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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. Despite its tide, ProfessorJackson's book is less about art than it is about doctrine. The central thesis of the book is "demonstrated" by repeated references to the audioes notebooks and letters, or by evidence "discovered" in the novels diemselves. The question of the poet's art, die question of that which the poet Dostoevsky transformed into the substance of art out ofdie subject matter of Fyodor Mikhailovich's experience, is ignored. Three of Dostoevsky's five major novels (The Raw Youth, The Idiot, and The Possessed) are also ignored and thus we must raise questions at die outset about both die scope and direction of die audioes uiought. Jackson's diesis is diat Dostoevsky's Notesfrom the House of the Dead is of pivotal importance for grasping the meaning of his mature work generally. Specifically, he focuses on what he calls Dostoevsky's "Christian poetics" as diat body of social, moral, and aesthetic doctrines diat inform Dostoevsky's prison masterpiece and recur in his later writings in ways diat make die earlier work of central importance in critical interpretation. At timesJackson seems to be aweure ofdie vited difference between art and message. He frequendy alludes to the "inner dialectic" of the novels and stories he examines, and he knows the importance of dramatic tension and contradiction to works of art. Given that this is so, why would he undertake a task that seems doomed at die outset? Why would he risk the traps and pitfalls of poetic inspiration in search of dry philosophical doctrines? Whatever die answer, die result of this quest is predictable confusion, which is nowhere more evident dian in Jackson's attempt to handle Dostoevsky's slippery notion of human freedom. Let us take a closer look. Jackson begins with the confident assertion that "one of the fundamental ideas that Dostoevsky dramatized in his postexile [sic] works is that man is free and diat no appeal to environment or fate cemjustify evasion of responsibility" (p. 39). Now, clearly, Jackson is Reviews139 in error to insist diat poets "dramatize ideas," but we shall ignore uiat issue since diere are problems enough with the remainder of the claim. It is difficult, for example, to think of a single character in any ofDostoevsky's post-exile works uiat is clearly free and not strongly influenced by fate and/or environment. Indeed, Jackson's own reading of The Gambler and Notes From Underground leads him to die opposite conclusion. As he puts it, "every attempt to . . . bring an illusion of authentic freedom, choice, self-determination [to the Underground Man] only further underscores his subjection to the power of blind destiny" (p. 187). The difficulty we are dealing with here is twofold and of considerable consequence for critical theory. First, the views of Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky are at best difficult to bring into sharp focus because we know (ifwe know anything) diat he was oftwo or three minds on nearly every issue...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 138-139
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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