In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

420Philosophy and Literature WhUe feminist criticisms ofmodern phUosophy are hardly new, TL· Thinking Muse provides an important reminder diat diose theoretical works diat do not hold true for aU of humanity (male and female) are of necessity bound to dieir respective limitations. The concerns raised in diis volume are substantial. OveraU , this collection ofessays is a solid addition to the canon ofAmerican feminist phUosophy. University of New MexicoSusan Brill TL· Culture of Criticism and tL· Criticism of Culture, by GUes Gunn; xv & 216 pp. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987, $34.50 cloth, $8.95 paper. GUes Gunn views die contemporary scene of the humanities with some distress ; he finds "this excruciatingly intellectualistic age" (p. 61) too often assailed by doubt and deplores the fact that modern criticism is afflicted by a nature that is at once "repetitious" and "self-defeating." At worst diis gives a slighdy acidulous tone to Gunn's writing, especiaUy when he writes of those, mainly poststructuralists, whom he holds partly responsible for this lamentable state of affairs; at best it leads to a passionate engagement that is evident in his chapter on "The Humanities and Its Discontents." Against die onslaught of Derrida and Foucault and dieir "fellow-traveUers" (p. 47) in the American academy, Gunn invokes a home-grown tradition of pragmatist phUosophy where the names of Dewey and James are joined widi later writers such as Kenneth Burke, Clifford Geertz, Richard Rorty, Lionel Trilling, and Edmund WUson. It is in this loose tradition that Gunn finds a form of critical reflection and moral understanding of literature and culture that escapes the solipsism and self-defeatism that seems to him to characterize the poststructuralist voice. Gunn's main complaint against the poststructuralists seems to be that their work leaves cultural criticism litde to do (p. 43). This is true but only because Gunn defines bodi culture and criticism so narrowly. He is content to deal only with what might be called "high culture" and "high criticism"—that tradition of critical and aesdietic reflection that runs from Aristotle to Kant and Arnold and on to the critics widi whom Gunn feels most at home—TrUling, Burke, and WUson. He has litde to say, for example, of the various kinds of wider cultural criticism—some of it made possible by the work of die poststructuralists —which goes on under die various names of postcolonialism, Marxism, new historicism, popular culture, feminism and race, gender and class studies. These important forms of culture criticism are mentioned in passing (on p. 149 and p. 162), but diey do not receive any discussion. If my criticism appears Reviews421 unfair—Gunn may weU protest diat he wasn't writing a book on that kind of cultural criticism—dien it is so only if we ignore die promise of breaddi he holds out in die title of his book: TL· Culture of Criticism and tL· Criticism of Culture. For this is a book which, despite its broad tide, is about American culture and American criticism. The pragmatic and moral tradition Gunn examines is clearly an important field of study and it is in die later chapters on die history of what he caUs die "American Studies movement" (p. 151) and die history of the relationship between religion and literature that Gunn moves away from die somewhat defensive tone of the early chapters to sometiiing more accommodating , encompassing, and envisioning, to a plea to supplement die poststructuraUst hermeneutics of suspicion with a home-grown hermeneutics of restoration. It must be said, however, that culture from Gunn's point of view looks very white, male, and first world. The idea of a book on the culture of criticism and the criticism of culture is clearly a good one but TL· Culture of Criticism and iL· Criticism of Culture leaves one wondering if, in die last decade of this century, it is stiU desirable, even acceptable, to conceive of die topic as narrowly as it is here. University of Canterbury, New ZealandDenis Walker TL· Pleasures ofReading in an Ideological Age, by Robert Alter; 250 pp. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989, $18.95. Most of the important literature departments in America are dominated by a flagitious anti...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 420-421
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.