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

Reviews365 genres, necessitates an assumption of intentionality (as Culler and others have recognized); and that referentiality is inescapable according to the intention posited of satire, and "need not be reducible to authorial or textual self-referentiality to count as literary" (p. 157). While welcoming Sitter's conclusions about the interpretation ofsatire, I often found his own interpretations to smack of special pleading. Take his claim that for Swift and Co. "the bodyis normative," and their "central philosophic concern is precisely the issue of misplaced . . . universality" (p. 170), which seems to suppress the Augustan obsession with "common Forms" of a decidedly abstracted sort, as appears, for example, in Swift's distinction between "Reason itself" and the "Reason of every particular Man" (PW 9. 166). And what does Sitter make of the universalized disgust implicit in the statement, "Who sees [Corinna] will spew; who smells be poison'd," and (I believe) in so much of Swift's scatology? Wide-ranging and frequendy witty in its own allusions, lucid in its exposition, Sitter's book is nevertheless an insightful and always intelligent contribution to eighteenth-centuryand satire studies, and eventoliterary theorymoregenerally. But at $45 for 190 pages, a prudent "materialism" is advised: unless you can wait for the book's price to come down, a borrower be. University of California, Santa BarbaraMichael Weber Family Secrets and the Psychoanalysis ofNarrative, by Esther Rashkin; xiii & 206 pp. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992, $19.25. As the author declares, this book represents a radical departure from previous psychoanalytical approaches, from structuralist and poststructuralist thought, and from strategies associated with deconstruction. Appropriating the insights of the French psychoanalysts Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, it proposes a striking new way of viewing fictional characters in certain kinds of works. Based on their clinical observations, Abraham and Torok have constructed a theory of human personality that differs dramatically from those of Freud and Lacan. Taking Abraham's fascinating study of Hamlet as her starting point, Rashkin engages in "a kind of 'archaeology' in which buried fragments of infinitely regressive and symptomatic family histories are disinterred and used to reconstruct unspeakable sagas concealed in the past" (p. 47). Just as the symptoms displayed by some of their patients led the psychoanalysts to deduce the existence of scandalous family secrets, traces of which had been passed 366Philosophy and Literature down without the patient's knowledge, so incongruous speech and/or obsessive behavior may betray a similar secret transmitted by a fictional character. The presence of such a "phantom," which can be said to "haunt" a given character, may also leave an imprint on ordinary speech. Through the process of "cryptonomy ," it may be encoded in a verbal expression which both alludes to the traumatic event and conceals it. The bulk of the book is devoted to provocative readings of five short stories. Besides Conrad's TL· Secret Sharer, these include Villiers de l'Isle-Adam's LIntersigne, Balzac's Facino Cane, James's The Jolly Corner, and Poe's TL· Fall of tL· House of Usher. The work itself is extremely well written, and the discussion is subde, intricate, and often ingenious. In many regards TL· Secret Sharerwould seem an obvious choice, since concealment and secrecy figure so prominendy in the story. Unexpectedly, Rashkin's conclusion that the captain is haunted by previous murder in his family is ultimately unconvincing. Although it is impossible to disprove, it is curiously lacking in details. "Precisely who was killed, who committed the murder, and under what circumstances," she admits, "cannot be determined from the elements available in the text. The fact tiiat Leggatt is a chief mate and that the captain attacks his own mate suggests that a 'mate'— husband or wife—was involved in the drama" (p. 59). In turn these remarks call attention to two serious problems inherent in the approach she has chosen. In the first place, this critical procedure bears an uncomfortably close resemblance to Salvador Dali's "paranoiac criticism," in which a fantastic interpretation is consistendy imposed on a random group of facts. In actuality, die family secret may simply exist in the critic's mind. In the second place, the insistence on looking for "cryptonyms" is also subject to...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 365-366
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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.