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396Philosophy and Literature ticism in the Netherlands," which focuses on the one genuinely important figure in thatmovement, the writerWillem Bilderdijk. Had hebeen German or English rather than Dutch he would, his friend Robert Southey claimed, have been a name which Europe should have "rung from side to side" (p. 210). Ironically, the one account which comes closest tobeing abiographical approach, eschewed by the editors, excites the greatest intellectual curiosity on the reader's part. University of Canterbury, New ZealandMark Stocker TheImposition ofForm: Studies in NarrativeRepresentation and Knowledge, by Claudia J. Brodsky; 331 pp. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987, $38.00. Theorists of the novel, begins Brodsky, either "subdivide form by form"— narratologists—or relendessly convert form into expression—mimetic critics. All discount the strange duality of narrative, which is at once plotted form and discourse—"signs whose meaning can be either referentially or figurally (formally ) understood" (p. 6). Kant's epistemology, by contrast, acknowledges this duality, providing the best entry for studying the conjunction of narrative and cognition in the novel. For Kant, the sensory phenomena perceived by pure reason (referential elements) have already been prefigured by the a priori mental forms of time and space (formal structuring). The resulting, critical epistemology "replaces the possibility of pure, or unmediated, experience with experience necessarily mediated formally as representation" (p. 10). Brodsky, though, is not interested in applying a pat Kantian "science" to chosen novels; rather she addresses "problems" arising as Kant composes his theory of knowledge (p. 24). To guarantee the coherence of his system, Kant sought to guarantee that beyond appearances is "something which there appears " (p. 72). To do so, Kant had to prove the possibility of knowledge independent ofsensory experience—a possibility Kantcalls "freedom," and which is effectively the "keystone" (p. 69) of his system. But the attempt to ground his critique issues in its "peripety" (p. 84). Proofofthe noumenality offreedom, experienced when the moral law imposes itself, demands a non-narrative moment . Yetto demonstrate the impositionofthe moral law, Kantturns to narrative (imagine the choice between sudden death or betraying an innocent man). Furthermore, the figurai aspects of narrative decenter the mimetic: "the imposition ofthe form" ofmoral law undermines its semanticcontentof"freedom" so the conjunction of the two cannot be thought (pp. 82-83). An aporia and an internal contradiction exemplify the "problems" arising from the narrative mediation of knowledge. Brodsky's subsequent studies of novels by Goethe, Austen, Balzac, Stendhal, Melville, and Proust show that they share Kant's awareness of "the necessity, Reviews397 and as well [the] necessary limitations" (p. 3) of narrative in the mediation of knowledge. All these novels expose an irony of narrative. Its "figurai" (p. 10) and referential aspects decenter each other, creating an aporia, or inability to say what one means. Brodsky reads die irony as de Manían "allegory" (marking an unbridgeable distance): an alienation within the novel of experience from its necessarily narrative cognition (p. 142). Nevertheless, as de Man displaces Kant, Brodsky falls short of her broader aim: to study the epistemological nature of narrative in the novel. This aim demands a more critical treatment of Kant, de Man, and traditional narrative theorists, notably of their assumption that rationality can be guaranteed only by correspondence to an antecedent, like de Man's and Brodsky's "experience." Brodsky ignores Wittgenstein. Wittgensteinian "telling" guarantees the rationality of representations without distinguishing "appearance" from "something that there appears." Coherent "going on" within the context of a form of life secures rationality. Thus the interpretive context, not some antecedent referent, guarantees the rationality of practical telling. Take Brodsky's treatment of how the narrative ofcognition (Elinor's "sense") fails to credit experience (Marianne's "sensibility") in Austen's novel. Widiout examination, Brodsky invokes narratologists' foundational notion that behind every telling (sjuzet) lies a referent (fabula). Thus when Elinor tells Marianne about Willoughby's confession, she imposes a falsifying form upon the perceptual fabula, "the direct experience of him which gave rise to this speech itself" (p. 178). Yet to prove Elinor's narrative "imposes its form," Brodsky does not invoke "direct experience," nor does she complain of inability to do so— an aporia. Instead, despite ignoring Wittgenstein, Brodsky uses practical telling to argue...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 396-397
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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