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Reviews369 themes of realism, and Leon Somville's exploration of the thematics ofJeanPierre Richard, for example, all have promise but are too brief and superficial to offer real analytical rewards. Even more disappointing are the "short takes" that conclude the book; here, Leslie Fiedler, J. M. Coetzee, Raymond Trousson, Sander L. Gilman, Alexander Zholkovsky, and George Steiner supply just a paragraph or two of stray musings on what "theme" means to them. It is hard to see much merit in this. Other contributions are more substantial but uneven in quality. Michel Vanhelleputte 's "The Concept of Motifin Literature: A Terminological Study" and Marie-Laure Ryan's "In Search ofthe Narrative Theme" are slow, tedious pieces, laden withjargon. Far better are Harry Levin's keen scrutiny of Shakespeare's tiiemes, Lynn Wardley's sharp, sensitive tracing of the theme of the bachelor and the male bond in American literature, and Theodore Ziolkowski's intricate examination of Wagner's controversial, disturbing work, Parsifal. These essays show a rigor and depth of engagement with artists and texts that are missing elsewhere, and demonstrate how a carefully conducted, self-conscious thematic analysis can indeed open up and complicate literary, cultural, and artistic history. The essays by Levin, Wardley, and Ziolkowski reveal as well the kind of rich, suggestive book that TL· Return of Thematic Criticism might in general have become—a book of serious, sustained case-studies that would have made clear the interest and importance of its subject. But these essays are not enough to counter the bad effects of the weak introduction and the thinness of the work that the majority of the contributors have provided. Wellesley CollegeWilliam E. Cain Cultural Criticism, Literary Theory, Poststructuralism, by Vincent B. Leitch; xvii 8c 186 pp. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992, $29.50. Like his previous books, Deconstructive Criticism (1983) and American Literary Criticismfrom the Thirties to tL· Eighties (1988), Vincent B. Leitch's new one shows an impressive command of a diverse array of theorists, texts, and ideas, and it moves at a brisk, stimulating pace. Leitch not only surveys a host of key figures and examines the institutional changes they have impelled, but he also seeks to present his own case "for a cultural criticism broadly informed by poststructuralist thinking" (p. ix). In my view, Leitch does not entirely succeed in establishing and fleshing out his positive argument: on this level the book needs greater detail and development, with concrete examples of the rewards that a 370Philosophy and Literature "cultural criticism" provides. But Cultural Criticism, Literary T^ry, and Poststructuralism is, nevertheless, an incisive, well-written pièce of work, equal parts an adept analysis of contemporary theory and a forceful manifesto for one dimension of it. Leitch supplies cogent, economical discussion of gender studies, Black aesthetics , and other important movements, as well as sharp scrutinies of Wayne Booth, J. Hillis Miller, Roland Barthes, Julia Kristeva, Northrop Frye, Frank Lentrricchia, and coundess others. His sections on theories of reading and misreading, which inspect the contributions of E. D. Hirsch, Robert Scholes, David Bleich, Paul de Man, and Harold Bloom, and on "institutional and discursive inquiries," which crisply assess the labors of Edward W Said and Richard Ohmann as well as the Birmingham (England) Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, are especially keen and illuminating. Even as Leitch explores a range of current trends, he means, too, to stress the weakness and inadequacy of New Critical formalism—which, he states, has been relendessly challenged in theory, but which he concludes is alive and resilient in practice. Leitch stands opposed to "humble exegesis ofmasterpieces" (p. 144) and to the ethos of humanism and the pious, probing ways with texts tiiat, in his judgment, it mistakenly honors. From the outset, he contends, the reading of a text involves "appreciation, critique, exegesis, evaluation, explication , institutional analysis, reception, and response" (p. 107). And it is this large fact that the wide-ranging enterprise of cultural criticism acknowledges, and that it aims to place at the center of scholarship and pedagogy. But how persistent and pervasive today is the traditional, humanist form of criticism that Leitch assails? He insists that it is still with us, and no doubt he...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 369-370
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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