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124Philosophy and Literature Ferocious Alphabets, by Denis Donoghue; xiv & 211 pp. Boston: Litde, Brown and Company, 1981, $14.95. At the heart of this book there is a play of distinctions between writing and speech. These are, of course, ambiguous terms, which taken in a certain sense are virtually synonyms. But Professor Donoghue draws two different distinctions between them, each of which generates a series of brilliant stylistic and conceptual analyses of a remarkable range of philosophers, critics, and poets. Firsdy, dien, "speech" is die language of conversation. In speech there is an inherent desire for someone who will listen and respond, and conversation instantly satisfies it. Conversation is "the privileged form of language" (p. 93), die one which best reveals and actualizes its essential dynamic. Writing lacks, and die writer misses, the sense of a reader: he cannot even be sure there is one. And Professor Donoghue suggests that a writer's style can be regarded as a linguistic strategy adopted to make up for what is missing — "style as compensation for defects in the conditions of writing, starting with die first defect, that it is writing and not speech" (p. 51). He dien investigates, in this light, the differing styles ofJohn Crowe Ransom, R. P. Blackmur, Hugh Kenner, I. A. Richards, William Empson, T. S. Eliot, and William H. Gass. These studies establish beyond doubt the value of conceiving of style in this way. They do not, though, bring us any closer to a general understanding of the difficult notion of style: there must, presumably, be styles of speech as well, styles indeed of conversation. Some instances of style must be products ofthe presence, rather than the absence, ofa listener; and such a view would not in fact contradict Professor Donoghue's thesis. Secondly, he distinguishes speech from writing on the ground that they are differently understood or interpreted. The distinction here is between ways of reading — briefly, speech is language read as die expression of a voice, an author, a self, whereas writing is language read as somediing enclosed, complete, impersonal. A text, then, can be read either as speech, or as writing. The latter half of the book is given to an examination of these two types of reading, which are called, respectively, "epireading" and "graphireading." There is no systematic theoretical analysis ot the two notions, but radier a series of studies of writers and thinkers who advocate these types of interpretation, or die conception of text upon which diey are based, or who exemplify them in dieir own comments upon literature. In die epireading group we find Gerard Manley Hopkins, Georges Poulet, Kennedi Burke, Paul Ricoeur, Richard Poirier, and Harold Bloom. Under graphireading we find Mallarmé, Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes, Paul de Man, and Lucette Finas. At the very end we discover where Professor Donoghue's sympathies lie: he "detests" graphireading, whose underlying ideology is "die death of the audior, die obsolescence of the self, the end of man" (p. 209). Now for the mandatory words of criticism. The two concepts of speech and writing to which I have referred, emd correlatively the distinctions made between them, are not as clearly differentiated by Professor Donoghue as they are in this review. He does not exacdy confuse them, but he does not care to draw our attention to their difference. Indeed, we suspect that he would really like them to be die same. But also, a few words of quite unforced praise. Ferocious Alphabets is a most stimulating Reviews125 work, intellectually vigorous and erudite. It is cleverly written in a style that it would be almost impossible to graphiread. Queen's Universityof BelfastHugh Bredin Paul Valéry and the Poetry of Voice, by Christine Crow; xviii & 302 pp. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982, $49.50. Valéry once remarked that he was much more interested in what was going on in his mind when creating a poem than in the poem itself. This intense intellectual selfconsciousness is a major preoccupation in his prose work and a central theme in his poetry. Professor Crow's study is the first (in English or French) to concentrate on the relationship between Valéry's poetic theory and his poems. The phrase...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 124-125
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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