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Reviews1 1 7 Faust, and works by Beckett, Camus, and Ionesco to demonstrate how this same a priori universalism and essentialism can blur even the meanings and values present in themes and experiences which have become mythic and perennial. The films ofIngmar Bergman and the poetry of R. S. Thomas are discussed in the final two chapters. Phillips criticizes Bergman's "celebration of the inarticulate" (p. 164), his increased darkening of modern spiritual longing. By contrast, Thomas is praised for his exploration and clarification of the possibilities of meanings which men who reject naturalism have given to their lives. Throughout, Phillips's style is exceptionally clear, lean, and entertaining. While familiarity with his previous work in ethics and philosophy of religion is helpful, it is not assumed. His identification of limiting philosophical assumptions in literary criticism is interesting and provocative. His criticisms of these assumptions, and his own interpretations , are careful, thoughtful, original, and highly rewarding for the patient, if not the Faustian, reader. Phillips is somewhat less careful in his treatment of moral philosophers: he accuses them of faulty descriptions when often they seem busy formulating prescriptive accounts. This, however, is a small point. Analytic philosophers probably will be bothered by the lack of formal argumentation, although the use of such methods surely would contradict the book's central claims. Ifour values are our reasons, has Phillips simply set forth his values in place of others? I think he has, and that he is right to do so — not because his values are somehow intrinsically or deductively correct, but because diey enable us to see, if not fully face to face, with greater clarity, breadth, honesty, and charity . Whitman CollegeJohnJ. Stuhr Modern Literary Theory: A Comparative Introduction, edited by Ann Jefferson and David Robey; 186 pp. Totowa, New Jersey: Barnes & Noble, 1982, $19.50. In her essay on "Structuralism and Post-Structuralism," which seems the pivotal discussion in this collection of essays on "modern" literary dieory, Ann Jefferson makes the following well-known, though still controversial point about the literary text: "writing can never be governed by the intention and avowed aims of its author." She claims that "this is what distinguishes the reading of literature from the reading of philosophy . . ."(p. 108). Of course, there is no such distinction between reading literature and reading philosophy as Jefferson herself shows in her discussion of Derrida. The textual exegesis of contemporary schools of criticism is less marked by an absence of presence or deferring of meaning than it is by the obliteration ofauthorial presence. What Nietzsche is supposed to have done to God, critics have done to the author ofthe text — the sequence seems inevitable. It was the "New Criticism" that earlier taught us about the "intentional fallacy," but I doubt very much if critics or teachers forgot about the man or woman behind the text — the paradoxes and ambiguities continued to belong to the souls ofJohn Keats and William Wordsworth, not to the nature of language. 1 1 8 Philosophy and Literature Old beliefs die hard — but they continue to die. The world now seems a little more empty of the confused presences of authors who tore literary works out of their spiritual agonies. What is interesting about die essays in this book is the way they see modern critical theory as completing the work of the New Criticism. There is an occasional pretense of replacing the autonomy of the writer with that of die reader, but diis is only sporadic — obvious by its omission from this collection is any discussion of readerresponse criticism and phenomenologiced theory. The literary text reigns alone. Lemguage is the beginning and end of all sense and nonsense. A rigorous selectivity marks die choice of theoretical groups, one diat makes diis book less a survey than an argument for a specific way of discussing literature. Even the chosen groups are simplified to fit the mold. The book makes accessible to students and uninitiated teachers what so far has been remote and difficult, but at a cost: diminished is the complexity of issues and the investigatory and probing nature of some of the theoretical texts discussed. To create a "modern literary theory" as bodi an integrated...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 117-119
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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