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Reviews145 middle-class rather than an aristocratic context" (p. 29), and Tom Eaves, archgossip of Vanity Fair, is transformed and "accommodated to the decorum of the three decker novel as Father Holt" (p. 32). George Eliot, however, "freely, riskily, and successfully interpellated a special audience outside of Mudie's" (p. 49): a result of her concern with professionalism. This concern is reflected in the text in Lydgate's commitment to the "independent value of his own work" (p. 52). The bimonthly format ofMiddlemarch is the concrete mediation ofEliot's struggle to become a professional woman writer in a patriarchal publishing system. Whether it be early feminism or the "Booksellers Question" of 1852, Feltes draws upon a wealth of literary and publishing history, and uses it "more intensively than those historical and bibliographical materials have been used up to now" (p. ix). In doing so he provides an explanation of the development ofcapitalist novel production. Modes ofProduction ofVictorian Noveh is a valuable adjunct to the study of nineteenth-century literature. University of Waikato, New ZealandJan Pilditch Socrates and the Political Community: An Ancient Debate, by Mary Nichols; ? & 236 pp. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987, $44.50 cloth, $16.95 paper. Mary Nichols is unduly modest when she introduces her recent book as an overview of die treatment accorded Socrates in Aristophanes' Clouds, Plato's Republic, and Book II ofAristode's Politics. What in fact follows is a sophisticated and elegandy argued interpretation whose more general purpose is to defend a neo-Aristotelian understanding of reason's relationship to political practice. Depicting Socrates as an elevated Sophist, Aristophanes derides philosophy on the grounds that its illusory abstraction from concrete experience subverts the fragile bonds of family, tradition, and religion. Yet because Aristophanes' appeal to the commonplace forgets that "it is in ordinary life that the desire for completeness arises," his hope that anti-intellectual satire might temper reason's urge to transcend the mundane is "tenuous at best" (p. 28). As Plato's deliberately exaggerated account of the Republic's tyranny of undifferentiated homogeneity implies, the quest to eradicate contingency expresses not the resentments of a soul imprisoned in a body, but rather the city's zeal to exclude all rival sources of attachment. Accordingly, Plato should neither be attacked because his mathematical metaphysics generates a technocratic conception of rule, nor praised because his work illuminates certain transhistorical truths 146Philosophy and Literature about the telos of human life. The Republic's purpose is to show how Socratic wisdom is corrupted when it is compelled by political passions to deny the partiality of all knowledge and affirm the possibility of unqualified unity. This unconventional reading derives much of its plausibility from Nichol's observation that the kind of philosophical practice manifest in the interchange between Socrates and his interlocutors can secure no place within the completed city in speech. This does not imply, however, that Plato regards the dialogic encounter as the intimation of a politics which tolerates ambiguity and respects diversity. The city's inexorable decomposition into anarchy and then tyranny renders its existence tragic and Plato's philosophy aporetic; "the best way of life still lies in thought, rather than in the activities of family and political life" (p. 4). This oscillation between the ideal and its antithesis is finally overcome, Nichols maintains, in Aristode's political science, which successfully saves philosophy from Aristophanes and politics from Plato. In its achievement, philosophy 's abstractive thrust is restrained by practice's attentiveness to detail; and politics' hubris is moderated by theory's appreciation of its "need to accommodate itself to the particular conditions that exist in the world" (p. 154). Convinced at the outset that the quarrel between philosophy and politics must yield a happy synthesis, Nichols fails to draw this ingeniously constructed tale to an appropriately ambiguous conclusion. The Aristotelian science which, on her account, is the condition of a politics that actualizes the Socratic virtues "aims at minimizing the influence of chance over human affairs by teaching men how to preserve and improve their regimes" (p. 171). More explicidy, "the philosopher can share in political life by advising statesmen" (p. 179). But this science is untrue to Socrates...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 145-146
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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