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Shorter Reviews269 (p. 69). In short, it is the virtue of criticism to keep an open mind and allow for an author's imaginative power of creating "centers" beyond his—the critic's—immediate grasp. In testing his approach against Tolstoy's implicit ideal, the critic is thus stretching his intellect around problems which may be incapable of precise, analytic description. To "explain" the complications of motive experienced by Tolstoy's protagonists is merely to fasten, like most of his critics, on one side only of an infinitely complex activity. Freedom and necessity, for instance, play a philosophic role in War and Peace which the commentator can point to in numerous passages, but which no amount of theorizing can adequately explain. The consciousness of freedom, as a matter of momentary choice, coexists with the knowledge of necessity imposed by the reasoning mind. "To reason, the evidence of consciousness is wholly false; but to consciousness, the evidence of reason is wholly false. If Isaiah Berlin chose between the two, Tolstoy did not" (p. 122). Wasiolek's approach makes a virtue of necessity by holding such premature abstractions at bay, and making every possible allowance for the range and specificity of Tolstoy's fiction. This in turn supports his argument that the passages of overt moral reflection are not, as many critics have supposed, mere chunks of intrusive comment. Their relation to the strictly narrative episodes is not so much based on contrast or mutual exclusion as on complementarity, like the many other dualisms ("war and peace," "necessity and freedom") which make up the novel's imaginative world. As I have said, Wasiolek is not—at least on this occasion—overmuch concerned with issues of critical theory. His engagement with other critics is really by way of clearing the ground for a full and unimpeded response to the novels. It allows him to treat them as an evolving sequence, connected by ideas which, despite their extreme generality, have the substance and conviction of particularized insight. Resurrection contains no ultimate answers, but holds out a kind of provisional assurance which does represent—in the context of Tolstoy's struggling lifework—a genuine moral advance. "From consciousness, to false consciousness, to true consciousness"—the pattern pervades both the individual novels and Tolstoy's fiction as a whole. Wasiolek's reading is an eloquent defense of that wholeness, from a standpoint at once sympathetic to and aware of its endlessly problematic nature. University of WalesChristopher Norris Toward a Speech Act Theory ofLiterary Discourse, by Mary Louise Pratt; pp. xix & 236. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1977, $12.50. It cannot quite be said that this book fills a much-needed gap in literary studies, though it may be of marginal interest to a few people with eccentric 270Philosophy and Literature concerns; but nobody with serious interests in literature will profit much from reading it. Professor Pratt's basic doctrine, which I think to be true, is that the differences between literature and non-literary writings are not textual but contextual, and her book is, largely, an explication of this view. Negatively, Pratt attacks the view which she dubs the "poetic language fallacy." This "fallacy" is common doctrine among American "New Critics," Saussurian structuralists, and the earlier Russian and Prague Schools of linguists. It is the view which holds that language functions differently in literature than it does in ordinary life; that literary and ordinary language are in opposition in that the first is "aesthetic" and the second "practical"; and that the differences are manifest in the observable properties of literary and non-literary discourse. This is supposed to provide the foundation for the autonomy of literature and literary studies, i.e., their independence from psychology, sociology, linguistics, and so forth. Professor Pratt's first two chapters, the best in the book, very effectively expose the defects of the theory of the autonomy of literary language, particularly in its inability to deal adequately with the prodigious resemblances of literary and non-literary narrative. From the failure of Formalism to account for the continuity of literary narrative with natural narrative, Pratt infers that "since they are utterances" (p. xv), literary works are part of the data which linguistic theory...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 269-271
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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