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388Philosophy and Literature anecdotal" fashion (p. 47); furthermore, poetics is "part of linguistics" (p. 72). Buta hallmark ofany science (manywould say) is a framework ofgeneralizations which sets bounds on what can and cannot happen in some domain of experience . DoesJakobson's poetics fit that description? Basic principles throughout his work are parallelism and binarity, which not only dominate his analyses of individual texts but pervade the rest of his terminological apparatus. Thus, the contrast between the paradigmatic and syntagmatic dimensions of language parallels those between metaphor and metonymy and between similarity and contiguity disorders in aphasia; similarly, the contrast between visual and auditory perception parallels that between icons or indexes on the one hand and symbols on the other (which is why, he says, many people are upset by abstract art but no one minds nonrepresentational music). All this is extraordinarily ingenious, but does it set bounds on what can and cannot happen in art? There is something uncomfortably arbitrary about the precise implementation of Jakobson's basic notions in his analysis of any individual text; at the same time, the choice of texts for analysis seems not quite arbitrary enough to provide a real test for his purportedly scientific poetics. Perhaps this unease is ill-founded, and by following Jakobson's example we really can do poetics scientifically. But, if the unease is well-founded, there are two possible reactions. Maybe Jakobson was wrong to try to bring literary and linguistic studies together under one science, because literary studies are intrinsically unscientific; or maybe he was right, and the fault lies with those who try to force the study of language into the hypothetico-deductive mold of physics. For anyone concerned with such problems, Jakobson's work is of interest precisely because, for all his genius, he seemed scarcely to notice them. University of Canterbury, New ZealandAndrew Carstairs Before Reading: Narrative Conventions and the Politics of Interpretation, by PeterJ. Rabinowitz; xi & 249 pp. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987, $8.95 paper. As its tide implies, Peter Rabinowitz's book describes the preconceptions which readers (critics as well as ordinary people) bring to the reading of fiction. He states in the introduction that his objective is to study "the shared interpretive strategies by which readers make sense of texts" (p. 1). In so doing, Rabinowitz wishes to reverse the trend ofmuch reader-oriented criticism which, he believes, tries to de-politicize reading. In fact, Rabinowitz shows that many of these socalled "reader critics" are actually "New Critics" in a new guise, and that they share the inability of the old New Critics to deal with the political and historical Reviews389 context ofliterary works. In addition, Rabinowitz points out that most academic critics canonize "serious literature" rather than popular fiction, because the former work with particular strategies of academic reading. The book is divided into two sections, corresponding to the two concepts described in the tide—"Narrative Conventions" and the "Politics of Interpretation ." The first section defines Rabinowitz's sense that there is a difference between the actual audience of flesh and blood readers, and the hypothetical or "authorial audience," which represents the readers the author had in mind. Although it has become fashionable to ignore what the author had in mind, or even to resist this, Rabinowitz argues that we must attempt to comprehend the presuppositions of the author if we are to understand a work. In addition, he offers the common-sense insight that most people do read to find out what the author had in mind, even if, like feministcritics, they may ultimately disagree with or resist the intentions of the author. The remainder of the first section goes on to describe four "Rules of Reading" which Rabinowitz thinks any text provides us: (1) Rules of Notice; (2) Rules of Signification; (3) Rules of Configuration ; and (4) Rules of Coherence. These rules are provided by the author, but academic critics have generally followed their lead, to canonize, for example, works which appear coherent rather than those which do not. The second section of the book, "The Politics of Interpretation," goes on to develop the critique ofcanon formation by opposing the quite different presuppositions operating in popular fiction—especially detective...


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pp. 388-390
Launched on MUSE
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