In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviews137 Goodman failed monumentally at related constructions. Literature, not philosophy, is Martin's stronger suit. University of AlbertaJohn King-Farlow Swifi's Anatomy ofMisunderstanding, by Frances Deutch Louis; 193 pp. Totowa, New Jersey: Barnes & Noble, 1981, $19.50. Swift generates fierce satirical energy that yields no tolerance for critics who are strenuous bull milkers or hermetic diddlers. A reasonable critic like Professor Louis approaches him warily, not wanting to end up as anodier "in die long dull line begot by Momus" (p. xxvi). No critic comes away from Swift unscadied — neither does Louis, but she makes a noble and interesting effort. This book is a lucid and tenacious demonstration of die centrality of epistemology in Swift's two major works, A Tale ofa Tub and Gulliver's Travels. Professor Louis shows convincingly that both satires concern man's mostly hapless struggle to know what is true. Her main contribution is a cleeir exposition ofhow "Swift's speaking pictures are linked to the epistemological concerns of Locke, Hobbes, Bacon, Pascal, Montaigne, Sprat, Barrow and Charron" (p. 171). The book does evoke one major disappointment; it offers litde that is new or surprising. Part of die problem with saying anything startling about Swift is diat ordinarily he addresses the awake mind with incisive clarity. Louis refers to the various readings of the Tale, but how can any reading diat fails to see die Hack narrator as a boob be taken seriously? Anyone even passingly familiar with the writings of Landa, Williams, Quintana, or Case will suffer a sense ofdéjà vu during much of die discussions of books I, II, and III of Gulliver's Travels. Her discussion of die Hack's vaporings in A Tale ofa Tub is intelligent, but has already been essentially accomplished by several critics. Locke, Hobbes, and Swift were indeed concerned widi how we are limed with words, but this too is hardly news. Her discussion of the Hermetic, dark manipulation of language is rendered pallid by the abundance ofwritings on that subject in recent years. Is it possible that any reasonably awake reader is not aware diat Swift implicates all of us in die horrors of war and brutality? In Book IV, though, Swift is not incisively clear; consequendy, many discussions of it can be new and often aggravating. Its strange symbols breed controversy and idiosyncratic visions. Her vision is based on a persistendy negative view of satire: "Satire is the art of bad examples and bad examples alone . . ." (p. 40). Thus, Gulliver is viewed negatively; he is die perpetual dupe; he has psychologically smelly reasons for entering into the Lilliputian's mental and physical scale. But why is it necessarily chowder-headed to see magnanimity in some of Gulliver's generous impulses toward them? In the case of the Houyhnhnms it seems perverse to insist that they are only bad examples. "The horses begin and end their judgement of Gulliver on die testimony of inert externals . . ." (p. 138Philosophy and Literature 161). This is not quite true; they are not as hard on the "gende yahoo" as she is. The horses do indeed share human epistemologically asinine tendencies, but at the same time they offer values worth considering, such as their splendid way of dying, their temperance, deanliness, and so forth. I suspect that Swift would view the office ofjudgment as diat of being able to discriminate between die valid emd the invedid in the speedcing pictures — to sort out die bad and the good — both of which eure offered in all great satires. Perhaps Montaigne is cool because he is something ofa relativist; possibly Swift seethes with indignation because he is not. Yet we are offered here a relativist Swift, for whom there is no knowable truth. This may be die main source of my uneasiness with the book. Her anatomy of Swift's epistemological imagination in its negative power is convincing enough, but I have diis nagging suspicion diat Swift had a positive substratum. Ifwe eire doomed to be marinated in only error, what is the reason for indignation and for satire? Whitman CollegeWalter E. Broman The Art ofDostoevsky: Deliriums and Nostrums, by Robert Louis Jackson; xiv & 380 pp. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981, $25.00...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 137-138
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.