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1 12Philosophy and Literature Hartman, one of the (in)famous Yale critics, opens his "The New Wilderness: Critics as Connoisseurs of Chaos" with an eloquent restatement of the way in which criticism becomes creative and thus itself becomes a place where the nature of the literary is continually rethought. Hartman's major concern, however, is to argue that die opponents of the Yale school employ in their critiques the very concepts and strategies that have been brought into question by "poststructuralist theory." But there is a further, and for Hartman a more disturbing , dimension to these attacks on contemporary theory. In them he identifies a totalizing and universalizing tendency which aims to force a sameness on linguistic practice. Implicit in Hartman's position is the claim that the recognition by poststructuralist theory of the arbitrary, nonstandard, and fragmented nature of discourse entails (or perhaps should entail) a critical and political pluralism. It is the joining of the political and theoretical that distinguishes the importance of Hartman's paper. Lyotard's "Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism?" is a direct though enormously sophisticated intervention in a debate which his earlier La Condition Postmoderne helped to start. Lyotard's response to this question stems from his recent work on theories of presentation. Kant on the Sublime is interpreted as providing a way into an understanding of modernism, for the Sublime concerns the unpresentable while the modern "presents the fact diat the unpresentable exists." This "fact" gives rise to two responses. One is nostalgic and regretful of the modern predicament while the other celebrates and affirms die inventive possibilities it affords; "Melancholia contra novatio." Lyotard identifies the former widi the modern while the latter is the postmodernist stance. The postmodern "searches for new presentations not in order to enjoy them but in order to impart a stronger sense of the unpresentable." The consequence of this is that the postmodern artist or writer is not constrained by preexisting rules in battling with that universalizing process identified by Hartman as the opposition in the postmodernist gesture. University of WarwickAndrew Benjamin Semiotics and Thematics in Hermeneutics, by T. K. Seung; xi & 217 pp. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982, $22.50. European and American philosophy and literary criticism often come to their most intransigent disagreements about Hegel and the relationship between dialectics and logic. T. K. Seung has lessened the impasse by finding ways to use Hegel's important focus on the relationship of ideas to history while pointing to the limitations of a strict dialectic based on logically necessary oppositions. In Reviews113 order to do this, he joins semiotics and hermeneutics to produce thematics, or "ideas in context," a redefined contextual criticism which has the advantage of being historical and simultaneously avoiding unmediated empiricism. Seung inserts his argument into an American critical scene characterized by two divergent approaches he calls "neurotic hermeneutics," criticism which has not recovered from its separation from the intrinsic, text-based focus of New Criticism. He calls these two approaches textual agnosticism, represented by Harold Bloom and Geoffrey Hartman, and textual solipsism, represented by Stanley Fish and Norman Holland. Both are ultimately dependent upon die theories and methodology of New Criticism and its discovery of textual indeterminacy . The problem of textual indeterminacy, however, has been misconstrued by both groups. The indeterminacy is not textual, it is contextual: "When a text can be given more than one reading within a prescribed semantic context, it can be said to be textually indeterminate. However, when the indeterminacy of its meaning is dictated by the multiplicity of available semantic contexts, it should be called contextual indeterminacy" (p. 37). Seung's description ofcontext owes much to Gadamer's notion of the fusion of horizons in which both the text and the perspective of the analyzing subject are put into their historical contexts to produce a double interpretation involving a context-bound text and a contextbound interpreter. Seung also follows Gadamer's critique of ahistorical objectivity , pointing out that there are two things going on in the relationship between a critic and a text: the coherent use of a method, and the critic's presupposition of some kind of trudi in both his writing and in the text...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 112-114
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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