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Shorter Reviews355 issues; but it is clear that an argument pursued in this factitious way needs constant trimming and repair to stay clear of absurdity. Without a good idea of what a "literary text" is, Ellis's "logical analysis" is a largely vacuous exercise, for as he gives it, his "definition" will cover such things as the statement of scientific laws, logical formulae, recipes, cross-word puzzles, some graffiti, and most philosophical treatises. The "definition" is not just indiscriminately broad: it is fundamentally misconceived. The multitude of texts it will cover do have a common function: they help organize our collective lives; but the point of any use-related definition is to make precise discriminations. The relevant considerations to that end are just the issues Ellis attempts to dissolve; and to follow Ellis would be to give up making critical discriminations altogether. By his account, a best selling potboiler ought to count as a paradigmatic masterpiece, but instead of engaging this issue direcdy, he brings history in to insinuate that "literature" really means old texts, of time-tested value (cf. p. 147 ff.). The strengths in the book do not come from what its title pretentiously suggests, but indirecdy, in the testimony of an experienced teacher and reader that literature is used to educate, socialize, transmit values, and train the power of imagination (cf. pp. 244-45). The practical relevance of the book is in its implicit directive: attend with all your powers to what literary texts actually say—surely not a new suggestion. But aside from a failure to engage the very real changes in recent critical theory, the deficiencies of this book bespeak a larger dilemma than can be laid on Ellis's shoulders. The analysis of literary criticism is a demanding task that goes beyond the scope of most professional training in either literature or philosophy. The task still needs doing, for Ellis leaves critical theory much as he found it. University of WashingtonLeroy Searle Shaw and the Play of Ideas, by Robert F. Whitman; pp. 293. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1977. $14.50. We know that if Milton had found himself in the Garden of Eden he would at once have eaten the forbidden fruit and then published a tract to prove that he was right to do so. If George Bernard Shaw had found himself in the Garden, he would have briskly nibbled the apple and then produced a play of justification so impudent, witty, and paradoxical that God would have been too greatly entertained to worry about whether it constituted a defiance or a subtle form of flattery. Shaw may well have had a higher LQ. than any other dramatist, and his works usefully cast doubt on the value of a high LQ. as a general criterion 356Philosophy and Literature of merit. His prose style is lucid, economical, epigrammatic, tirelessly polemical; with equal verve he presents shrewd prophecies, courageously humane opinions, Christmas-cracker paradoxes and lethally dangerous speculations. He was a shy man who berated his public; a Fabian impressed by Mussolini; a democrat tempted by eugenics. As a thinker he was a gambling-addict, spending copiously, trying one system after another, hitting a jackpot one night and wasting the winnings the next. In the bright chamber of his mind there were no shadows but a lucidity intense as hallucination. Such a view of Shaw is one that I and other readers are often tempted to take; and a main aim of Professor Whitman's book is to combat this view by arguing that Shaw's ideas have a central consistency, validity and wisdom. The first part of Shaw and the Play of Ideas discusses a wide selection of the myriad writers who influenced Shaw: among them, J. S. Mill, Karl Marx, W. S. Jevons, Samuel Butler, Schopenhauer, Ibsen and Wagner. Particular importance is ascribed to Hegel, especially Hegel as adapted by Ernest Belfort Bax of the Social-Democratic Federation. The Hegelian World Spirit had certain defects of character: for example, the dialectical habit of fighting battles with itself and constandy winning, a neglect of biology, and the puerile ambition to become King of Prussia. Belfort Bax improved the World Spirit immensely...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 355-357
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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