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

380Philosophy and Literature concerned with how die growdi of a hero through a second self reflects our own growth or lack tiiereof. To the degree that Van Nortwick integrates these two concerns in his discussions of die diree works, die study fulfiUs the exciting promises he sets fortii and widi which he concludes. Yet, often we are told too much about each work tangential to die particular metaphor of heroic growth tiirough a second self. Further, his work is marred by the jargon characteristic of much current criticism . Again and again he speaks of the "agenda" of a character or of the gods (pp. 115, 124, 130, 136, 164), too often of a "dynamic" (pp. 6, 13, 166). His work is weakened by such language as "the norms of male bonding" (p. 17), "the camera zooms up and away" (p. 173). Characterizing Aeneas as a new kind of hero both in his use by the gods and his growth with its sole end the founding of Rome, Van Nortwick uses the fashionable theme of "power and gender" in a heavy-handed and tiresome way (see specifically the section "Power and Gender," pp. 91-94, and such terms as "gender ambiguity" [p. 165]). In his treatment of the metaphor of the hero's confrontation with his second self, we setde for momentary radier than sustained insight into the world of the reader, a world "messy, frayed at the edges" but all-important. Whitman CollegeMichael McClintick GettingItRight: Language, Literature, andEthics, Geoffrey Gait Harpham; viii & 246 pp. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992, $32.50. The reviewerofGeoffrey Gait Harpham's GettingItRight: Language, Literature, and Ethics faces an anxiety-producing challenge. Is it possible to "get it right"— the "it" referring to the argument of Harpham's book? Since Harpham himself has faced this challenge (his "it" referring to die relation of ethics to various theoretical discourses), we too must choose to speak responsibly about Harpham 's work. According to Harpham, the central "law" of ethics is the edict, "Act on principle," an "apparendy vacuous . . . imperative" that "does not specify or warrant any particular act, choice, or decision" (p. 3). Morality indicates specificaUy desirable and undesirable acts, whereas ethics involves "a certain style of representation" (p. 34) of the action—that it was based on principle. Ethics centrally involves a "dialectic offreedom and obligation" (p. 95) or a "structural imbrication of freedom . . . and necessity" (p. 94). We are free to choose, and yet at die same time we must choose. Harpham argues that this dialectic also Reviews381 governs language use. We freely choose the words that we combine into sentences , yet only certain words are available to us, and we must obey the rules of grammar in order to make ourselves intelligible to others. The "must" thus exists at the heart of the "ought," although "in repressed form" (p. 25). Harpham's discussion of "must" and "ought" evinces his typical method of argumentation: begin with an apparendy clear distinction, deconstruct that distinction by showing that the two terms are "coimplicated" (p. 32), and then reveal the psychoanalytic truth hidden beneath the deconstructive one—that each term is "dependent upon the repression ... of the other" (p. 32). He follows the psychoanalytic formula, "'where ? was, there shall ? be'" (p. 138). "?"' represents "language, analysis, narrative, and creation" (p. 5), along with other disciplines. The "y" is ethics, or "ethicity" (p. 172), an imperative or "ought" that is repressed by those disciplines and that Harpham seeks to uncover. Harpham's discussion oflanguage also reveals an important flaw in the work. Although he does distinguish between the "must" and the "ought," he frequendy fails to distinguish between several related but different terms. He speaks of "imperative," "obligation," "necessity," and the "ought," treating them as if they were identical. For example, he mentions "the imperative that reading ought to refuse closure and assertion" (p. 174) and describes (while discussing Conrad) the "'general theory of necessity'" (p. 215), that "creation occurs under the direction of an imperative" (p. 215). Yet the imperative "Do this" is different from the assertions, "You must do this," "You ought to do this," and "You are under an obligation to do this." Although Harpham might deconstruct those...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 380-381
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.