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360Philosophy and Literature The sensitive ways in which Richter uses his apparatus to illuminate the works discussed suggest that it has considerable critical value; but if we are to take his concluding generalizations seriously, a number of fundamental issues need to be clarified, especially concerning the nature of the rhetorical persuasion which a fable attempts, a matter on which Richter seems confused. His official doctrine appears to be that a sharp distinction can be drawn between "philosophical proof" and "fictional" persuasion; in his first case study he tells us that "only the illusion of inductive argument is provided us; as a serious philosophical proof, Rasselas could hardly stand much scrutiny" (p. 58), and in the final chapter we are assured that, by means of modern narrative techniques, an audience "may be 'convinced' of the truth of propositions which, on a literal philosophical level, it would resist" (p. 182). Such a distinction he often reaffirms and presupposes elsewhere. Yet we find frequent suggestions that the connections between a fable's persuasive power and our appraisal of the truth of its thesis are much closer than such an account would allow. Our "sense of the completeness" of Candide partly turns on the knowledge we bring to the text (pp. 45 and 60), V fails because "emotional conviction" is a "precondition for intellectual assent" (pp. 134 and 169), and the experience of reading Lord ofthe Flies gives us "knowledge" (p. 78). With The Stranger this last suggestion is spelled out; its "formal end" is the "communication of some form of intuitive knowledge, a philosophy understood immediately through experience rather than mediately through the terms of logical argument" (p. 83), its denouement counts as a "proof" (pp. 95 and 169), and we are pointed to "the higher lucidity of fiction" (p. 96). Other instances could be given. How seriously we are intended to take these suggestions is unclear; Rkhter's considerable critical acumen is marred by recurrent imprecision. But his difficulty in keeping to his official distinction perhaps indicates that we need a richer set of categories for assessing the rationality of conviction. University of WarwickMartin Warner The Romantic Sublime: Studies in the Structure and Psychology of Transcendence, by Thomas Weiskel; pp. xi & 214. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1976, $12.00. For those of us fortunate enough to have encountered the Romantic poets during our formative years of reading and writing poetry seriously, Thomas Weiskel has made it possible to return to the level of intellectual intensity within which the Romantics were once studied, discussed, and—if we were writers—imitated. Following the emergence of the New Criticism in the thirties and its rise in the universities in the forties, the major Romantic poets—Wordsworth , Shelley, and Keats in particular—fell from their earlier prominence as interpreters of experience and sensibility, of the "sublime" in literature that previous generations were taught to accept and enjoy. In tracing the Shorter Reviews361 Romantic impulse in poetry, Weiskel ranges freely and perceptively from Longinus, Edmund Burke, and Immanuel Kant (among others) to the poetical practices of Blake, Milton, and the major Romantic poets of England. "The Romantic sublime," Weiskel contends, "was an attempt to revise the meaning of transcendence precisely when the traditional apparatus of sublimation . . . was failing to be exercised or understood" (p. 4). From this basis, he proceeds in a surprisingly coherent synthesis of intellectual history to demonstrate that behind and beyond the Romantic preoccupation with thought, feeling, and emotional dramatization there exists an "opposition between the positive (metonymical) and negative (metaphorical) versions of the sublime" (p. 31). While the positive sublime is attributed primarily to Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats, it exists in dialectical opposition to the negative sublime of Kant and Burke. Weiskel has set his sights admirably high—the reconstruction of the Romantic notion that man, through feeling and speech, can transcend the human. This is a difficult task, and Weiskel does it well considering the problems involved in achieving a coherent synthesis from the large body of work that obviously stands behind his study. In addition to literary and historical relationships, Weiskel incorporates psychoanalytic and semiotic approaches in tracing the Romantic impulse up to Freud's theory of transference from the sublime...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 360-361
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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