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278Philosophy and Literature makes him a most appropriate author widi which to conclude this book. Some attention is paid in Paradise Lost to the temptation of Eve who "chooses and falls . . . because she willfully interrupts the analytical process of her conscience" (p. 253). The major focus, however, is on Samson Agonistes in which the action of the drama and specifically of Samson 's understanding and will move beyond die limits of reason to the realm of grace. The thesis of the book is sound, though somewhat strained at times. Nevertheless it approaches these carefully selected works from a perspective that frequendy rewards the reader with new insights. This is especially valuable today when casuistry is for die most pairt a forgotten word, but moral dilemmas proliferate in bodi private and public life widi agonizing insistency. Willamette UniversityRichard D. Lord Semiotics and Interpretation, by Robert Scholes; xiv & 161 pp. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982, $12.95. Some recent theorists —Jonathan Culler among them — have welcomed the prospect of an end to the business ofworkaday literary "interpretation." Semiotics, structuralism, and deconstruction are seen as providing an alternative, a source of generalized insights into the character and workings ofliterary discourse. The mere piling-up ofad hoc, individual "readings" would dius give way to a systematic study possessed of its own distinctive techniques and redeemed from subjectivist whimsy. Robert Scholes has very different ideas about the uses of semiotic method. For him, interpretation is still the chief object andjustifying cause of humanistic study, the latter an ideal to which Scholes — unlike the current post-structuralists — continues to subscribe without embarrassment. His essays are concerned in various ways to negotiate the passage between semiotic theory and its practical uses in die better understanding of texts. His account of semiotics is more indebted to die American pragmatist example ofC. S. Peirce than to high-flying speculative theories of Parisian provenance. His book thus comes as a timely riposte to those current detractors who regard "theory," in whatever guise, as a species of bother-headed abstract illusion unrelated to the purposes of literary criticism. Scholes argues a forceful case for the practical, transformative effects of semiotic method, its capacity to open up texts to a reading more productive and radical dian anything entertained by the "old" New Criticism. Semiotics looks beyond the isolated work to the ways in which its meanings are coded (and often contested) by die whole complex weave of"intertextual" relations between it and whatever may affect its reading. The crucial distinction here is that which Roland Barthes pursued in his essay "From Work To Text." The literary "work," as construed by New Critical fiat, is a self-contained structure of meanings held togemer by the tensile yet unifying forces of paradox, irony, and other such tropes. The "text," on the other hand, resists this process of premature aesdietic Reviews279 closure, existing as it does in a constant productive interplay with meanings and codes outside its own sovereign control. Scholes makes resourceful use of this idea in his expressly intertextual readings. His object is always to draw out the practical consequences, whether in broadly pedagogical terms or as pointing toward a politics of situated reader-response. Two striking essays — "Decoding Papa" and "Uncoding Mama" — may serve to exemplify Scholes's lively yet closely-argued way with texts. The first is a reading of Hemingway's "A Very Short Story," bringing to bear a good deal of structuralist descriptive machinery by way of distinguishing story, plot, implied narrative viewpoint, and so forth. All of which amounts, one might think, to a straightforward exercise in the new (or not so new) narrative poetics. But Scholes has other and more challenging points to make. Hemingway's story, under cover of "impersonal" narration, in fact does everything in its power to construct an unequal and prejudiced relation between the man and woman whose ill-fated passion it laconically recounts. It is the man's viewpoint diat actually (rhetorically) dominates die text, as Scholes rather neatly brings out by inviting us to substitute T for "he" where implications of attitude are concerned. The "she" is constructed always from the male standpoint, supplied with those attributes (loquacious, emotional, faidiless, destructive...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 278-279
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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