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Reviews427 So much for die official version; inteUigent, suggestive, refreshingly sane, but limited. That Mason is uneasy with it comes out at various points. He maintains, for example, that Wittgenstein "is a 'hot' phUosopher taken to be 'cool' " (p. 145), which suggests that error is possible in interpreting a phUosopher 's rhetoric. More seriously, we are told diat die flaws in Plato's "direct phUosophical argument" for die Forms do not matter since "understanding the Forms is . . . like die appropriation of the meaning of a poem" (p. 113); a little later we find diat "strict phUosophical argument is only part of the process of rational persuasion" (p. 122). But this suggests diat phUosophical endeavors to influence die ways an "audience looks and feels about tilings" do not neady divide into "strict" argument and rhetorical attempts to promote "die trutii which its phüosophy seeks or recommends" dirough somewhat uncontroUable perlocutionary effects. Mason's reluctance to acknowledge diis appears to stem from the suspicion that to do so would be to coUapse the distinction between rhetoric and phUosophy in a deconstructive manner, but this unease is Ul grounded; the Derridean assault depends on the positing of some such neat division in order to deconstructit. An investigation ofmore intimate connections between forms of rational argument and the tropes and other "devices" than that ofperlocutionary "indirection" appears to be called for (perhaps metaphor has also an Ulocutionary aspect) but that would be another story. University of WarwickMartin Warner Subject to Change: Reading Feminist Writing, by Nancy K. MUler; xn & 285 pp. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988, $32.00. At a conference last year in Madison, Nancy K. Miller playfully referred to her approach as "narrative criticism." The phrase—as MiUer improvisationaUy defined it—describes the kind of writing that incorporates the story of one's own theoretical affiliations and critical practices into an account of the history of recent criticism. ActuaUy, "narrative criticism" aptly describes recent work by many feminists (Janet Todd, Elaine Showalter, Nina Auerbach, and Jane Tompkins come to mind), each ofwhom, in recounting where feminist criticism has been in the past decade or two, teUs her own story as part of that history. MUler conceded that many nonfeminist academics find such personally focused "narrative criticism" annoying, even embarrassing. But she asked: Is that any reason not to do it? After all, part of the point of feminist criticism is to annoy and to embarrass. Largely a collection ofalready published essays, Subject to Change is personally 428Philosophy and Literature focused too: it is a kind of intellectual autobiography where the critic decided to forego die storyteUing, and arranged die products ofher developing diought chronologicaUy, in almost the same form diey took for die occasions (conferences and seminars) diat produced diem. The book has three parts, which function effectuaUy as two: five chapters establishing MUler's theoretical position (aU previously published) and four chapters of criticism (tiiree of diem new) under die rubric of "Feminist Signatures: Coming to Writing in France, 17471910 ." The book is fuU of footnotes and headnotes explaining why certain essays, written as long ago as 1978, do not allude in dieir current, revised form to such major documents of feminism as GUbert and Gubar's Madwoman in tL· Attic. "My book," MUler explains, "records its own history" (p. 46); hence she has chosen not to update her arguments. What is of interest here, evidendy, is not die current state of feminist theory, not even a narrativized account of how it got (dirough GUbert and Gubar and otiiers) from where it was in 1978 to where it was ten years later. Instead, die focus here is on the mind of Nancy MUler, then and now. Fortunately, MUler's is an interesting mind; she is a wonderful reader of women's texts. The early essays locate the "specificity" of women's writing in novels' content—their "diematic structuration"—rather than in style, where odier practitioners of feminist poetics had been inclined to find it. The more recent essays read such texts as Graffigny's Peruvian Letters, Staël's Corinne, and Colette's TL· Vagabond widi an eye to the experience of die woman who writes as well as to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 427-428
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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