A Pitch of Philosophy: Autobiographical Exercises (review)
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Reviews363 constitutes a sagacious accommodation of a bit of "received opinion," as Park says; but a less convincing recuperation of conventional thought about the rococo is found in his move from some general principles of "feminization" seemingly inherent in rococo art to the argued existence of a contemporaneous variant of "feminism" operative within the rococo's community of recep tion. The rococo indeed embodied a formal revolution, but a sexual revolution seems quite arguable. In "The Rococo Vision," Park's first of three chapters comprising "Part II: Rococo Culture," he makes the transition to his area of specialty, the literary rococo. And impressive erudition marks these final three chapters. Nevertheless , perhaps a litde more argumentation constructed around the linguistic "stuff" ofthe chosen literary examples would provide a welcomed complement to the sometimes broadly stroked ideas about the texts. If a little too much ambition for the rococo is the principal critique here, other readers of caution may be particularly surprised by the megathesis proposed in the penultimate chapter: "the novel itself is a rococo form" (from the jacket). But any penchant toward impatience should, once again, be checked, for the author is on to an interesting idea, permitting some insightful parallels, even if some readers may have difficulty following him in his summarizing move to see the embryonic modern novel as "a rococo form." In any event, of the many ideas promoted in The Idea ofRococo, this is certainly the most original. Aesthetic application of "the surprise principle" was designed to enliven compensationally the formulaic conventionalities inherent in rococo art and literature. Kindredly, Park has planted a few ideational novelties of his own in an otherwise methodologically conventional account; consequently, we—like eighteenth-century readers—are "agreeably surprised" in our reading of his reading of the idea(s) of rococo. University of the SouthGeorge Poe A Pitch ofPhilosophy: Autobiographical Exercises, by Stanley Cavell; ix & 196 pp. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994, $26.00. This book gives us the colorful Cavell, the sort of pronounced color that appears in the now famous scene in the film Philadelphia, in which Tom Hanks's character, hooked up to an intravenous feeding pole, translates Maria Callas's version of "La Mamma Morta" for Denzel Washington's character. Washington's character is uncomfortable with homosexuals, and most likely does not understand the homosexual community's fascination with opera, particularly 364Philosophy and Literature Callas, one of the subjects ofWayne Koestenbaum's The Queen's Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire (1993). Color, voice, opera, performance —these are some of the major issues in Cavell's book, a collection of three pieces constituting The Jerusalem-Harvard Lectures delivered at Hebrew University in 1992. The three parts of Cavell's coloratura performance are: "Philosophy and the Arrogation ofVoice," mostly about Cavell's childhood and early academic life; "Counter-Philosophy and the Pawn of the Voice," an intervention in Derrida's reading ofJ. L. Austin; and "Opera and the Lease of Voice," a chapter that, among other things, tries to link Cavell's work on film with the notion that film is today's opera. The usual trills appear in his prose, most famously the interruptive style, the self-quotation, the suggestive asides. Such trills can repel or absorb an audience, and there seems to be little middle ground. Such a comment also applies to Cavell's understanding of opera, that it has the capacity to seem absurd, if one has the Marx brothers' A Night at the Opera in mind, or terribly serious, like Wagner's Ring cycle. Cavell pitches his prose at a level that seems to divide people, like sounds that dogs can hear but humans cannot. Naturally, Cavell foregrounds his own voice (style) in the background of Emerson's discussion of conformity, and the individual's loss of voice by an overattentiveness to the crowd, and to convention. He even goes so far as to say that an "internal connection" exists between philosophy and autobiography (p. vii), so that seeking one's own voice does not result in a private language, but in the most public sort of speech. Cavell writes: "The philosophical dimension of autobiography is that the human is representative, say, imitative...