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444Philosophy and Literature to produce a "void" which would "caU . . . for a discourse" (p. 230). Indeed, Bannet suggests diat French culture is alienated and alienating, and that therefore these diinkers have been driven to a mad critical discourse in order to bring us back to our sanity; poststructuralism is merely the tin drum on which these thinkers bang in the hopes that their countrymen wül see die light. What we get in Bannet's study, then, is not an acceptable reading ofeither the theory or the historical and social contexts in which it has taken place. University of IowaHerman Rapaport An Appetitefor Poetry, by Frank Kermode; 242 pp. Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 1989, $22.50. Frank Kermode caUs his latestcoUection ofessaysAnAppetiteforPoetry. Perhaps it would have been more accurately titled had he substituted "literature" for "poetry," but he wanted die aUusion to Paul Valéry's comment, which serves as Kermode's epigraph—"there are among these men with no great appetite for poetry . . . quite a number whosejob or fate it is tojudge it, discourse upon it, stimulate and cultivate die taste for it, in short, to distribute what diey don't have." Though either term would be problematic these days, Kermode makes dear enough what he means. In the book's long prologue, we are treated to a masterful defense ofthose who may still retain some taste for poetry or literature or a literary culture that Kermode himself admits seems now virtuaUy "on the point of extinction." He offers the foUowing explanation: "If that is their fate, it is one they share with a great many other things. The human race got along without literature and, a fortiori, without literary criticism, for very lengthy periods before, and no doubt it could do so again. AU we could do in that case would be to take die advice of Shakespeare's Octavius, and let determined tilings to destiny hold unbewaUed their way. But refusing to waU is not die same tiling as surrendering, and it may stiU be possible, even if matters are desperate, to hold on for a whUe. It is at least worth considering what it is diat we are apparendy being asked or forced to give up in order to have the benefits of die present critical revolution" (pp. 5-6). Kermode's An Appetitefor Poetry demonstrates very clearly what it is we are being asked to give up. The ten essays coUected here range over a variety of topics, from die old Johnsonian notion ofThe Common Reader, whose duties "have now virtuaUy devolved upon professional students of literature" (p. 51), Reviews445 to a celebration of the quirky genius of William Empson; from fascinating discussions ofWaUace Stevens's affinity for Heideggerand T. S. EUot's perpetual exüe, to an insightful reading of MUton in old age pondering "die peculiar conductofGod toward his elected heroes" (p. 67) in his tragedy SamsonAgonistes. Throughout runs Kermode's concern with canons and canon formation, both sacred and secular, with modern dassics and biblical hermeneutics. Many of these chapters were originaUy deUvered as lectures to various audiences—"specialist audiences, audiences of specialists in fields odier than literature, and audiences not properly specialist at aU" (p. 4). One, the chapter on Empson, Kermode confesses was originaUy written as a review, aldiough "Reviewing of diis more ample and perhaps more serious sort," he reminds us, is "as important as any other kind of literary criticism" (p. 3). In every chapter Kermode entertains his readers—common or odierwise—with the now somewhat disreputable skUls of the old-style literary critic. Kermode makes good on the promise in his rather polemical prologue not to deliver a jeremiad, but diat does not mean he shrinks from combat. He rounds up aU die usual suspects—Derrida, de Man, and particularly Jonathan CuUer—and notes the absurdities ofthe political posturing ofEnglish professors and canon bashers, but he takes their charges seriously and attempts to show us aU where current trends are leading. In fact, he does an exceUentjob in die prologue and elsewhere of placing recent tiieoretical fashions into a larger historical framework. In "Freud and Interpretation," for example, he demonstrates die impact of Saussure's linguistics on...


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pp. 444-445
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