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Reviews397 Crossing Borders: Reception Theory, Poststructuralism, Deconstruction, by Robert C. Holub; xii & 244 pp. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992, $42.00 cloth, $16.95 paper. Much modern French and American philosophy and literary criticism can trace its roots back to Germany, either to the three H's—Hegel, Husserl, and Heidegger—or to the "masters of suspicion"—Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. Simultaneously, the most powerful fact of German history, the Holocaust, has been at the center of much twentieth-century Western thought. It is therefore striking that in recent decades there has been so little communication between the German philosophical and literary critical scene and the French or American ones. In CrossingBorders, Robert Holub introduces American readers to a number of important German literary critics, while giving a lucid but provocative account of some of the reasons for the gap between the two traditions. At the same time, he argues passionately for a politically engaged criticism that he says cannot emerge from deconstruction alone. Holub begins with a discussion of the neglect of reception theory and the Constance School in the United States. He attributes this indifference initially to a legacy of New Criticism, the American obsession with the text, that precluded acceptance of German criticism, which was interested in historical and political factors external to the text. Subsequently, scholars from Constance, likeJauss and Iser, contributed to their own disregard by refusing to engage the linguistic critique of the signifier coming out of Paris. Above all, according to Holub, the suspicion or irreverence with which German students regarded philosophers like Nietzsche, Freud, and Heidegger prevented a positive German reception of deconstruction, which Holub contends was based on the thinking of those philosophers. Many German students, according to Holub, regarded the French criticism that reached them as ludic, obscure, and reliant on a nonliberal tradition. Particularly Foucault was viewed by many Germans as politically conservative, which Holub, who gallantly attempts to rehabilitate Foucault for the left, regrets. Holub then gives brief informative accounts of the three German scholars who have worked with the French tradition in recent years: the late Peter Szondi's study of Schleiermacher's hermeneutics, the prolific Manfred Frank's inuoduction to neostructuralism, and the brilliant but difficult work of Friedrich Kittler on the effect oftechnology, such as the typewriter, gramophone, and telephone on the epistemes of modernity. In the third section of the book, Holub switches back to America, where he finds a struggle between playful French criticism and politically motivated Marxism. Attempts to unite deconstruction and Marxism have failed and always will, he argues, because deconstruction asserts the primacy of the text and Marxism that of the material world. He concludes his book witii a discussion of de Man's and Heidegger's Nazism. While Holub admits that the 398Philosophy and Literature politics ofde Man and Heidegger do not discredit their criticism or philosophy, any more than Derrida's or Foucault's leftist engagement credit their thinking, he argues that these political scandals do show that this thinking is inherently apolitical. The finale of the book is a rousing call to action for leftist politics: It is time to go out and change the world. But for all of his lucid argumentation, Holub never responds to the central claim ofdeconstruction that such thinking might have conservative aspects as well. By the end of Holub's book, there are clearly two groups: bad guys—Nazis, in fact—and good guys. That sort of dichotomy has always prevented self-analysis and self-critique. Nor does Holub refute the notion that attention to the signifier, playful and nonserious as it might seem, could have potential for a truly profound revolution. Overall, the dichotomies between French and German, frivolous and serious , deconstruction and Marxism quickly become predictable. Nonetheless, CrossingBorders is worth reading. Even if one disagrees with Holub's conclusion on the relationship between deconstruction and Marxism, one can appreciate his clarity and his political passion. Like Terry Eagleton's Literary Theory, Crossing Borders can give lucid summaries of difficult arguments while simultaneously maintaining a clear Marxist perspective. Whitman CollegeRobert Tobin Textuality and Subjectivity: The Poetics ofReading, edited by Eitel Timm and Kenneth Mendoza; 129 pp. Columbia, South Carolina: Camden...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 397-398
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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