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

Reviews105 Adorno wrote, and so some transcendent point outside contemporary culture is necessary. Imagination, memory, and experience, in the form of art, were for Adorno the sources of any such possible transcendence. Jay's final chapter is an overview of Adorno's aesthetic theory and his voluminous observations on music (Beethoven, Schoenberg, Wagner, Stravinsky, jazz) and literature (Brecht, Sartre, Beckett, Kafka), as well as painting, architecture, and film. For Adorno, criticism of the present and hope for the future are sustained not by the "cultural industry" but by works of art "that strive for the utmost autonomy from the present society," "that stubbornly resist all attempts to instrumentalize them," that refuse "to accept the unity of art and this life" (p. 159). In his three page conclusion, Jay suggests that Adorno was an "ambitious failure," succumbing to his own criticism. This is the book's only significant shortcoming: Jay's concluding judgment is unfounded and premature, for he simply has not introduced, much less developed, a critical framework for assessing Adorno's work. As a result of his excellent book, however, we now are in a better position to undertake this task. Whitman CollegeJohnJ. Stuhr The Hermeneutic Mode: Essays on Time in Literature and Literary Theory, by W. Wolfgang Holdheim; 274 pp. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984, $25.00. The twelve essays in diis volume, six critical, six theoretical, all but one previously printed, cover an impressive array of works and authors: Montaigne (invoked in the introduction mainly to justify die writing of essays that are discursively woolly), Dostoyevsky, Constant, Gide, Hugo, Tolstoy, Flaubert. The theoretical essays in Part II are primarily concerned with how fiction relates to the "real" world, particularly the way literary temporality reflects modern consciousness of time, but two of diem concentrate on specific works: Wilhelm Worringer's Abstraction and Empathy and Erich Auerbach's Mimesis. Holdheim is concerned to give his essays, written over a period of ten years, thematic unity and coherence. In his introduction he is thus at some pains to disarm possible criticism by defining an essay as an essentially fluid and freeflowing genre. "The essayistic project," he asserts, "is characterised by an ongoing , perspectivistic flow of ideas and preoccupations" (p. 31). Thus essays may be by turns subjective, objective, dogmatic, digressive, repetitious, unsystematic . By a similar token, the title of the book seems designed as a conveniently vague all-purpose label. I wonder in fact whether the author needed to be quite so anxious to convince us that his essays are organically linked together: a motley collection of essays on a variety of topics and themes has its own attractions anyway. 106Philosophy and Literature Ifwe accept that the essays are, albeit loosely, centered around one main idea, we might proceed to read the book conscientiously from beginning to end. As the reviewer, I felt compelled to do just that, but too frequently for comfort found myselfbogged down in sentences like the following, chosen almost at random : "And the subject is pure not only in its manipulatory detachment from the object but also in its distance from the realm of togetherness with other subjects, which (bereft of an epistemological status of its own) has itself become 'objectified '" (p. 23). Interestingly enough, the three essays in the volume translated from Holdheim's original German text by one of his students read rather more lucidly than the others, although they too are by no means smooth and easy reading. Thus, while some pages and sections were stimulating (notably the "chapters" on Dostoyevsky, Gide, and "Poetic estrangement"), others had me painfully entangled in the coils of serpentine sentences and paragraphs, struggling in vain to cling to die main thread of argument. "The essay," we are told (p. 30), "is the hermeneutic genre par excellence." Agreed. And the word "hermeneutic" derives from the name of the god Hermes, whose principal task was to deliver messages. It is surely the hermeneutist's responsibility to ensure that his particular message is clear and that his critical comments on this or that writer, work or literary topic shed new light, not cast deeper darkness. In my more cynical moments I sometimes wonder if aposdes of "the hermeneutic mode" might...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 105-106
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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.