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372Philosophy and Literature genius and the Enlightenment to the emergence ofbourgeois rationality within feudal absolutism. In a brilliant study of naturalism and aestheticism, Bürger presents naturalism's passive objectivity and aestheticism's solipsistic subjectivity as "expressions of the alienation experienced by the subject in this phase of the development of bourgeois society" (p. 119). And through a series of careful studies of works by Wyndham Lewis, Peter Weiss, and Joseph Beuys, Bürger refines his account ofthe modernist struggle between formalist and avant-garde tendencies while arguing for the continuing relevance ofthis struggle in debates on postmodernism. Bürger is a sophisticated practitioner of sociological literary history who recognizes the dangers of reductivism, insisting that individual works are not totally determined by literary institutions and that multiple levels of interpretation alone can account for the complexities and contradictions of aesthetic movements. Ultimately, however, Bürger sees the work as a product of the social world and his task as that of applying the science of critical sociology to the analysis of individual works. Hence, the possibility for Bürger that a work might transcend its context or transform the very categories of our understanding of the social world does not seem to exist. Perhaps it is for this reason that Bürger remains pessimistic about the prospects of any revival ofthe avantgarde and skeptical about claims that postmodernism represents a genuine break from modernism. University of GeorgiaRonald Bogue Refiguring the Real: Picture and Modernity in Word and Image, 1400-1700, by Christopher Braider; xiv & 314 pp. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993, $39.50. From the late Middle Ages on, "every phase ofWestern experience is to some degree reconceived in terms of pictures and images" (p. 6), claims Braider in this rich and subde study ofthe tensions between image and text in Renaissance and Baroque painting and culture. The development of naturalism in art, or "the capacity to depict persons, objects, places, and events in a form consonant with that found in natural sensory experience" (p. 7), is in Braider's view a determining cause in the formation of Western modernity, one that induces a shift from a mentality grounded in textual allegoresis to an understanding rooted in visual representation. Braider argues for an essential reciprocity between word and image in the modern era, but his emphasis finally is on pictorial naturalism as an autonomous and empirically grounded force that transforms Western Reviews373 thought by problematizing all efforts to impose a textual signification on the real. In his opening chapter, Braider argues that pictorial naturalism has its origin not in Renaissance humanism but in late medieval theology, which by stressing the Incarnation and the imitatio Christi legitimizes a realistic depiction of die material world. Once introduced into painting, however, naturalism subverts scriptural authority, and in the book's remaining chapters Braider offers several brilliandy argued case studies of this subversion and the subsequent establishment ofan alternative model ofcognition based on empirical visual observation. In complementary chapters, Braider demonstrates first the incipient disruptive effects of naturalism in van der Weyden's doctrinally orthodox paintings and then the workings of an allegorical imperative at odds with the sensory particulars rendered in the descriptive representations of Bruegel the Elder. The psychology of such anamorphic images as the skull in Holbein the Younger's TL· Ambassadors is next explored, the coexistence of mutually incompatible images serving in Braider's analysis as a visual ground for the textual paradoxes of such works as the Quijote. Braider then contrasts in Chapter Five the iconoclastic gaze of Steen's genre paintings and the mythopoetic vision of Baroque theatrical allegories, finding in the age's ideal of critical intelligence the mutual source of these agonistic tendencies. In Chapter Six Descartes's Discours and Vermeer's The Art of Painting are juxtaposed to demonstrate the essentially visual and perspectival nature of the Cartesian cogito, and in Chapter Seven an explication ofthe textual and visual components of Rembrandt's TL· Philosop^ occasions a meditation on the inevitable misreadings ofart and literature created by interpretation. Braider concludes his study with a masterful analysis of the incipient sublime of Poussin's classicism and a final reflection on the fate of ut pictura poesis...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 372-374
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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