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308Philosophy and Literature emphasis on the " 'textualizing' ofhistory" (pp. 20-21). As Mark Cousins points out in his essay on historical investigation, "there is a level of irreducible theoretical decision widiin historicalwriting" (p. 128). Itis diis dieoretical dimension that envelops the writing of history in a question of mediation that belies scientistic aims for pure transparence. Arguing the case for a poststructuralist Marxism, Tony Bennett observes similarly that "in its more scientistic formulations , Marxism has typically represented its own relation to reality as one of pure transparency, diereby denying its own discursivity and textuality." There is an "essentializing orientation" behind much Marxist thought, an assumption that literary or social texts can be explained by "referring such texts to the conditions of production obtaining at the moment of dieir origin" (pp. 67, 69). It is precisely the possibility of such transparent access to moments of origin mat poststructuralist tiiought problematizes. Such questioning, however, does not make the thinking of, say, Derrida "ahistorical," as new historicists often argue. Emphasizing the textual conditions of history-making need not mean reducing the historical world to a mere text. Derrida is clear on this issue: "it was never our wish to extend the reassuring notion of the text to a whole extra-textual realm and to transform the world into a library" (p. 31). Gayatri Spivak amplifies this point by observing that instead of claiming that diere is nothing outside die text, Derrida instead is affirming that "die so-called 'outside' of the verbal text is articulated with it in a web or network (that is 'socio-cultural,' or 'politico-economic,' or yet 'psychosexual ,' depending on our practical/theoretical focus)" (p. 31). The new historicists have not "rediscovered history" for the simple reason diat, as Rodolphe Gasché argues, "history was never lost." He continues—and I conclude—"If post-structuralism means anything at all ... it does so by stressing the need to think towards the conditions of possibility and the law that rules the difference between such concepts as structure and genesis, or aesdietics and history." Such thinking might lead us "not to rediscover history, but to discover it altogether for die first time" (pp. 159—60). Pennsylvania State UniversityR. D. Ackerman Literary France: The Making ofa Culture, by Priscilla Parkhurst Clark; xv & 274 pp. Berkeley: University ofCalifornia Press, 1987, $28.50. This could not have been an easy book to compose. It obviously demanded more dian a generalist's knowledge of die history of French institutions, since literature touches them all; it required specific investigation into several major Reviews309 figures (Mallarmé, the quiet prime mover in die literary scene of the turn of die century, deserved perhaps more space); it imposed the necessity for a synthesis whose herculean proportions would have been clearer had the editors permitted Clark to include a bibliography; and, since it was written for that mythical being, the "general audience," it had to be at once limpid and vigorous in style. That Priscilla Clark has met all ofthese requirements speaks eloquendy to the accomplishment that is Literary France. Startingwith the seventeenth century, when a necessary componentofFrench literary life—a national consciousness—comes to the fore, Clark traces die development of the circumstances mat created die unique character of French literary life (which she helpfully compares to the American, German, and English scenes): patronage, which remained a key factor until the marketplace assumed supreme importance in the nineteenth century; honnêteté; the ennoblement , in effect, of French writers (which explains their considerable prestige even today); and, towering above all, the Académie Française, which commands such symbolic attention in Clark's vision of French culture that hardly a page goes by without a reference to it. To think of die Académie Française is to conjure up images of encrusted tradition and ofreactions to it as well. It therefore stands for the creative tension (Clark's favorite word) between the collectivity and the individual in France; that is, Classicism and Romanticism still slug it out every day on the banks of the Seine. Once she has established the political and sociological background, Clark focuses on three exemplary public writers: Voltaire, the philosophe; Hugo, the prophet; and Sartre, theintellectual. Clarkis especially...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 308-310
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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