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370Philosophy and Literature mannerist and modernist aesdietics, Caws transforms the commonplace image of the threshold, le seuil, into a Barthesian "figure of production," a critical heuristic offar-reaching productivity. No such transformation occurs in Reading Frames, despite the author's best efforts to whip the titular metaphor into life. The problem is diat deconstruction, the radical formalism uiat Caws practices here, lacks (indeed, disavows) an intersubjective pragmatics ofreading. For her, "Reading is a solitary act of creation: none can create with us or coUaborate in the reading" (p. 230). From this standpoint, no shared "framing" of text or experience is possible. In a cursory survey of frame dieory Caws briefly discusses die anthropological researches ofBateson and Goffman but casts her lot witii the poststructuralists Hamon and Derrida. She ignores entirely die cognitive frame theories of Marvin Minsky, Terry Winograd, and Benjamin Kuipers as weU as die communitarian dieory of reading developed by Stanley Fish. For diese reasons, Reading Frames in Modern Fiction remains a minor work by a major critic. One eagerly awaits the day when "die impassioned reader of frames" (p. 149) returns her gaze to the picture. University of HartfordWilliam L. Stull Virginia Woolfand the Politics ofStyle, by PamelaJ. Transue ; vi & 222 pp. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986, $39.50 cloth, $14.95 paper. The "politics of style" is important in its bearing on both politics and style, and Virginia Woolf, who was as self-conscious about the act of writing as any twentiedi-century author, is a likely source for die study of diat topic. Pamela Transue, moreover, has a firm knowledge ofWoolfs novels which are die focus of her book — she devotes eight individual chapters to die historical sequence of the ten novels. Yet Transue's account of Woolfs politics of style is in the end disappointing, diffusely argued and tiieoreticaUy vague, avoiding more questions dian it faces about a complex subject. The problem, it seems to me, is in a basic equivocation by Transue on tiie phrase, the "politics ofstyle." At times the phrase refers to political commitments uiat are written about in a style; at odier times it refers to die politicization of style itself. Transue devotes most of her attention to the former of these — but diis is already much-trodden ground, and she adds litde to what has been said Reviews371 about Woolfs views (most teUingly, by Woolf herself). Moreover, since for Transue Woolfs politics revolve entirely around feminist uiemes, the thematic analysis of die novels focuses on die lives of women and their relationships to men — and altiiough it may be useful to have Transue's reminder tiiat Woolfs male characters are typicaUy "hypochondriachal, complaining, helpless, constantly in need of female care and reassurance" (p. 18), diis surely is only marginaUy a stylistic feature and even less dian that a political one. Altiiough Transue's accounts of die novels are systematic and thorough at the level of the text, they are much less convincing when she relates die texts to theory (political theory or any odier). What, for example, could one predict for Freudian interpretation from diis near-Victorian summary: "The libido, of course, demands expression, and ifit is denied the outlet of simple physical passion, its drives are sublimated into odier forms" (p. 104)? To analyze "politics of style" where politics is held to be a feature ofstyle is a more subde problem, and here Transue only identifies die issue and leaves. She quotes Woolfs complaint about having to depend as a writer on diat standard form of a sentence "made by men; it is too loose, too heavy, too pompous for a woman's use" (p. 9). That Woolf said diis is relevant — but die statement itself is far from self-explanatory, and there is in any event a large gap between such claims and Transue's conclusion uiat "Woolfs stylistic innovations function as subde vehicles of a feminist conscience" (p. 12). The latter assertion implies that there is a "feminist style" of writing, and for diat, Transue provides litde evidence or argument. She suggests, for example, that Woolf brings "sensual, enigmatic, unconscious material to die surface in vivid concrete images which are suggestive radier than programmatic...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 370-371
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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