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382Philosophy and Literature tentions is impossible, it seals the texts from the world in which McGann wishes it to have value. Constandy working against McGann's theoretical project is his reluctance to come to terms with the question of the intention of the author. He sees no need to differentiate between meanings an author may reasonablybe presumed to have intended and those meanings (or, in Hirschean terms, significances) that readers, especially readers of a later period, find in the text as they read it in the light of their own preoccupations. But literature can hardly be a social, communicative act unless communication of intended meaning is possible. The most interesting sections of Social Values and Poetic Acts are the argument that the variant forms in which Blake's Urizen appeared mirror the formation of the Bible as explained by Alexander Geddes and the analysis of the relation between the circumstances of the original publication of "Sohrab and Rustum" and Arnold's theory of poetry. In both cases, the author's intention is central to McGann's analysis, though his explicit theoretical assumptions seem to leave litde room for consideration of authorial intention. At the same time, he champions Gabler's edition of Joyce's Ulysses precisely because it "destabilizes" the text of the work. But if that edition "does not give us the work which Joyce wanted to present to the public" but "a text in which we may observe Joyce at work, alone, before he turns to meet his public" (p. 181), the communicative intent of the author has been subverted. McGann is especially fond of the terms "incommensurability" and "deploy." One might say that this book demonstrates the incommensurability of the poststructuralist axioms McGann accepts to the defense ofpoetry he finds necessary and that deploying those beliefs yields markedly dispiriting results. "Poems are not mirrors and they are not lamps, they are social acts—readings and writings which promote, deploy, and finally celebrate those processes of bss which make up the very essence ofhuman living" (p. 246, my italics). Such is the melancholy view to which McGann's prescription for literary study leads. Pennsylvania State UniversityWendell V. Harris Nietzsche and Modern Literature: Themes in Yeats, Rühe, Mann, and Lawrence, by Keith M. May; ix & 175 pp. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988, $30.00. The continued preoccupation with Hegel and especially with his Aesthetics notwithstanding, Nietzsche has become the German philosopher who in so many different respects speaks most congenially to our present dilemmas of culture and of the intellect. This has become obvious ever since radical post- Reviews383 modern skepticism and deconstructionism as a critical methodology have defined what is by now an international language in the academic discourse of the humanities. Even the common-sense rationality of traditional British philosophy (or at least what many Europeans perceive as the traditions of logic and empiricism) has given in to the perspectivist abolition of most creditable authority and cultural rules, a trend that is unimaginable without the strictures imposed by Thatcherite conservatism. But first of all, Nietzsche's current popularity required that his thought be absolved of any proleptic association with the primitive irrationalities of Nazi ideology, with the mindless debasement of his central concepts in vulgar slogans, and with the practice of an aestheticized politics of the kind that Walter Benjamin had analyzed. His newly vindicated exemplary relevance for our age is in large measure due, as Keith May implicidy suggests in his introductory "Perspectives of Nietzsche," to the fact that he "is the philosopher friendliest to art even though he pierces artists' masks" (p. 1). May considers pervasive features of Nietzsche's thought and the manner in which three prominent "Nietzschean" writers "accommodated his attitudes to their own" (p. 4). D. H. Lawrence, the last of the four authors discussed here, is somewhat of an anomaly in this context since his views, especially those on the will to power, developed independendy of any influential familiarity with the philosopher's works. This book, then, while agreeably broad in compass and generous in its learning, is neither a detailed study of diffuse influences nor a comprehensive retracing of acknowledged biographical-literary-philosophical affinities. It is, rather, a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 382-384
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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