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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-exde 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 he thought about. Secondly, whatever the man thought is ultimately irrelevant anyway to die task of grasping the "inner diedectic" of the novels themselves, and one must wonder why critics ofJackson's stature persist in their attempts to make the two interdependent. In a word, the tasks Jackson sets for himself, "to come close to the basic concerns of Dostoevsky emd the creative tensions or dialectic that characterize his work" (p. ix), are at crossed purposes. It is in fact the inner dialectic of Dostoevsky's novels that renders futile any attempt to "come close to" Dostoevsky's "basic concerns" — if we mean by diis (as Jackson certainly does) a straightforward set of precepts, systematically ordered and coherent, that we can with confidence label the poet's "phdosophy." Dostoevsky has none, precisely because he is a poet and not a philosopher. Southwest State UniversityHugh Mercer Curtler Semiotic Themes, edited by Richard T. DeGeorge; vii & 277 pp. Lawrence: University of Kansas Publications, 1981, $12.00 paperbound. Semiotic Themes is worth consulting by both die newcomer to semiotics and die seasoned semiotician. The breaddi of subject matter in the collection assures uiat one or more of die articles wUl appeal to every reader. In the first essay, "Ferdinand de Saussure and the History of Semiotics," W. Keith Percival presents the salient features of Saussure's theory of signs. Percival provides the uninitiated with a brief history of philosophical notions concerning relationships of thought, speech, and writing as a familiar base for understanding Saussure's phdosophy of language and semiotics. The value of Percival's approach is explained in "The Cybernetics of Cultural Communication " by Allan and Louise Hanson. The Hansons show die importance offamiliar information for understanding the unfamUiar as they develop a model mapping the way the world is both mind-affected and mind-affecting. The semiotic play between the strange and die familiar elements in communication makes the strange understandable. Jonathan Culler seeks to distinguish genetic and descriptive semiotics in "The Semiotics of Poetry: Two Approaches." By taking Michael Riffaterre's Semiotics ofPoetry as an exam- 140Philosophy and Literature pie, Culler shows diat genetic semiology seeks to gain insight into the meaning of poetry by considering how poets write whde descriptive semiology is concerned with die way a poem gets interpreted by critics as well as what conventions make possible disagreements among critics about the meaning of a poem. In "A Problem of Audience" Andrew A. Tadie and James P. Mesa demonstrate descriptive semiotics. Their problem is: What made it possible for a contemporary of Davenant to understand the Deistic theme ofthe Seige ofRhodes? The auuiors discover that die clue to die meaning is found in Davenant's divergence from his favored Terencian Five-Act Structure of English drama. By introducing a disruptive element into an accepted dieatrical format, Davenant signaled to die astute among die audience diat diere was a deeper structure of meaning in the play. Leon Satterfield provides an example of genetic semiotics in "Toward a Poetics of Ironic Sign." In order that irony may be understood when it occurs, Satterfield shows how die kind of irony that implies an ironist is created. On the one hand, he describes the types of irony (rhetorical and situational) he is concerned with and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 139-140
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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