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Bookmarks Raman Selden's A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory is now published in the United States by the University Press of Kentucky ($17.00 cloth, $7.00 paper). It is a discerning introduction for students (and anyone else) to the current state of "theory"—a word which in this context seems for the present to have lost its neutral sense. Given the tendentious climate of literary studies, Selden's book is all the more remarkable for its sober, equable attitude. Whether he is describing Russian formalism, Lacan, the Frankfurt School, reader-response theory, or Gerald Prince's "narratee," he is always a fair guide, generous without descending to the breathlessness "theory" so often incites. While I miss a detailed or persuasive account ofArnoldian, New Critical, or Leavisite criticism to serve as a foil for his discussion of poststructuralism, Seiden does nevertheless usually give some idea of what or who the enemy is for each of his theorists. Selden's quotations are well chosen, and he is adroit in elucidating the internal problems of theories, as, for example, when he says that Cixous's approach runs the risk of "driving women into an obscure unconscious retreat where silence reigns interrupted only by uterine 'babble.' " This is a danger, according to Seiden, well understood by Kristeva, who views women writers as "caught." He makes the point by citing Kristeva. "On the one hand," he says, "as writers they inevitably collude with [what Kristeva describes as] 'phallic dominance, associated with the privileged father-daughter relationship, which gives rise to the tendency towards mastery, science, philosophy, professorships, etc. . . .' " On the other hand, Kristeva continues, "we flee everything considered 'phallic' to find refuge in the valorisation of the silent underwater body, thus abdicating any entry into history." Raman Seiden does not attempt to dazzle, but there is substance for thought on almost every one of the 146 pages in his book. Far weightier are two literary theory anthologies which have come our way. Hazard Adams and Leroy Searle have edited Critical Theory Since 1965 (Florida State University Press, $29.95 paper). It resembles a telephone book and widi two-column pages it packs a lot in. The book begins with Stanley Cavell's 325 326Philosophy and Literature splendid essay "Aesthetic Problems of Modern Philosophy," and continues with Chomsky, John Searle, Kermode, Derrida and his American followers, Ingarden , Foucault,Jauss, Frye (a figure Seiden has chosen to ignore), Girard, Cixous and various feminists, Culler, Abrams—and on it goes. It was a pleasant surprise to find Clifford Geertz's "Blurred Genres" here; curiously missing is any contribution from Richard Rorty. And though the tide says the material starts in '65, Adams and Searle actually take us back farther. The main text ends with Said on page 622, but we are dien given a 233-page appendix—an anthology in itself—which begins with Frege and Peirce and goes through selections from various linguists and philosophers from Saussure, Bakhtin, and Whorf, to Heidegger on Hölderlin, Wittgenstein, Gadamer, and Lacan. Adams and Searle have contributed good introductions for each author, as well as a wide-ranging general introduction (Adams) and an afterword (Searle). In the last paragraph of his opening remarks, Adams says, "The theme of poststructuralism in its deconstructive phase is that poems resist interpretation. Demonstration of how this is so has been important (though not as new as some have thought), but repeated demonstration of this has already eventuated in its own form of reduction and thematization. Every text submitted to deconstruction considered as a critical method will yield the same theme, which may be true enough but remains only that story: the allegory of uninterpretability . It quickly becomes a repetition of the older formalist discovery that every text is about itself. It is no wonder that there has been a stirring—not so much a resistance to deconstruction (there has been that too, of course)—that expresses a desire to go beyond it. There has even been the idea of returning to Kant and trying again." Critical Theory Since 1965 is a big, useful book. On the somewhat more trim and basic side is Twentieth-Century Literary Theory: An Introductory Anthology...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 325-336
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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