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248Philosophy and Literature promises to be of more direct interest to literary critics than the present one which is partially preparatory to it. However, though Ricoeur rarely enters modern critical debates directly, the conservative orientation of his analysis is amply apparent in his distinction between the semiotics of the word and the semantics of the sentence and larger (context-providing) units, recognition of the validity of attempting to reconstruct an "agent's calculation of means to be adopted toward his chosen end in the light of the circumstances in which he found himself (p. 129), and view that "Contingency is unacceptable only to a mind that attaches the idea of mastery to understanding" (p. 150). Thus quietly Ricoeur opposes deconstructionist arguments for the necessity of interpretive indeterminacy. Pennsylvania Siate UniversityWendell V. Harris Criticism and Social Change, by Frank Lentricchia; viii & 173 pp. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983, $15.00. Reading this book may be the best introduction one could have to the recent reorientation of critical studies to the problematic of intellectual politics. Posing again several related classical problems — the relationship ofliterature to society, the debate between modernists and marxists — in terms of the writings of Paul de Man and Kenneth Burke, Lentricchia produces what might be described as a manifesto for the marxist academic in America. Burke serves as a model for thinking through the question of how best to introduce ideological or cultural criticism — acknowledging that a will to power is inherent in all rhetorical activities — into the American academic scene. Paul de Man, and to a lesser extent Richard Rorty, serve as negative examples of a fatalistic, depoliticized mode of academic work, although Burke himself is not accepted uncritically. Burke's value for Lentricchia has to do in part with his anticipation of the concept of hegemony ("sophisticated political 'rule' that transforms an openly coercive , bullying 'domination' into 'consent,' even into a form of 'self-governance'" — p. 61). The works of Gramsci, Marcuse, Althusser, and Foucault are invoked as the standard of measure by which Burke is praised and de Man blamed. The weakness of the study is that very little discussion of the philosophical context is actually provided. If this context were considered, Burke would be seen as a contemporary of the several movements underway in the thirties — the Frankfurt School in Germany, the College of Sociology in France — attempting to find a mode of ideological criticism appropriate for intellectuals working in a bourgeois culture turning to the right. Burke would still stand out in this version not so much as a precursor but as a (lonely) American representative of this international tendency. When it comes to the other standard of measure invoked to show Burke's Reviews249 precociousness — Derrida and the poststructuralist new Nietzscheane (the point being to show that Burke exemplifies a politicized version of deconstruction) — Lentricchia displays a more serious weakness, a blindness to the new politics of poststructuralism being opened up currently by Derrida and others (Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy, along with a number of American critics attuned to a "replaying of politics") which interrogates the politics inherent in philosophy and literary studies as such, while bringing to bear the textualist strategies of reading on the educational institution itself. This weakness is not just a sin of omission, but a blindness — de Man's revenge — in that Lentricchia credits Burke with the progressive politics of deconstructionism that he denies to contemporary representatives of that movement: "In the language of poststructuralist theory, but against its intention (?), Burke is saying that there is 'always already' more at stake than the pleasure of the text" (p. 120). In After the New Criticism Lentricchia stated that "no one is in a worse position to judge the blindness of a particular point of view than the one who subscribes to it; I must leave to others, therefore, the task of specifying and evaluating my perspective" (p. xii). I accept this task by pointing out that Lentricchia is a Derridean . The lesson that he derives from Burke— that "literature is inherently nothing; or it is inherently a body of rhetorical strategies waiting to be seized" (p. 157) — is precisely Derrida's point in Otobiographie de...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 248-249
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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