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Reviews The Innocent Eye: On Modern Literature and the Arts, by Roger Shattuck; vi & 362 pp. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1984, $18.95. This volume contains twenty-one chapters and an afterword. The chapters are grouped in three main sections ("Cases and Inquiries," "Writers," and "Artists and Others") and two "Polemical Asides." The first group ofessays combines the historical and the intellectual; the second devotes a chapter each to Balzac, Baudelaire, Valéry, Artaud, Malraux, Tournier; the third tackles Monet, Apollinaire, Stravinsky, Magritte, Duchamp, and Schapiro. These are distinguished and fascinating essays in which every reader will find some new, valuable insight into his own particular area of interest. I found especially interesting the evocation of Pope's rococo grotto in connection with the Giverny garden of a Monet gradually moving away from Impressionism. (One does wonder, however, whether Monet's insistence on painting only "what he saw" necessarily implied a belief that nothing else exists [p. 230].) The "polemical asides" are important contributions to the debate about the nature, role, and status of contemporary literary theory and criticism. One ofdie contemporary currents Professor Shattuck opposes is "the growing demand of critics (without Wilde's wit) to stand as the full peers of 'creative' writers" (p. 317). This is an important point, if an unpopular position to take, and it is encouraging to find a scholar of Shattuck's stature taking a stand against this latest brand of absurd intellectual hubris. Roger Shattuck attacks speech-act dieory for either ignoring or looking down on literature, reader-response theory for positing "curious notions about communities of readers" (p. 315), and structuralism for eliminating the author (p. 314). The author and his psychology are of course, while not compulsory, nevertheless valid subjects of study: the answer, in this post-Wimsattian era, may be to develop complementary but separate analyses of the man and the work. In a courageous defense of traditional humanism, he rightly declares: "I would maintain against strong intellectual currents flowing in other directions diat die central purpose ofliterary study continues to be the reading and discus98 Reviews99 sion of the masterpieces of literature" (p. 349). However, those of us who applaud these sentiments will not necessarily agree with another formulation that is both more categorical and more extreme: "Human greatness achieves its fullest meaning when it belongs not to a set of detachable works but to the sustained quality of a man's life" (p. 54). The fact that some masterpieces are virtually anonymous, and that one of the most magnificent of all time — most brilliantly analyzed by Professor Shattuck himself— was produced by a sadist who enjoyed watching caged rats being tortured with hatpins will surely make some of us hesitate here. This preference for the man over his work leads further afield. Saussure is blamed for preferring langue to parole, and Professor Shattuck remarks, "To dismiss parole is to dismiss individual acts ofcommunication, including literary works" (p. 317). However, Lévi-Strauss divides Saussure's parole into parole and écriture, the latter (not the former) including written literature. There results a terminological confusion, within structuralist discourse, between parole (nenegue ) andparole (non-écriture). Now, Professor Shattuck, in defending literature, pleads at length in defense ofthe oral (pp. 320-26); however, Lévi-Strauss and Derrida use a similar defense of the oral to make a misguided attack on the written — which of course includes all written literature. There almost seems to be a congruence in this case between Lévi-Strauss and Derrida, who are for parole against écriture, and Professor Shattuck, who prefers the writer and the oral to the written text. Is there not a danger here ofundermining the appreciation of great literary masterpieces ofthe past, which Professor Shattuck deeply desires to protect ? One may cavil over details of the argumentation such as these, but unquestionably this volume is the work of a concerned humanist, a mind of exquisite culture, intellectual courage, and great generosity, and it should make an important and much-needed contribution to the attempt to stem the tide of nihilistic decadence that threatens to engulf literary studies in our time. Rice UniversityPatrick Brady Lyric Apocalypse: Reconstruction in Ancient and Modern Poetry, by...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 98-99
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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