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

Reviews259 first rate. Yet my feeling is that what is inexplicable is precisely what gives the novel its life and is part of the reason we prefer Anne Elliot to Gulliver. Today we disagree with Johnson and criticize die writers of the philosophical tale for their lack of imagination — a lack which results in the cardboard figures which people their books. For us, a weak novel is one in which the characters lose their imaginative, covert subtlety and become "ideas embodied by characters" (p. 256). The philosophical tale can be rationalized because it is itself rational while the great work of fiction, being imaginative , retreats from any attempt to lay it bare. As Keener lucidly demonstrates, the philosophical tale is faction rather than fiction; it is exemplary psychology rather than art, and thus permits the assault. In bringing psychological assessment to bear on the novels of Jane Austen, Keener creates the illusion that the novels can be interpreted in terms other than their own. That this is an illusion is one of the lessons ofhis book — a lesson which he recognizes but seems loath to accept. The psychological approach is fascinating applied to the neoclassic texts for which it is appropriate, but it shows its weaknesses when applied to texts whose artistry retreats from it. Paradoxically, it is his very success in pinpointing the influence of die philosophical tale on Austen diat demonstrates why she so radically surpassed them. University of SussexDavid Pollard In Defence of the Imagination, by Helen Gardner; vi & 197 pp. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982, $15.00. The six essays in this book are the revised and expanded Charles Eliot Norton Lectures for 1979-80. Chapter One, "Present Discontents," records the audior's opposition to aspects of die new New Criticism: the self-indulgent use oflanguage and creation ofnew, obscure vocabularies, die denial of objective status to the text, the reader's replacement of the author as creator of the meaning of the text, and deconstruction in general. Chapter Two, "The Relevance of Literature," points out that literature is "a superior amusement" (p. 28) whose aim is to enlarge our being and allow us to test our moral allegiances. In the next three chapters, the criticism becomes more specific. Chapter Three, "Shakespeare in the Directors' Theatre," presents a chronological study ofthe presentation of Shakespeare's plays and rejects the practices of the Directors' Theatre. Singled out for particular reprimand are John Barton's Richard II and Peter Brook's King Lear, the latter noxiously influenced by Jan Kott so that it appears as Shakespeare's anticipation of Beckett's Endgame. In the fourth chapter, "Readers and Reading," Stanley Fish is attacked for making "the poem's centre of reference . . . the reader who is also its subject" (p. 84), while, in the fifth chapter, "Narratives and Fictions," Gardner analyzes Frank Kermode's The Genesis of Secrecy, finding there intellectual energy and endiusiasm but judging the work "deeply disappointing" and "unfollowable" (p. 115). She cannot accept "the melancholy negativism" (p. 114) ofthe conclusion — the idea that we cannot distinguish fictitious from historical narratives and the assumption that because we cannot know everything, 260Philosophy and Literature we cannot know anything. Finally, Chapter Six, Apologia Pro Vita Mea, presents the journey — die education and scholarly pursuits — of a soul who wishes, in the final analysis, "to be considered as a teacher or as nodiing" (p. 162). Professor Gardner's book is lively, constructed with lucidity and learning and as clearly written as it is conceived. This alone makes it a welcome anomaly in today's critical market. The author hesitated when asked to give the Norton lectures because she felt that she had nothing new to say. She decided, however, to restate the classical view, and, in so doing, she produced a novel book of contemporary literary criticism. Its major drawback lies in the fact mat the audior brings togedier disparate forces to form a common enemy and, in the ensuing battle, deconstruction is often confused with reader response criticism, Harold Bloom is oversimplified and misrepresented and, unfortunately, in taking on only Fish and Kermode individually, Gardner can hardly be credited widi having defeated her most significant foes. The strength of...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 259-260
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.