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Shorter Reviews131 consciousness and examines the transcendence and the communal nature of the self, that act so different from both the Cartesian ego and the empirical subject. Turning to another issue that has long exercised Sterne scholars, Swearingen argues against those who have posited a deep Lockean influence, that time in the book, "instead of being grounded upon the 'succession of our ideas,' is itself the ground of our idea of succession, that time is a function of the self understood as transcendence" (p. 101). Swearingen also treats finitude and the locus of human being as language. Helping us to appreciate Tristram's project and the exact nature of his understanding are the judicious discriminations Swearingen draws with other characters, most notably Walter, Tristram's father. According to Swearingen, the "uncritical egotism and seriousness about himself at the center of all Walter's theorizing is one of the most prophetic insights in the book, for at the core of the character is an attitude that threatens to reduce reality to an inventory of objects at the mercy of his own manipulative will to power in exactly the fashion that has since been the achievement of technological thought" (p. 211). "Psychic integration," however, is possible and is glimpsed in Yorick, the book's normative character. The power of play is vital (Yorick is part jester), and Swearingen offers valuable commentary on the debate over wit and judgment, as well as on comedy and philosophy. Even with the weighty philosophical apparatus Swearingen never forgets that Tristram Shandy is one of the world's greatest comic novels. Despite inevitable flaws (Swearingen sometimes pushes too hard, his book is overly long, and his prose often limps), this is an important study, one likely to exercise a healthy influence well beyond eighteenth-century scholarship. Its faithful application of Heideggerian principles is a definite challenge to the American critical scene. University ok KansasG. Douglas Atkins Wordsworth: Language as Counter-Spirit, by Frances Ferguson; pp. xvii & 263. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977, $15.00. Frances Ferguson's study of what she claims to be Wordsworth's serious and coherent thinking about language is extremely dense, remarkably intelligent , and extraordinarily perverse. The intelligence manifests itself in her sharp insights and in her construction of a complex allegorical frame which defines strategies for grappling with the errances of figurative language. The perversity stems from her insisting on Wordsworth's conscious awareness of these strategies in close readings that are often downright incompatible with the obvious intentions in Wordsworth's texts. 132Philosophy and Literature For want of space I must ignore the perversity—which is not difficult to detect. Instead I shall concentrate on her analysis of problems inherent in lyric expression. For, despite her misreadings, she establishes an important perspective on Wordsworth's major poems. Her central text (read through Paul de Man) is the "Essays on Epitaphs," for they pose the crucial dilemma of a poetic language that incarnates the spirit of lyric passion only at the cost of the death or "deincarnation" of the poem's referential object (p. 31). As provisional origin of the lyric, then, Wordsworth places not the expressive cry but the "funeral monument" (p. 33), thus separating poetic discourse from any stable relationship to an original object, emotional state, or even grasp of symbolic properties in experience. Poetic language as figurai is always in errance, always discontinuous with what it purports to describe or even to express because figures are as much emotions about expressing as expressions of emotion (p. 13). Thus to look steadily at one's subject entails self-consciously recognizing that seeing is inevitably seeing as. In figures, perceptions modify previous perceptions (p. 20), and one figure necessarily invokes the equal justice of other figures, so that only a consistent troping as reading becomes an adequate means for interpreting experience. Forced by her model to praise what Wordworth explicitly most fears in this power of language as counter-spirit, Ferguson must read Wordsworth's "Thorn" and his evasive note on it as exemplary recognitions that repetition and tautology necessarily disembody the dramatic voice (p. 12). Rustic language, then, does not control this counter-spirit by grounding figures in encompassing and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 131-133
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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