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374Philosophy and Literature complex historical analysis, and broad theoretical speculation. Its contributions to discussions of die formation of Western modernity and the relationship between text and image are sure to be longstanding. University of GeorgiaRonald Bogue The Profession ofEighteenth-Century Literature: Reflections on an Institution, edited by Leo Damrosch; vi & 234 pp. Madison: University ofWisconsin Press, 1992, $62.00 cloth, $24.95 paper. This volume consists of eleven essays, a brief introduction and concluding commentary, by noted scholars currendy in their prime. AU write self-reflexively and, to varying degrees, autobiographically. Several—Carole Fabricant, Donna Landry, Damrosch himself—write direcdy about their personal engagement widi eighteenth-century English literature and their experience as professors specializing in it. Others—Leo Braudy, William H. Epstein,John Richetti, David B. Morris—trace their own histories through the intermediary figures of other scholars: William Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley, Frank Ellis, Ian Watt, and Samuel Monk, respectively. Lawrence Lipking, Michael McKeon, John Bender, and WiUiam C. Dowling engage the issue via problems ofmethod: periodization, dialectical method, new historicism, and ideology. Finally, on these reflections already multiply refracted, Marshall Brown supplies a final reflection. Anyone interested in eighteenth-century literature will surely learn much from this book, and anyone close to the academic profession will enjoy reading it. I could almost endorse the backcover blurb, which predicts that it "will rapidly become essential reading for all graduate students and scholars in the field"; but if this book becomes essential, what will become inessential to make room for it? In various forms, that problem disturbs all the contributors. Damrosch nostalgically recalls the days when "one could 'keep up' with most of the articles on eighteenth-century literature and with nearly all ofthe books" (p. 203). Even then, though, there was more to read than anyone could keep up with, and every new page means some old page left out. Not just critical books, but primary texts, methods, and professors themselves, are essential or not, canonical or not, cutting-edge or not, tenurable or not. The inescapable responsibility for diat triage probably accounts for the pervasive anxiety expressed in these essays. Turned on ourselves, current critical practices reveal some unpleasant realities, and all the essays describe successful but troubled efforts to live with them. Reviews375 Noting and applauding the diversity of approaches, Brown also notes "how many different ways there are to slip into reification" (p. 213). "Theory" has furnished the tools to dismantle just about everything; as yet, we have no indestructible object to meet this irresistible force, except perhaps some fundamental urge to get on with it. Even the most theoretical keep using the deconstructed rhetoric and participating in the contested hegemony. Strikingly, the two women contributors live that contradiction more intensely and painfully tiian their male colleagues; Fabricant's ironic caricature of herself "emerging periodically from underneath stacks of books, research notes, and papers" to protest mass destruction (p. 123), or Landry's concern about being one of only two women in this volume (p. 155), are just two examples. By contrast, even the more Marxist men appear comfortable transposing their struggles onto eighteenth-century contests, while the more humanistic have accommodated (commodified, Landry would say) the opposition. Students and teaching are surprisingly absent. Most of the contributors comment on their own experience as students, but only Damrosch claims that his students have influenced him as much as his colleagues (p. 204). He suggests parenthetically that his was the common experience; but I would guess that the interdisciplinary reading groups of graduate students and younger faculty members described by Landry have recendy been the most powerful influence, vehicles for disseminating theory and for constituting the équipes to which Damrosch realized belatedly he did not belong. In any case, these essays suggest that the greatest intellectual energy lately has gone into establishing positions within the field. These are twelve brilliant scholars, eloquendy reflecting on what they do; and a lot of what they do is worry about what they do, and what it means, if anything. I wonder what today's students make ofall the confusion, competition, and soul-searching among their mentors. The "old eighteenth century" undoubtedly took too much for granted, but it was easily...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 374-375
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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