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Reviews365 captivated by, too much playing Poe's Dupin to the uncomprehending Prefect . . ." (pp. 122-23). This appears at the end of a close consideration of Derrida's essay, an example Cavell can use to counter those who find his work "impressionistic," though Cavell might find such phrasing congenial, given his reading of that word in this book (pp. 164—66). As always with Cavell's work, he gives a great deal to think about, pointing again and again to matters philosophy wants to keep offstage. My hesitations are twofold, one trivial, the other less so. First, Cavell writes about "the apple taken from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (p. 148). Surely such a careful reader as he knows that no word for apple is found in Genesis at that point. Second, Cavell's happy appeals to Nietzsche create discomfort. See the work of Geoff Waite for more on this. Laurentian UniversityBruce Krajewski The Pleasures of Babel, by Jay Clayton; ix & 209 pp. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, $35.00 cloth, $15.95 paper. This book will not bestow many blessings on mankind, but it has parts that have real quality. Professor Clayton's discussion of Structuralism and Deconstruction is the first I have encountered that doesn't badger the reader with obscurity and Gallic fustian. It is actually interesting and clarifying. I also feel grateful for his enlightening discussion of narrative theory that goes beyond English departments to impinge significantly on other areas such as political science, legal studies, and art history. Also commendable is his unfolding of "desire" as a major component of current narrative theory. The pressure of desire gives the dynamic notion to narrative—as in Freud's concept of Eros, the death instinct, the repetition compulsion. Desire "creates the delays and digressions that are so necessary to the suspense of a good plot and that augment, by postponing, the pleasures of the end" (p. 67). It seems odd that these succulent parts of the book have such faint connections with and lend such little visible support to Professor Clayton's major proposition: ". . . that there are substantial pleasures to be found in the land of Babel and that these pleasures may ultimately benefit the nation" (p. viii) . One hopes that he might be right in his view, given our anxiety after so much evidence of balkanization and anomie—and an academic world devolving to a sort of intellectual Yugoslavia. However, after ingesting all the material that seems designed to support Clayton's thesis, the reader is likely to murmur, "well, maybe, maybe not." 366Philosophy and Literature Part of the reason for this tepid response is that much of the handling is so irksome that the reader's good will and watchful attention begin to wane. The prose is too often desiccated and humorless cerebral gymnastics which seems to be occurring in a stuffy space closed off from anything resembling actual human life. It is full ofthe barnacles ofreceived nomenclature: "marginalized," "privileged," "empowered," etc. . . . We are frequently given tiresome lists of works that are supposed to support some proposition, at times including books tiiat could throw doubt on or even contradict our author's position. Even if convincing, the lists give off the stale odor of statistics. It is difficult to extract from this crumbly presentation a cogent argument as to why we should rejoice in this brave new world of literature emanating from all corners of a fragmented society, where there is no center that holds, no communal canon, no masterworks, no way to account for quality, where intention, form, closure, and meaning are declared nonexistent. This is a world where the fissures and self-contradictions of a text are "foregrounded"— reminiscent of the projectors of Lagado trying to soften marble for pillows. Literature is seen as a shadowy agent ofpolitical agendas, rather than a potent force capable of meaning and saying, "a plague upon all your houses!" or of saying "glory be to life!" Whitman CollegeWalter Broman Beyond Theory: Eighteenth-Century German Literature and the Poetics of Irony, by Benjamin Bennett; 354 pp. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993, $42.50. Bennett's ambitious book attempts to establish the notion of an...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 365-366
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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