how without such terms this brand of pragmatism can be distinguished from odier simUar emancipatory ideologies, his version of "prophetic pragmatism" remains but a hope, albeit one that deserves to be presented as a plausible alternative to the cynicism that pervades postmodern culture criticism. University of California, BerkeleyAnthony J. Cascardi Pinpoint ofEternity: European Literature in Search of tL· All-Encompassing Moment, by Peter SaIm; ? & 148 pp. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1986, $26.00 cloth, $12.25 paper. "Though human powers can never be quite equal to the task offusing matter with memory, or the concrete with the universal, the effort continues unabated to this day" (p. 122). In a pleasurably rich, insightful, and, yet, disturbing book, Peter SaIm ponders the philosophical-literary moment that creates our vision of experience. His prefatory chapter asks: What aUows a poem "to be"? What is this "stable configuration or image" (p. 14)? Why is Hegel's "Concrete Universal " the appropriate term? Chapter two addresses the geometry of points and circles from PIotinus to Pascal with important references to the anonymous Liber xxiv pkilosopkorum, Eckhardt, Cusanus, Ficino, and Bruno. Chapter diree opens widi a review ofAuerbach's "Figura" and traces Dante's narrator-pUgrim through the multiple correspondences of die Comedy to a particular non-metaphorical vision of time and geometry: "the ultimate Concrete Universal" (p. 63). Chapter four tackles Goethe's Faust. SaIm has written previously on the biological view of this text; here he deals simUarly with problems of perception and abstraction that led Goethe to privilege the "moment" or "Augenblick": "the aU-in-one-concrete-universal" (p. 72). There follow exceUent readings of Faust's encounters with Gretchen and Helen and an all-tooshort aUusion to Ottilie's vision in Elective Affinities. In Faust the "moment" lies 416Philosophy and Literature in the "poodle's core," "a central pinpoint of ever-presentness to which aU else wiU be peripheral" (pp. 79-80). Chapter five explores the works of Virginia Woolfand the moments she created "which are experienced as existing beyond the clocks and calendars of our daUy existence" (p. 85). Chapter six consists of a top-notch essay on Mann's Doctor Faustas. Salm explores here die struggle between language as time and the non-temporal meanings it signifies. "The creation of music and literature entaUs a reorganization of time" (p. 106); both Leverkühn and Mann, like Faust, wager on an "impossible transcendence" (p. Ill), the eternal pinpointofa nuncstans. Chapter seven summarizes die book's cast of authors widi references to irony and a modern canon: E. M. Forster, Borges, and lastly, even despairingly, Samuel Beckettand Krapp'sLast Tape. Thebook ends with a disturbingepilogue subtitled "Irony and the End of Literature." Peter SaIm is an enviably cultivated humanist. His book's bibliography tells a German tale: Auerbach, Cassirer, Hegel, Heidegger, Panofsky, Friedrich Schlegel, Solger, TiUich. It also tells a non-German one: Cleanth Brooks, Northrop Frye, Lilian Fürst, T. E. Hulme, René Wellek. Yet I for one should not wish to reduce Pinpoint ofEternity to the theory or positions of one or several ofthe above. The book stands on its own because it stands squarely in the shoes of an author who has confronted his texts for a long time and reflected in terms of diat very confrontation. In this experiential sense, Salm's critique is phenomenological and relatively Heideggerian. But, of course, it is not purely phUosophical. What strikes me as most startling and helpful about this book is its audior's sensitivity to himself as philosopher, critic, reader, and human being. That it closes with the frightening paradox of die "empty moment" and, thence, die end of literature must be taken seriously. From the start...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 415-416
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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