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Reviews385 he calls us back to the dance floor. Rap, he says, is a postmodern popular art that challenges deeply entrenched aesthetic conventions by recycling appropriation , mixing styles, embracing new technologies, rejecting notions ofartistic purity, and emphasizing the local and temporal. From Compton to Harlem, from Ice-T to Public Enemy, "rap philosophers are really 'down with' Dewey, not merely in metaphysics but in a non-compartmentalized aesthetic which highlights social function, process, and embodied experience" (p. 212). Shusterman demonstrates this with a brilliant close reading of Stetsasonic's 1988 "Talkin' AU That Jazz" (with lyrics reprinted), a reading that parallels his discussion of Eliot's poem. Beginning with Wittgenstein's observation that "ethics and aesthetics are one," the final chapter moves from the life of art to ethics and the art of living. Here Shusterman focuses on and criticizes as too narrow and too private the so-called pragmatism of Rorty and his notions of"private perfection" and "self-creation." He suggests, foUowing Dewey and James, that we need both a more embodied and a more social pragmatist aesthetic. As I have tried to suggest, there is a great deal to like about this book. It addresses philosophers, literary theorists, and artists, and it will challenge analysts , postmodernists, and neopragmatists. Shusterman's writing is exceptionally clear, fair, and well-argued. He reminds us ofthe long-ignored butabsolutely central importance of pragmatism for aesdietic theory and, crucially, for aesthetic practices. In this way, despite its somewhat smug tone, Shusterman's book captures not only the letter but also the spirit of pragmatism. And, while Shusterman seems remarkably unaware of other recent work on Dewey— perhaps because his own conversion is so recent—his book is a first-rate contribution to the ongoing renaissance of pragmatism. Like Stetsasonic, he has "set the record straight." University of OregonJohn J. Stuhr Literature and Rationality, by Paisley Livingston; 256 pp. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991, $65.00. In literary circles, appeals to rationality have fallen on hard times. Many who countenance the notion, think ofit as having a very limited application indeed— usually in the field of science. This, Livingston thinks, is why the juxtaposition of literature and rationality in the tide of his book, poses particular problems, because "even if one were to grant that rationality is a notion having some restricted value in the human sciences, this would not necessarUy imply that it has any great relevance to literature" (p. 1). The author's aim is to show that 386Philosophy and Literature die concept of rationality plays a vital role in any adequate study of literature. In order to show this, Livingston begins by shedding light on the concept of rationality, for, as he righdy anticipates, those who have criticized and dismissed it usuaUy have an impoverished understanding of it. In an exceUent first chapter, the author surveys an impressive range of philosophical works that deal with the topic. The upshot of this survey is a sustained challenge to irrationalist and mechanistic conceptions ofhuman motivation, as weU as a wellgrounded argument for the view that the concepts of intentionality and action are necessary for the explanation of human behavior. After responding to criticisms, Livingston concludes, rather too cautiously, that a "moderate form of rationality . . . may be a necessary element in intentional explanations; it is also likely to be an indispensable means to the creation and preservation of otiier values" (p. 47). The survey oftheories complete, Livingston turns his attention to the question of "their pertinence to literature" (p. 48). His central thesis is that "not only are the concepts and issues related to rationality and irrationality . . . essential to enquiries concerning literature, but literature in turn has genuine cognitive value in relation to questions of human rationality and irrationality" (p. 51). In saying tiiis, he argues for the view that even if one believed that literature is bred of unreason in all of its forms, we would still have to use concepts and models of rationality to explain this unreason (p. 52). As a result, it transpires that on his view there are no literary phenomena that can be understood adequately without appeals to the notion of rationality. The fundamental idea that runs...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 385-386
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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