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340Philosophy and Literature probing into the complex origin and enduring significance of what the author righdy calls Luk√°cs's "philosophy of the novel." United States Naval AcademyEva L. Corredor Against Theory: Literary Studies and the New Pragmatism, edited by W. J. T. Mitchell; 146 pp. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985, $15.00 cloth, $6.95 paper. In 1982, Critical Inquiry published an essay by Stephen Knapp and Walter Benn Michaels entitled "Against Theory." It provoked seven responses which appeared in the journal the following year, along with Knapp and Michaels's reply. In March 1985, Critical Inquiry published two additional responses and a final reply. These twelve essays have been reprinted, with an introduction by W.J. T. Mitchell, as Against Theory. In their original essay, Knapp and Michaels define theory as "the attempt to govern interpretations of particular texts by appealing to an account of interpretation in generad" (p. 11), and they conclude "that no one can reach a position outside practice, that theorists should stop trying, and that the theoretical enterprise should therefore come to an end" (p. 30). This conclusion seems designed to provoke, and most respondents do raise objections, but they are divided about die essay's consequences. Both Daniel T. O'Hara and Jonathan Crewe, for example, feel that the consequences will be political and unfortunate, providing aid and comfort to the defenders of the status quo. Others think the essay will sanction some particular critical practice, but disagree about which one. Thus, Herschel Parker applauds Knapp and Michaels for returning attention to the author while E. D. Hirsch fears their essay will be read as ajustification for the New Criticism. William C. Dowling shares Hirsch's prediction, but not his fear. Pointing to these diverse reactions, Knapp and Michaels insist that their argument cannot have the consequences their critics foresee because it can have no practical consequences at all. Similarly, when Richard Rorty objects that their argument is not pragmatic enough, Knapp and Michaels answer that "no one, in practice, can ever be more or less pragmatist than we are," for this distinction, like all the others that have been urged, is a matter of theory. "In practice, there are no such distinctions and, in practice, there are no theorists" (p. 145). Expanding Knapp and Michaels's argument in his 1985 essay, "Consequences ," Stanley Fish shows once again that he is an accomplished polemicist Reviews341 who can push a provocative thesis with verve and skill. The chiefproblem is that his thesis is based on a special definition of theory. For Fish, a theory would deserve that name only if it stood entirely outside ofpractice and governed it absolutely by providing a set of explicit, rule-bound procedures for generating valid interpretations. Fish's model for this is Chomsky's linguistics. It may be true, as Fish claims, that "theory," in this narrow sense, "will never succeed" for "it cannot help but borrow its terms and its content from diat which it claims to transcend, the mutable world of practice, belief, assumptions, point of view, and so forth" (p. 111). But since "belief, assumptions, and point of view" are included in what most ofus mean by theory, the argument is less iconoclastic, and less important, than it first seems. Fish is aware of diis objection, and of others, and he addresses them with his usual resourcefulness. The result is a challenging essay that will, like the entire volume, stimulate readers to rethink their own theories, and their theory of theories. San Jose State UniversityDonald Keesey Originality and Imagination, by Thomas McFarland; 208 pp. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985, $22.50. This book is not so much an attempt to diink about figures in the romantic period as to understand romanticism itself, and to understand the echoes of romanticism still heard today. McFarland's thesis is that whereas the term "soul" had efficacy before the seventeenth century, it has since that time retreated toward the status of a mere trope. However, the assault on soul made by Locke, Hume, La Mettrie, et al. , has gone along with the increase in power of the ideas of originality and imagination, which have in effect replaced...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 340-341
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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