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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 widi 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 pathetic heroine, to run the risk of looking for too much. As readings informed (to allegorize the episode of the map in yet another way), as these also are, by such contemporary philosophers as Derrida, Lacan and Foucault, they may go astray in trying too hard to map the theory onto the literary work. This is not to suggest that Thelimits ofNarrative does not deftly avoid such traps, but to second Wing's argument about just how much is already there in these nineteenthcentury texts. For Flaubert, in the scene with the map, anticipates a great deal of what will later be said about his texts, including, perhaps, even die gesture by which Wing will map this scene onto another—onto the one in Madame Bovary where Emma, consumed with desire to leave Yonville, buys a map of Paris and traces imaginary promenades with her finger. "Like Félicité," Wing comments, "Emma's interpretation of the map seeks the real, where there is only the surface ofan iconic figure. Her misreading . . . allegorizes the separation between figures of desire and referents" (pp. 53—54). 410Philosophy and Literature That separation, which could also be defined as "the incompatibility between man's being, the nature of things and language" (p. 1), constitutes, Wing contends , our modernity. The question his book addresses is, when did it all begin? Was it in 1886 when Mallarmé announced "the elocutionary disappearance of the poet, who yields the initiative to words"? Or can its origins be traced, as Wing argues, back to Flaubert, Baudelaire, and Rimbaud? In his opening chapter, allegory in Les Fleurs du mal "undermines the status of the textual first person as a stable subject" (p. 14) and "produces a radical loosening of the relationship between the signifier and signified" (p. 15) when it goes beyond its initially assigned limits into a vertiginous displacement of meaning. Flaubert's declaration that "Madame Bovary, c'est moi!" comes to mind as Wing focuses on "Emma's stories": her daydreams, letters, and lastditch attempts to talk her way out of debt. For there are "distressing similarities" between Emma's narratives and Flaubert's. If the former attempt to create an ordered subject, as well as to give meaning to such mysterious words asfélicité, then the story told by the novel's omniscient narrator "is also caught up with the complex of desires which motivate stories" (p. 76). In Une Saison en enfer, Wing finds Rimbaud "engaged less in a process of self-realization . . . than in writing the self in and as language" (p. 80), deprived of any other ground of being. Mallarmé's "L'Après-midi d...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 409-410
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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