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368Philosophy and Literature no longer active participants in cultural dialogue. Bennett attributes this to the fact that "we have forgotten how to read in that dialogical eighteenth-century manner" (p. 322). Bennett's argument would be more compelling ifit were not limited to these two authors. These criticisms, however, are minor and only serve to underline Bennett's assertion (and Goethe's) that thinking is theorizing, an inescapable aspect of our attempts to create order out of the welter ofinformation with which we are confronted. Bennett's fine grasp of contemporary critical issues and insightful readings offer much to scholars of Germanics, as well as scholars generally interested in eighteenth-century German aesthetics or a well-wrought study of the act of reading. Vanderbilt UniversityChristopher McClintick Narcissus Transformed: The Textual Subject in Psychoanalysis and Literature, by Gray Kochhar-Lindgren; vi & 138 pp. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993, $28.50. This modestly proportioned book is far from modest in its ambition to examine not only the functioning of the myth of Narcissus in postmodern culture but in addition to propose a way out of the "rigidifying gaze of the selfsame." The first chapter, "The Obsessive Gaze: The Logic of Narcissism in Contemporary Discourse," attempts in a mere eighteen pages the huge task of surveying the "dialectic" of Narcissism in the discourses of philosophy and literature, briefly touching on Ovid, Descartes, Kant, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Derrida, among many others. A daunting task that, for this reader, makes for frustrating reading. Kochhar-Lindgren's theme is that ever since Ovid the Narcissus topos—a myth of suicidal and murderous self-reflection—has been central to Western literature and culture. In philosophy, the Cartesian foundation of philosophical narcissism has been irremediably challenged by the emergence, through psychoanalysis and literary theory and practice, of the unconscious and the fictional ruses of metaphorical thinking and "mythicity" as attempts to fill the gap between language and meaning. In chapter two, "The Scar of Narcissus: Sigmund Freud and the Psychoanalysis of Narcissism," the author's emphasis is on the centrality of narcissism in psychoanalytic thought. He shows how Freud, in borrowing the topos from literature, translates it into the language of psychoanalysis in his essay "On Narcissism," examining the "stages of construction of the love object, the types Reviews369 of love objects and psychic mechanisms that eitiier enable or obstruct us in the process of loving" (p. 30). From Freud, he moves on in chapter three to "The Mirage of Narcissus: Jacques Lacan and the Poetics of the Psyche," showing how Narcissus permeates the Lacanian theory of subjectivity. His 1949 essay "The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience" and his later works describe the subject as a specular image, an illusion of wholeness and unicity which is always a divided subject, alienated from himself, dependent on the other to tell him who he is. As image or reflection, the human subject thus resembles the artistic text, existing in both the imaginary and the symbolic worlds. Of these three initial theoretical chapters, the first is gnomic, perplexing, unsatisfying; the Freud and Lacan chapters—more expository syntheses of the Narcissus component in psychoanalysis—might nevertheless have been more successfully integrated with the literary analyses in the subsequent chapters. Virginia Woolfs The Waves, Michel Tournier's The Ogre (in the original French, Le Roi des Aulnes) , andJohn Fowles's Daniel Martin are each taken as an example of narcissism on a different register. Focused around their narcissistic narrators, all three novels, taken together, are interpreted to suggest a possible itinerary out of narcissism. In The Waves, Kochhar-Lindgren presents an example of the dark side of Narcissus, since Bernard's narcissistic project of constructing a stable self-identity through the power of language fails in its attempt to defeat the power of flux and nothingness. Kochhar-Lindgren reads Tournier's novel about the sinister writings of the pathological figure Abel Tiffauges, which mirror the apocalyptic decor of the Third Reich, as "the logical and fatal result of the entire course of Abel's (and the Nazis') delusional construction of an absolutely self-referential world" (p. 93) in which signs are misinterpreted and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 368-370
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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