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

390Philosophy and Literature Rose examines how theorists sought to anchor the ownership of texts in the distinctive traits of iconic individuals. Not merely ideas, but their unique expression by individuals, became the basis of copyright. However, while the convergence of text and author was fundamental, it should be noted that there was a counterstrain in literary discourse, wherein the idea of "genius" was actively opposed to market considerations. It remains to be determined whether Rose's account of the Author is sufficiently complicated. The most important lacuna in Rose's text occurs in the last chapter, where he asserts that despite the incredible ease of reproducing almost any work, copyright should nonetheless be retained. Because it functions on the border of public and private, helping to organize our conceptions of those spheres, it is intrinsic to "the sense of who we are" (p. 142). But are we "who we are" anymore? Computerized texts have virtually erased the distinction between author and reader. A hypertext is by definition open, manipulable, the very opposite of the fixed, bordered, printed text on which copyright was founded. Our idea ofreality, as that is mediated by textuality, has altered forever. Without broaching the issue of hypertext, and addressing the work of theorists such as Richard Lanham, George Landow, and Jay David Bolter—all of whom argue that the computer and copyright are to one degree or another incompatible— Rose's summation seems insufficient, curiously out of touch. Georgia State UniversitySandra Sherman The Fables of Reason: A Study of Voltaire's "Contes phüosophiques ,"hy Roger Pearson; ? & 268 pp. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993, $55.00. Candide, as everyone knows, is neither traditional romance nor modern novel; still, to leave the point at that can unfortunately confuse nonspecialist readers as to its more precise generic affiliations. Narrowly anticipating the tercentenary ofVoltaire's birth in 1694, Roger Pearson's TL· Fables ofReason is, astonishingly, the first really thoroughgoing account of Voltaire's exploration of a genre which he virtually invented, and on his subsequent perfection of which his modern literary reputation almost overwhelmingly rests—the conte philosophique. While a very few other scholars have presented booklength studies encompassing all or most of the twenty-six contes, these have tended to concentrate either on formal and stylistic aspects (e.g., Dorothy McGhee) or on thematic and biographical concerns (Jacques Van den Heuvel) , in relative isolation from one another; Pearson's is the first to present integrated readings Reviews391 in terms relating form and content each to the other as well as to Voltaire's gradual development as a conteur. Pearson begins by addressing the paradox many have seen in Voltaire's cultivating so rank and unweeded a garden as narrative fiction at all. The paradox, however, is superficial, as Pearson demonstrates, because Voltaire's more dignified labors in the fields of epic, tragedy, and history share many attributes with his contes—e.g., polemical opportunism, attention to audience reception, and willingness to revise and experiment in their light—foremost among which is a singular ability to tell a story: indeed, "perhaps the most important single thing about Voltaire," according to Pearson, is that "he thinks narratively" (p. 5). If he often employed "conte," "fable," and especially "roman" as derisive epithets, it was less through classicist notions of literary propriety than through empiricist scruples regarding fiction's power to deceive and abuse the uncritical. Used to enlighten rather than mislead, fiction could be properly "philosophique" and not unworthy of a writer who famously confessed, "j'écris pour agir." For contes can not only conceal satire and polemic from the censors, but may attract readers who would never sit through argumentation au naturel. If fiction served only as a vehicle for propaganda, however "progressive," it would hardly deserve the tide "philosophique," but Pearson sees Voltaire's fictions as philosophical in a much more crucial sense: "what Voltaire's contes principally do is not so much convey a number of alleged intellectual and moral truths as foster a spirit of irreverence" and intellectual independence (p. ix). Two general arguments to this effect converge in the opening chapters. First, narrative was essential to empirical philosophy, which as Locke described it, follows the "plain," historical...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 390-392
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.