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136Philosophy and Literature bring together reflection on discourse, on writing and speaking, on metaphor and symbol, and on explanation and understanding. Though Interpretation Theory may lack the concreteness and excitement of some of Ricoeur's longer works, it does offer an inexpensive and useful survey of his general view of interpretation. MacMurray CollegeRichard E. Palmer The Imprisoned Splendor: a Study in [Early] Victorian Critical Theory, by Lawrence J. Starzyk; pp. 200. London and Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1977, $10.50. I would not go so far as to say with the Reverend Sydney Smith that "I never read a book before reviewing it; it prejudices a man so." But I freely admit that I did not finish Professor Starzyk's book; not that its ideas are uninteresting, or its thesis unacceptable, but simply that I find it unreadable. Its idea of argument consists of hovering around some assertion or image in itself quite straightforward but presented so repetitiously that one fights for the meaning or despairs of a simple statement. Quotation alone will show whether or not this is merely inattention on my part, so I take the first paragraph of the preface: "English poetic theory of the early Victorian period has long been considered an amorphous amalgam of criticism lacking a common aim and method. Hopelessly overtaxed with a variety of functions, many of them incompatible with each other, the Victorian critical effort appears unsystematic in its approach to artistic questions. With a certain degree of justification, modern scholarship has tended to regard the art philosophy of the early Victorian period as nothing more than an invoice of disparate terms, a manifesto of diverse creeds, a catalogue of meaningless principles" (p. vii). Is this not a froth of words making the simple claim that there is said to be no coherence in early Victorian criticism? What one might forgive as rhetorical flourish in an opening paragraph is continued in the next: "despite the heterogeneity of the Victorian critical effort, despite its seeming aimlessness by comparison with the systematically formulated aesthetic of the romantics . . .". One pauses amid the flow of words to consider this last phrase—romanticism itself has no less justifiably been considered "an amorphous amalgam"—before being swept away in a new gush of elaborate paraphrase, indicating the intention to establish "a theoretical orientation within whose legitimate scope the numerous, if not opposing, demands imposed upon the artist could be reconciled," or "define the critical orientation informing early Victorian poetics and unifying the chaos of terms, principles, and demands," or "examine the dialectical process, particularly its philosophical and psycho logical underpinnings, which serves as the foundation of poetic theory in the period as well as the basis of the aesthetic's meaningful resolution of its manifold contradictions" (p. viii). Shorter Reviews137 Order is imposed initially by three limitations, first taking only the period to 1867 (the title page, unlike the cover and the publisher's review slip, omits the Early), second dealing primarily with major critics (in this Professor Starzyk is modest, for his range is wide among critics), and third dealing almost exclusively with poetry criticism. This last would not be difficult were we not told in the preface that "poetry" or the "poet" must be "understood in light of the unique spiritual and psychological difficulties facing the Victorians and compelling them to regard the artist and his work synonymously as the expression of an individual (whether politician, artist, or laborer) who manifests to an age of dissolution psychic integrity" (p. ix). If "poetic theory" does not refer to "composition in a given medium" (p. ix), one might legitimately expect some comment on the relation of the novel and drama to the subject, and more than three incidental references to Dickens, and one to a poem of Emily Brontë. There are good things in the book: a proper recognition of Browning's critical thought and the delight of obscure quotations in a new context. But I hope that Professor Starzyk's unquestioned intelligence and information will be used in his projected study on "The Will Not to Be" in a less rhetorical and more readable style. University of Newcastle upon TyneR. K. R. Thornton ANNOUNCEMENTS...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 136-137
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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