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278Philosophy and Literature plots the self's journey through the negation of repression, conflict with society, and failure to see oneself and others clearly, to a new sense of "selfhood" where negations are recovered and affirmed. (Tolstoy's Levin discovers the joys of threshing wheat, Jane Austen's Emma discovers she wants to marry after all, etc.) In the post-modern period the focus again shifts, this time from the self to language. Now the negations are the linguistic negations of Derrida and Saussure, and the escape from the endless, hollow web of linguistic "différance" (Derrida's neologism) is the new "negative" affirmation of deletion or erasure, delivering us in Beckettian silence from the endless repetitive turning of our objectless language. Post-modern literature, rejecting nineteenth-century romantic notions of plot and character, explores the meanderings of "langue" and dreams of its eventual overthrow in a new scientific language (Robbe-Grillet), or a non-language of the future. At the end, jarringly out of sequence, Kurrik tacks on a short section on tragedy concentrating on Greek drama. There is no central thesis or recommendation in Negation and Literature. Instead, it is a survey of philosophical views combined with a series of literary interpretations, and it often reads like a series of notes waiting to be made into a book. The unstated and interesting suggestion is that the shape of literary thought is itself philosophical, and that there is no hard dividing line between, on the one hand, philosophical works like Hegel's Phenomenology or Dewey's Psychology, and literature on the other. With a few lapses (a brief misleading section on Chomsky, and less than justice done the great master of negation, Hegel), the short summaries of philosophers are clear and accurate and the literary readings are illuminating and readable. Of course, more, much more, could be done, but then too, it is necessary to begin by breaking the surface. University of Wisconsin, WhitewaterAndrea Nye Thresholds of Reality: George Santayana and Modernist Poetics, by Lois Hughson; xii & 180 pp. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1977, $12.50. Santayana, it might be claimed, is the philosopher most significant for understanding the transition between the Victorian order troubled by disorder and the modern disorder in search of order. This book, an expansion and extension of an earlier essay in the American Quarterly, concentrates on the "vital philosophy" expressed in verse and rather ignores the academic philosophy, with the large exception of The Sense of Beauty. The sources are primarily Sonnets and Lucifer, on which this is surely the best commentary to date. This choice of focus can be justified from The Life of Reason. What Professor Hughson has done is to show the personal and cultural problems that led Santayana to ask "whether chaos or order lay at the beginning of things." Shorter Reviews279 Although she deals with naturalism and transcendentalism, she does not relate naturalism to the view that all begins in chaos, as James claimed of experience, with seeds developing vital patterns. Nor does she relate naturalism to the alternative position, called by Santayana "dialectical," that order is eternal; that is, that there must be a principle prior to becoming, as Royce argued. Hughson has ignored the usual history of American philosophy on the ground that Santayana was first a poet and then a philosopher who had been a poet, though one might object to this on the ground that Santayana had written an excellent philosophical treatise, Lotze's System of Philosophy, just prior to the 1890s. The key to understanding Santayana, she argues, is that he experienced conversion (metanoia). That is, his "Catholic" stress on the free contemplative spirit followed from his disillusionment with naturalism. According to Hughson, Santayana's philosophy springs from the necessity for cultural and for personal order; but the modes of ordering diverge sharply. In The Sense of Beauty, we read of two ways to harmony, one "to unify all the given elements, [resulting] in the beautiful; the other to reject all recalcitrant elements, [resulting] in the sublime." Although Santayana's ideal culture is inclusive, his personal life was one of exclusion. Nature has a place in it for all sorts of life. Santayana...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 278-279
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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