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1 1 4 Philosophy and Literature rigorously as he might in terms of its own thematic of objectivity. He also overlooks die important historical fact that the West's sovereign individual has never referred to nonwhites and females, leading him at one point to make unwittingly ironic comments about equilibrium in terms of the arrangement of communities based on Lévi-Strauss's model of exchange. His analysis is also marked by the absence of any consideration of the important work done by Lacan on language and dialectics. Nevertheless his argument is important in reinvolving context in American criticism and, in particular, in presenting Gadamer's work in such practical terms. University of OregonLinda Kintz Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics, by Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan; xi & 173 pp. London: Methuen, 1983, $8.95 paper. Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan wonders in her conclusion whether "this book has been an introduction to or an obituary of the poetics of narrative fiction" (p. 130). It reads badly as an obituary. In fact there appears so much potential life in what should, to meet the presuppositions of obituaries, be a corpse, that it seems more as though this is an infant just reaching toddlerhood and thus into everything. An introduction then. But it is a difficult introduction since Rimmon-Kenan has tried to provide both a synopsis of the current state of the poetics ofnarrative fiction and a coherent synthesis ofit. She does this by tracing the development of theories dealing with major topics. Thus die chapters deal in turn with events, characters, time, characterization, focalization, levels and voices, speech representation, and the text and its reading. This looks like a coherent sequence, and in part it is. Each chapter does deal with the topic but not fully. This is a result of the state of knowledge ofthe topic as much as the fact that this is an introduction because Rimmon-Kenan does cover a good deal of the literature on each topic. But she is also guided by it. So in the chapter on character the major problem is the one that comes from Rimmon-Kenan's sources, the supposed impossibility of having characters in narrative fictions. Evidendy many modern theorists and some not so modern have it in for "character." They include Russian Formalists and Structuralists and some practicing novelists. Rimmon-Kenan, in part, shows why there are difficulties with the notion of character and as her contribution to the discussion suggests that it is a problem because the theory of character is relatively undeveloped. This is a particularly interesting suggestion in an obituary because Reviews115 the area of relatively undeveloped theory is a place where one is most likely to find life. And so much of the discussion shows this potential for greater life. What is required to provide this life is a greater awareness of methodology. Some of the most interesting and frustrating sections, for example that dealing with temporal relations, contain a great deal oftechnical vocabulary clearly supported by an interesting taxonomy of literary phenomena; but the taxonomy is not in turn supported by a deductive, explanatory theory. Thus the descriptions of the phenomena which Rimmon-Kenan summarizes appear rather sowhatish , like phenomena in search of an explanation. There is a degree of arbitrariness about them too which makes one ask why these phenomena have been selected and why in this fashion. This again is not the author's fault but clearly a reflection of the state of the art. This state is reflected in the derivative nature of the theories which form the underpinning of much current literary theory. Structuralist theories take over much of the theoretical baggage of a now largely outmoded and partly inadequate kind of linguistics. Other theorists, for example Rimmon-Kenan, use the terms "Deep Structure," "Surface Structure," and "Transformation," borrowed from Chomskian generative linguistic theory (with no reference to their technical meaning in generative theory) as metaphors. This is theoretically naive. One cannot borrow theory from other disciplines and use it as metaphor without the theory becoming vacuous. Literary theories must set up their own constructs and give them meaning, certainly using what is known about language, but a Chomskian deep structure is a formal object meeting...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 114-115
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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