In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

408Philosophy and Literature interestedin ourinherentpowertograpple with, and learn from, textualpoetics, can afford not to read Kaelin's book. As an American pragmatist from a Midwest setded by Germans, he reads where others have merely imagined. As a phenomenological narrator, he is a Mark Twain in an Arthurian court. Durham, North CarolinaRaymond Adolph Prter Kaironomia: On the WiU-to-Invent, by Eric Charles White; 174 pp. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987, $18.95. Just hov, inventive should a book on invention be? White has gone to some pains to be inventive. His celebration of the provisional and the spontaneous has a structure that ought to facilitate invention. He takes the old rhetorical pattern ofintroduction, argument, proof, and conclusion and, against that, sets in play such a swift tumble ofideas and texts one might look to the improvisation of thejazz soloist for analogies. One might, but White so constantiy makes this sort of comparison first. He is apt to declare that "Kaironomia will transpire as eroticised thought" (p. 8), that the book we are reading is "a shapeshifting and many-sided activity of invention" (p. 96). When one puts this sort of bravado alongside a tendency to over-signpost his argument, Kaironomia seems about as inventive as a comedian is funny when he warns us, too often, that he is about to make a joke. Yet this book is a book I will turn to again and again. What is inventive is White's genealogy ofthe practice ofartful and processive spontaneity. A poetics of invention ought to be familiar—one knows to expect Coleridge on organic form and a raft of modernists—but White has a wonderful flair for uncovering unexpected sites of discussion. The opening chapter introduces the rhetorical practice of the Greek sophist, Gorgias. Noting parallels with Gertrude Stein's attention to the moment of composition, White goes on to compare the epistemological and ontological implications of Gorgianic discourse with Aristode's speculations on rhetoric. For the skeptical Gorgias, there is no fixed truth or reality thatlanguage reflects. Instead, truth is alanguage effect, always tentative, always a strategic dissembling. But Gorgias' position leads to paradoxes or double-binds, many of which may be summed up in the interdependence of repetition and difference. The next chapter develops a psychoanalytical account of this problem. White takes Freud's analogy between the sadism-masochism continuum and the categories of grammatical voice as his starting point in a meditation on the "middle voice"—a stylistic possibility in between and combining the passive and the active, the desire to master the world and to be mastered by it. Through detailed readings of Barthes and Foucault, White Reviews409 speculates on the construction of a self able to avoid what Charles Olson once called "the too strong grasping of it"—a self, moreover, that is as committed to constandy uncovering its own underpinnings in ideology as it is to making it new. Later, in tracing analogies between Leonardo's fascination with water and the economy of desire, White finds a style predicated on such a model of self in the great inventor's last "Deluge" sketches. The section in which White "proves" his argument by way of an anthropological reading of Finnegans Wake seems less successful. His reading of passages from the Wake is interspersed with accounts of shamanism and—wittily—Finland 's national epic. Such invention is admirable, but 1 would like to have been less aware of a discrepancy between White's "interpretive mobility" and the critical commonplaces (about the state of meaning in the Wake) with which he ends. University of AucklandAlex Calder The Limits of Narrative: Essays on Baudelaire, Flaubert, Rimbaud and Mallarmé, by Nathaniel Wing; ? & 155 pp. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986, $32.50. One of the most touching moments in Flaubert's "Un coeur simple" is poor Félicité's request to be shown the house of her absent nephew on a map of Cuba—she may have even thought, the narrator muses, that if she looked hard enough she'd find his portrait too. Extremely microscopic readings of literary texts, ofwhich there are some fine examples in these essays on Flaubert, Baudelaire , Rimbaud, and Mallarmé, may sometimes seem, like Flaubert's...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 408-409
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.