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

Reviews357 on the issue of responsibility. Rose would resurrect something like the Hegelian conception of modernity and reason that both Heidegger and Derrida criticize. For her, Derrida is, in effect, providing an apologia for Heidegger or Nazism or both, insofar as he sees both Nazism and anti-Nazism as caught up in the same metaphysics of subjectivity. She accuses him of a "special dishonesty" and describes his work in terms of the "sublimity of originary equivocation" (p. 66) . Despite this polemical tone, a careful comparison of her position and that of the more sympathetic critics would be a very fruitful point of departure for an understanding of the political tendencies of Derrida's work. University of RichmondGary Shapiro WilliamEmpson: The CriticalAchievement, edited by Christopher Norris and Nigel Mapp; xiv & 320 pp. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, $54.95. In this collection of essays on William Empson, Christopher Norris and Nigel Mapp have put together the kind of critical survey that makes readers want to return to the source ofmost of the wisdom they and others have mustered. This book also suggests that Empson died perhaps a decade too soon. Had he lasted another ten years he would have been able to see the tide begin to turn back in the direction of authors who write in the hope ofconveying meaning and some definite sense of their intentions. At the same time, these essays show how far Empson will always remain from anything like a mainstream of critical thought. He was at his best when urging contrary readings, as he seemed to do in all of his best books. More than most other English critics, he made us think hard about language and the meanings of literary works. He was able to look at familiar texts from odd, some might even insist idiosyncratic, angles. But those who have taken the trouble to study his criticism know that the results amply repay the efforts. The quotations from Empson are the freshest part of this collection. Christopher Norris starts off with an introduction of 120 pages. He does a worthyjob of placing Empson against the backdrop of contemporary literary theory, but this is a long introduction. Although Empson is nearly always in the foreground, the argument sometimes seems forced. Nevertheless, Norris gives us a portrait of Empson as critical antihero struggling against a wave of muddled theorizing and rampant misreadings. He establishes Empson's resistance to literary formalism, whether coming from New Critics or deconstructionists , and his objections to attempts to ignore authorial intention, biography, history, and other forms of meaning. In a lengthy encursus Norris 358Philosophy and Literature discusses Empson's differences first with Wimsatt and other New Critics, and then with Frank Kermode and Stanley Fish, and finally with Paul de Man and J. Hillis Miller. After Norris's prolegomenon, the other essays come more easily, like olives out of the bottle. Gary Wihl, in "Empsonian honesty and the beginnings of individualism," explores Empson's discussion of the word "honest" in Shakespeare's Othello. William E. Cain's "Empson, Leavis, and the challenge of Milton" offers a perceptive extension of Empson's antagonistic reading of Milton's Paradise Lost. Paul H. Fry, in "Empson's Satan: an ambiguous character of the seventh type," explores Empson's purposeful "lack of tact" in conjunction with the often Romantic attitudes of rebellion underlying his criticism. "Compacted doctrines: Empson and the meanings of words," by Alan Durant and Colin MacCabe, discusses The Structure of Complex Words against the backdrop of Empson's disagreements with Raymond Williams's Keywords. Pamela McCallum, in "Figurai narrative and plot construction: Empson on pastoral," looks at Empson's concept of the "double-plot 'device'" in Some Versions ofPastoral. Neil Hertz's "More lurid figures: de Man reading Empson" is really more a study of Paul de Man than of Empson, but the connections he traces between the two offer another view of Empson's relevance to more recent kinds of theory. In "Fool and 'Pharmakon'" William Righter describes the "exploratory" strategies of Empson's theorizing about ambiguity, irony, and complexity in language and literature and contrasts Empson's strategies with those of Jacques Derrida. Jeanjacques Lecercle, in "William Empson's cosmicomics...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 357-358
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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.