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Reviews139 political responsibility. A tantalizing glimpse of the social context of Nietzsche's work is provided in a long and fascinating footnote on his interest in the work of two leading physicists, Friedrich Mohr and J. Robert Myer. Sadly Nietzsche could not find even among scientists diat sense of a shared vision for which he yearned. After eagerly studying their views on the conservation of energy he concluded that they were metaphysically confused. Fortunately Ofelia Schutte is not, and her delightfully lucid study is a pleasure to read. University of WarwickGodfrey Carr Reception Theory: A Critical Introduction, by Robert C. Holub; xiv & 189 pp. London: Methuen, 1984, $8.95 paper. This is die first general presentation in English of German "reception theory." Like many of die volumes in Mediuen's excellent "New Accents" series, this one offers both a clear, nontechnical exposition and a critical perspective that makes it well worth reading even for those already familiar with its subject. The author has also provided a very useful annotated bibliography. Holub wisely chooses to focus his discussion on the scholars associated with the University of Constance and with the Poetik und Hermeneutik research group, and to distinguish diem from the American "reader-response" critics to whom they have often been radier hastily assimUated. In a chapter on "precursors and influences," Holub shows how reception theory drew on Russian formalism, Prague structuralism, Ingarden's phenomenology, Gadamer's hermeneutics, and "the sociology ofliterature" — none of which played an important role in the development of American reader-response criticism (except perhaps in Jonathan Culler's Structuralist Poetics, where Prague structuralism is heavily mediated by recent French dieory and by Chomsky's linguistics). Holub is particularly good on writers like Tynianov, Mukarovsky, and Ingarden, all of whom are much better known in Germany dian in Anglophone countries. The core of Holub's book is a long chapter on "the two major theorists" — Hans-Robert Jauss and Wolfgang Iser. He notes that "although bodi have been concerned with a reconstitution ofliterary theory by drawing attention away from die author and the text and refocusing it on the text-reader relationship, their respective methods of approaching this shift have diverged sharply" (p. 82). Jauss's turn toward reception was connected with his effort to revitalize literary history, while Iser has been concerned primarily widi the phenomenology of reading. Holub's effort (in chapter four) to situate Jauss's and Iser's work with respect to diat ofother recent scholars is useful but perhaps a bit uneven. The discussion of the ways in which two of Jauss's students, Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht and 140Philosophy and Literature Karlheinz Stierle, have developed his dieories is valuable, as is the extended analysis of the debate between East German Marxist critics and their Constance counterparts. But I wonder whether "empirical" research into literary reception merits the amount of space Holub gives it — as he himself repeatedly points out, this line of research has thus far succeeded only in offering extremely doubtful "proofs" of what would be obvious to any moderately intelligent observer. While Holub's presentation of reception uieory is sympathetic, he retains a healthy critical distance from his subject. He notes that Jauss seems never to have been able wholly to escape the contradiction between his claim to provide an objective historical basis for literary scholarship and the relativism inherent in his Gadamerian hermeneutics. And he points out diat Iser gets into similar difficulties when he wants to limit the ways readers can construe texts by insisting diat diey are controlled, at some level, by objective features of die text (i.e., ones that are directly perceived, independendy ofany interpretive assumptions ). He also suggests diat in the end, despite its revolutionary aims, reception theory may be engaged in rebuilding the liberal humanist premises that postmodernist thinkers like Derrida and Foucault have been busy dismantling. As Holub notes, German reception theory progressed in the 1970s in relative isolation from the critical developments in France diat exerted a crucial influence on American critics. This is changing; in dieir latest essays, the leading figures in reception theory have begun to confront die issues raised by recent French and American theory. Holub's book should...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 139-140
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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