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Reviews423 TL· Limits ofTL·ory, edited by Thomas M. Kavanagh; vüi & 254 pp. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989, $37.50 dodi, $11.95 paper. This coUection of articles on literary dieory has two basic informing notions. First, diere is die idea that literature must be theorized but that there are limits on such dieorizing. Second—and diis puts the book at odds widi most of contemporary literary theory—die idea diat there is some substantive reaUty to be theorized about. Given the current state of literary theory it is difficult not to recommend virtuaUy any volume of whatever quality which has diese two commitments. As it happens, some ofdie articles in this particular coUection are good quite independendy of considerations of commitment. The articles are concerned either with the relation between theory and interpretation , or with more general questions about language, theory, interpretation , and reality. Most of die contributions are essentially descriptive and argumentative in form; however, some rely heavüy on literary devices such as allegory. The authors are Michel Serres, Vincent Descombes, Clement Rosset, François Roustang, Roy Roussel, Josué Harari, Thomas M. Kavanagh (in addition to his introductory essay), and René Girard. The best two essays—though by no means the only ones of interest—are diose by Descombes and Kavanagh. In "The Quandaries of the Referent," Descombes targets one of the most pervasive—and absurd—doctrines in structuralist and poststructuralist literary dieory, namely linguistic constructivism. According to this doctrine things referred to by language are necessarily dependent for their existence on language. Descombes identifies two central confusions . Firstly, there is the confusion in respect of signs between names and sentences in use. The former refer to things, die latter are actions of saying something. In practice linguistic constructivism treats aU signs as names. Secondly , diere is die confusion in respect of signs—now understood as names— concerning what it is for a sign to stand for something. The "stand for" relation is erroneously taken to mean that one thing—the linguistic item, a name—quite literaUy replaces the thing referred to. On this model signs are treated, suggests Descombes, as chits handed out for overcoats in art gaUeries. The way is now clear to embrace die absurd doctrine, linguistic constructivism, according to which language in effect replaces things. In "FUm Theory and the Two Imaginaires," Kavanagh gives an account of die development of film dieory dirough its various stages, including die conception of films as texts constructed according to codes, and die idea of films as existing to satisfy repressed desires. The artide culminates in the offering by Kavanagh of his own dieory, according to which the interpreter of film oughtto alternate dialecticaUy between what Kavanagh caUs the two imaginaries. In die first imaginary the film watcher experiences the pleasure ofparticipating 424Philosophy and Literature in the imagined world created by the film. In die second imaginary die film watcher represents his experience in symbolic discourse—he in effect theorizes the film. A final artide that perhaps ought to be noted is Girard's "Theory and Its Terrors." This piece is not really a contribution to theory as such, but it offers an acute diagnosis of die maladies of modern literary theory, especially deconstruction . Girard offers an explanation ofthe proliferation and bewildering rapidity of transformations in doctrine in modern literary theory, as weU as its nihilistic character, in terms of institutional pressure to publish coupled with an insecurity at the heart ofthe discipline ofliterary studies as to what its proper and particular concerns ought to be. Rhodes UniversitySeumas Miller UncontainableRomanticism:SL·!^, Brontë, Kleist, by Carol Jacobs; xv & 233 pp. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989, $29.95. It is with a gracious nod toward Paul de Man's theory of figurai language that the author of these eight studies establishes her own critical performance. Under the aegis of his sense of irony and informed by his "rhetoric of temporality ," Romanticism here suggests diverse possibUities of self-reflective liberation from definitive meanings. It identifies various processes of unbinding that free the artistic construct of condusive opinions, and it aUows "an uncontroUable moving beyond aU those parameters seemingly fixed widiin the texts" (p. ix). The critical discourse itself does not...


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