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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 John W. Erwin; 232 pp. Chico, California: Scholar's Press, 1984, $24.75 cloth, $16.50 paper. This book begins with an examination of Pindar as an example of the "selfcontradictary text as a model for self-critical community" (p. 43). Then it goes on to examine similar models such as Milton, Wordsworth, and Ashbery. The 100Philosophy and Literature term "community" is central in this text, but what it means, or what it has to do with this arcane and cutely complicated prose never becomes really clear. Here is the closest to a statement of the thesis that I could find in readable English: we are invited to join "a vast community of die past, present, and future interpreters in both recognizing and acknowledging that no human-authored work either definitively interprets the world or can itself be definitively interpreted" (p. 225). As a reviewer, I would normally quiver to engage this thesis in some way, but it is nearly impossible to gain any purchase on the stubbornly obscure style in which this book is written, a style that keeps whispering, "are you clever enough to divine what is lurking in the recesses of this author's soul?" The reader, gasping for air, arrives at quotations from the poets with a sigh of relief at finding himself mentally intact. When Erwin quotes Wordsworth's "the very language of men," it strikes one as a squirt of acrid satire. Let me offer a specimen of Erwin's prose. Speaking of Whitman's Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking he says, "Few texts since Revelations have so authoritatively defined the coitus interruptus between performer and interpreter as the matrix of marriage which is infinitely fertile in the challenges to maintain both personal and communal identity" (p. 127). From the glimmerings one receives here and there as to what is going on in this book it seems reasonable to suppose that it could have been written in readable English. It is possible that this obscurantist criticism is engendered by Harold Bloom and the Kabbalistic school. They seem to be inspired...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 99-101
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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