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394Philosophy and Literature mystification or transcendence, but to a shift to the self as the object of representation . Bersani rejects "humanistic criticism" with its "reparative nature of cultural symbolisation" (p. 7) because it devalues historical experience, misreads art as philosophy, reaffirms an authoritative tradition of powerful selfhood, and misrepresents the process of cultural symbolization. The textual choices and readings are intriguing, ranging from Proust juxtaposed with Melanie Klein to Malraux's La Condition humaine to Thomas Pynchon 's Gravity's Rainbow. The method owes much to Derrida and de Man. The shifts or moves of the text show a neutralization or negation of representation, idealization, or transcendence or an actualization of these forms ofredemption, in spite of the supposed scepticism of the author. The latter is most evident in the chapter, "Against Ulysses," in which Joyce, in contrast to Beckett, is seen as reaffirming cultural memories and "the enormous power of sublimation in our culture ... as the appeasement and even transcendence of anxiety" (p. 176). Given Bersani's assumptions, an observant reader may come away with the feeling that his canonic authors are Baudelaire, Nietzsche, Flaubert, Bataille, Melville, and Pynchon, and the unfortunates are Proust, Joyce, Benjamin, and Malraux. Bersani speaks of the "possibility of pursuing not an art of truth divorced from experience, but of phenomena liberated from the obsession with truth" (p. 26). This is what he values; readers who share his materialist scepticism will admire his readings. Those who do not will be troubled by his failure to address the far-ranging ontological and historical assumptions which govern his criticism. Vanderbilt UniversityPatricia A. Ward Delicate Subjects: Romanticism, Gender, and the Ethics of Understanding, by Julie Ellison; xv & 306 pp. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992, $16.95, paper. We are stiU trying to sort out the complex legacy of romanticism. "We" here includes phUosophers Stanley Cavell and Richard Rorty, feminist critics Sandra GUbert and Susan Gubar, and a remarkable variety of literary theorists, from Northrop Frye, M. H. Abrams, Paul de Man, and Harold Bloom through Hazard Adams and Jerome J. McGann. Julie Ellison's important book, Delicate Subjects, focuses on an especially difficult problem we have inherited from the romantics: the problem of defining the ethics of interpretation. According to Ellison, male romantic writers worry that in literary interpretation, we murder to dissect (to paraphrase Wordsworth). Criticism, from this point of view, has Reviews395 troubling affinities with such masculinist values as aggression, violence, possession , penetration, and mastery. Unwilling to see themselves as ruthless Ahabs ripping out the hidden meaning of innocent texts, the romantics privilege moments of nonexploitative understanding, moments associated with values culturally encoded as feminine: receptivity, love, friendship, conversation, and empathy. But even as the romantics appreciate these values, they still see the need to justify criticism as manly, hard intellectual work, distinct from the irresponsible gossip and sensationalistic novels that they often align with women. With intelligence and care, Ellison explores how the romantics struggle to distance themselves from masculinist aggression without succumbing to what they see as the opposite effeminate extreme. Her three well-chosen examples of romanticism are Friedrich Schleiermacher , Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Margaret Fuller. Schleiermacher enforces the linkage between understanding and the "divinatory" or intuitive knowledge of women. Although divination is valuable for Schleiermacher, he cannot allow it to be sufficient. Feminine receptivity needs to be tempered by method and systematic analysis. In a fine account of Coleridge's shifting career (from the early poetry through the Biographia, TL· Friend, and the later writings), Ellison shows how he sees the influence of women as an antidote to political conflict and divisive ideological rhetoric, while nevertheless wishing to present himself as a forceful critic—a man with a peaceable manner but still a man. Coleridge tries "to develop a philosophical identity based on nonviolence or, to be more precise, reluctant violence"(p. 158). Neither a gothic novelist catering to women nor aJacobin terrorist riding roughshod over them, Coleridge thinks he has "the ability to speak as the defender of the home and of the purity of women—even, occasionally, to speak as a suffering woman—and yet, insistently, to be unlike them" (p. 186). In discussing Fuller, Ellison's main point is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 394-396
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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