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356Philosophy and Literature ofpréciosité with the new rationality. TimothyJ. Reiss's examination of political dieory and practice in Descartes accents his use of literary models to further a political agenda. The great rationalist's poêle, for example, evokes Ronsard's 1560 poem "Discours â Louis des Masures," in which he praises the rebellion of Lorraine against Germany. This veiled reference subdy sets the Discours into the context ofpolitical and religious revolt. In another remarkable article Kevin Dunn reviews Descartes's ideas on private/public life and individuated yet homogeneous urban design in Amsterdam and discovers in them the foundation of Descartes's social epistemology. The book's final segment, "The Cultural Landscape," stresses the plastic arts. Articles include Louis Marin on Versailles as physical embodiment ofstate power and how space is transubstantiated into the royal body; Orest Ranum on the "encrustation" of baroque sites as a means of heightening the viewer's sense of awe and admiration; Christian Jouhard's "Richelieu, or 'Baroque' Power in Action"; and Gilles Deleuze on "The Fold." The effectiveness of these articles is mitigated, however, by the dearth ofillustrations. This quibble aside, Hampton deserves praise for bringing together eminent specialists in a volume that sheds light into the shadowy and labyrinthine folds of the baroque. Kansas State UniversityRobert T. Corum Proust: Philosophy of the Novel, by Vincent Descombes; translated by Catherine Chance Macksey, viii & 320 pp. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992, $37.50. This excellent translation of Vincent Descombes's 1987 Proust: Philosophie du roman offers the reader of English what may well be the definitive statement on Proust's contribution to the French novel. Both historian of European philosophy and literary critic, Descombes considers Remembrance of Things Past an essentially philosophical text because it elucidates intellectual and moral problems . Its originality lies in attempting such clarification through the novel which, in Proust's hands, does not simply present ideas but "requires of the reader a reformation of the understanding" (p. 35). For Descombes, Remembrance is not the highly subjective, self-conscious, open-ended narrative that contemporary theorists, as well as Proust's own pronouncements, have suggested. Rather, Proust's masterpiece recognizes the influence ofsociety on the artist and stresses die artist's need to come to terms with an audience in a work of art that moves toward closure and the revelation of truth. Reviews357 Descombes believes that "the Proustian novel is bolder than Proust the theorist " (p. 6). Although in Against Sainte-Beuve Proust claimed to be writing a perspectivist novel, one that interprets characters and events from a single narrator's subjective viewpoint, Remembrance shows that such solipsism is impossible , while egotism inevitably results in illusion. Instead of introducing the dimension oftime simply to study characters at different stages of their careers, as did Balzac, Proust uses time to illustrate errors his protagonist Marcel commits in his education as an artist. Marcel learns early the dangers of fragmenting an aesthetic experience, of idealizing a part over the whole. His contacts with the painter Elstir further indicate that a subjective point of view is not synonymous with true perspective but also that the artist is capable of establishing a hierarchy of values. Traveling among the worlds of Combray, Balbec and Paris, Marcel demonstrates that the artist necessarily takes society's expectations of art into account. Proust constandy highlights the conflicting meanings given to an event by the protagonist and the external observer. Marcel finds the inspiration to write when he finally discovers that "the legitimacy ofthe novelistic point of view has to be sought in the gap that opens up between facts and experience . . . once the facts have been reported . . . the experience has still to be restored" (pp. 245—46). The novel becomes the means of correcting past errors by converting the quest for truth into the story of relationships among characters. Descombes takes Foucault, Genette, and Barthes to task for asserting that the essence of literature, as revealed by Proust's text, is the act of writing. For Descombes, Proust vehemently rejects this simplification which runs counter to his search for truth, nor does Proust hesitate to draw distinctions and make judgments among literary genres. Descombes suggests that Remembrance's modernity resides...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 356-357
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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