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420Philosophy and Literature the history of reading and the production and control of meaning, but also those who speculate on the library of the future where, no longer prisoners of their original material existence and able to be read in places where they are not conserved, all texts will be "summoned, assembled, and read: on a screen" (p. 89). Since he has ably demonstrated that forms affect meaning, he leaves us wondering how this new revolution in the dissemination and appropriation of texts, the end of the book, will ultimately affect textual meaning and how die absence of the book as metaphor (for the cosmos, nature, history, and the human body) will change the way we look at ourselves and our world. Whitman CollegePatrick Henry French Lessons:A Memoir, by Alice Kaplan; 221 pp. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993, $19.95. This engaging narrative relates its author's life from her youth in Minneapolis to her current position as tenured Professor ofFrench at Duke University. It highlights her summers at Lake Minnetonka, her father's burial on her eighth birthday, a high school year in a Swiss boarding school, her education at Berkeley, a junior year abroad in Pau and Bordeaux where she discovers Céline, her graduate education at Yale where she encounters deconstruction and writes her dissertation on French fascist writers, her postdoctoral interview with the early Holocaust denier, Maurice Bardèche and, everywhere, her ambivalent relationship with the French language. Within this thoroughly personal framework, we find interesting commentaries on French literature, culture, and criticism. Kaplan's analyses of French fascism are, understandably, comprehensive and illuminating, as are her textual explications of Celine's difficult prose. Her meeting with Bardèche and his "Holocaust without guilt" (p. 196) are surreal, while her discussion of the dialogue between Céline and the young Jewish critic Milton Hindus, "a relationship [that] appalled and fascinated [her]" (p. 110), is passionate and lucid. She recognizes in the final letters between Hindus and Céline "two parts of [her] own personality . . . two feuding parts" (p. 113) but concludes that, by separating Céline the literary genius from the anti-Semitic polemicist, Hindus became the first of the Célinian "drycleaners" (p. 117). Her remarks on de Man and deconstruction evince the same balance. His "Introduction to Literary Theory" at Yale was tough going. He was "impossible to please" (p. 148) and didn't think that deconstructive theory could be "taught or even understood" (p. 152) . She admires the older student who, after reading what he deemed an incomprehensible paragraph in Genette's "Metonymy in Proust," walked out of the class and graduate school, whereas she Reviews421 and others "pretended we understood when we didn't" (p. 152). Nevertheless, she explains de Man's connection to Romanticism and autobiography, elucidates what he taught her, and defends him against the charges of Roger Shattuck. "No one has ever paid more attention to literature than de Man did" (p. 153), she writes. Even after the scandal of his collaborationist activities, she is able to understand "the root of de Man's intellectual questions ... in his own experience and pain" (p. 173). For Kaplan, deconstruction's strength was that it promoted a deep sensitivity to language but, at the same time, it constrained the imagination, discouraged extratextual activity, and kept "person-ness away" (p. 148). The soul of this book, however, deals with the centrality of the absent father, particularly in the realms of language and criticism. The theme of language is omnipresent: the family speaks "American" (p. T); at the table they learn "language etiquette" (p. 8); after "a fuse had blown in her head" (p. 12), her maternal grandmother's Yiddish, Russian, and Hebrew all came outjumbled. When she listens to her childhood, the author primarily and rightfully hears "scenes of language" (p. 5). After a few years, however, it is French that dominates. Kaplan began French in the fifth grade, masters the French "r" in Switzerland, above all seeks "language" (p. 86) from her French lover in Pau and Bordeaux and, thanks in part to an anti-Lacanian phoniatre, finally learns to relax with her French. In the final analysis, ifFrench "made...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 420-422
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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