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Reviews241 authority of practical fictions by acting as reminders ... of the fictional nature of all fictions" (p. 69). The remainder of Spariosu's study is devoted to analyses of four literary works (Don Quijote, Tristram Shandy, The Eternal Husband, and Under the Volcano) that in different ways "disinstall" the authority ofpractical fictions by deliberately confusing the distinction between the aesthetic world of play and the world of "action," or conventional reality. Readers may note a discrepancy between these four essays' modest achievement in thematizing the fluid relations between truth and fiction, and Spariosu's stated goal "to emancipate mimesis and play from their strict onto-theological context and to see them in terms of a functional dialectic of truth and fiction" (p. 9). Nevertheless, Spariosu's insistence on the importance of play in determining the ontological status of discourse defines a promising philosophical context for literary study. University of Southern CaliforniaVincent Farenga Symbolism and Interpretation, by Tzvetan Todorov, translated by Catherine Porter; 175 pp. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982, $19.50. After a short introduction in which he defines verbal symbolism as indirect meaning grafted onto direct meaning and stresses the inseparability of symbolism and interpretation, Tzvetan Todorov devotes the first of two main sections in this elegant and useful book to the general theory of the symbolics of language. For him, whenever a text or part thereof seems not to be pertinent to whatever matter is at hand, whenever it violates — through contradiction, discontinuity, superfluity, implausibility, or inappropriateness — what may be called the Principle of Relevance, it triggers interpretation. In mapping out the ways through which a text is manipulated into relevant meaningfulness, Todorov discusses the role of linguistic structure in the process of interpretation, the categories of discourse to be distinguished (literal, ambiguous, and transparent) as well as their hierarchy, the subdivision of the symbolic realm according to the direction ofevocation or association (inter- or intratextually, at the level of signifier or signified), the logical relations between direct and indirect meaning, and the indeterminacy of the symbolic. The second section is devoted to the study of "the two most important interpretive strategies in the history of Western civilization" (p. 163): patristic exegesis , which is finalist (as in psychoanalytic and Marxist strategies, the end result is known: the utmost constraints are placed on the message to be obtained), and philological exegesis, which is operational (as in structuralist strategy, the goal is not known and the utmost constraints — grammatical, historical, structural — are imposed on the operations used to arrive at 242Philosophy and Literature meaning). In a brief conclusion, Todorov discusses the historical significance of the opposition between the two kinds of exegesis, relating it to the opposition between the hierarchical world of feudal Christian society, a world governed by an absolute truth and immutable values, and the democratic world of bourgeois society, in which relativism of values is compensated by methodological codification ; he also sketches a typology of interpretive strategies (constraints can be imposed on the choice of input or output text or on the procedures connecting them); and he attempts to explain the current coexistence of finalist and operational strategies: "It is ... as if the distinctive feature of our civilization were the suspension of choice and the tendency to understand everything without doing anything" (p. 170). As usual, Todorov's clarity of exposition is outstanding, his erudition impressive (he draws easily and efficiently on Strabo and Origen, Saint Augustine and Spinoza, Ast, Wolf, Lanson, but also Maimonides, Mahimabhattala, and 'Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjäni), and his examples consistently incisive. Furthermore, his study is enriched by stimulating discussions of a wide range of topics: the various forms of obscurity in (modern) writing, for example, the differences between lexical symbolism (the segment to be interpreted is smaller than a sentence) and propositional symbolism (the segment is a sentence), or the critique of classical philology by Schleiermacher. Todorov may perhaps be faulted for his stress on meaning reception and his relative neglect of meaning production: they prevent him from addressing squarely the (possible) differences between interpretation and understanding. Perhaps too, he does not pay quite enough attention to interpretive strategies that are not founded on a representational concept of language and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 241-242
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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