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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 to the sublimated. This theory, Weiskel demonstrates, has interesting implications for understanding the major writers of the Romantic period. In the process of tracing and defining the nature of the Romantic sublime, Weiskel attempts to project a theory or model of transcendence that will form a basis for literary analysis in modern times as well. For one example, he says that "one feels Keats as a presence in the conscience of Wallace Stevens, who attempts to restore the priority of the positive sublime. . . . Like Wordsworth , he is not willingly a dialectical poet; he too would celebrate the predialectical moment before perception's power yields to knowledge and what is created is differentiated from what is given. But Stevens knows better—knows that in the end such a moment is fictional—even if an absolute fiction—and that it therefore refers us back to an unexamined posture of the mind, a faith" (p. 51). Although The Romantic Sublime is not a book for casual readers, its sustained and comprehensive approach to its subject represents critically imaginative and informed intelligence at its finest. This is a major work that seems to me to make a major contribution to Romantic studies past and present. The University of Michigan, Ann ArborRobert A. Martin Marxism and Literary Criticism, by Terry Eagleton; pp. 87. London and Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976, $2.65. This is a brief but competent treatment of a complex subject. Marxist literary criticism is by now an established academic approach to the study of literature. 362Philosophy and Literature But it is not merely academic. Eagleton is at pains to warn his readers that Marxist criticism is part of a larger theoretical analysis of society which is itself rooted in the struggles of men and women for freedom from oppression. Its task is therefore to unmask ideologies in order to understand history or, as the author states it, "Marxist criticism is an analysis of literature in terms of the historical conditions which produce it" (p. vi). The root principle of such an analysis is the Marxist belief that consciousness does not determine social life but rather the other way around. In The German Ideology all culture is described as "the direct efflux of man's material behavior." Somewhat simplistically put, infrastructure determines superstructure, or economics determines ideology. Since art is part of superstructure and literature is part of art, it follows that "to understand literature means understanding the total social process of which it is a part" (pp. 5-6). But the relationship between literature and ideology is, as Eagleton is careful to stress, not a simple, mechanical one. He rejects the view that literature is "nothing but" ideology. Nor, at the other end of the spectrum, is art simply a criticism of ideology. Following Louis Althusser and Pierre Macherey, Eagleton holds that literature is ideology to the extent that it portrays imaginatively the ways in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 361-363
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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