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Reviews147 TheBounds ofInterpretation: Linguistic Theory andLiterary Text, by Ellen Schauber and Ellen Spolsky; xii & 215 pp. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1986, $27.50. Suppose that literary criticism takes as its field of inquiry the description, interpretation, and evaluation of individual texts while literary theory aims to explain the nature of all literary texts. Literary theory therefore has to explain literary criticism. One way of doing that is to explain the nature ofliterary texts in such a way that the theory predicts the bounds of criticism. This is what Schauber and Spolsky attempt—and in an interesting way. The main thrust of their theory of literature is perceptual. They are not interested in texts so much as the way the texts are perceived. That way their theory can take account of recent developments in the theory of perception, and the one they draw on heavily is the semantic theory of Ray Jackendoff. In it,Jackendoff makes use of preference rules. "The preference model is a genre theory, a theory of kinds; it presents meaning as ascribed to literary works on the basis of complex categorization judgments and recognizes that suchjudgments are based on a range of conditions. Kantian universal categories have a place in the model, but they are not privileged or even absolutely distinguished from culturally provided ones . . ." (pp. 9-10). Necessary features of texts are handled by well-formedness rules. Other features are handled by preference rules, which account for variable judgments. Thus preference rules allow for and explain both categorical perception and the indeterminacy of literary perception . So Schauber and Spolsky put forward a competence model in the Chomskian sense. It consists ofthree kinds ofcompetence: linguistic competence, pragmatic competence, and literary competence. The linguistic competence is largely governed by well-formedness conditions, while the odier kinds of competence are largely modeled by preference rules. As illustrations, Schauber and Spolsky use a number ofcase studies from other theorists, rephrasing them within their more formal framework. For example, diey discuss the proposition that Wuthering Heights is a romance, using Northrop Frye's criteria for romance. They show both that Frye's notions can be stated in terms of preference rules and that doing so explains the kinds of variable judgments which critics have of Wuthering Heights. Preference rules also account for values accorded to literary perceptions. "Wherever a preference condition exists, ajudgment is being made about what is best" (p. 89). Thus they predict that there is no value-free literary perception. The model is tested in a number of ways, interestingly by seeing how it responds to deconstructionist theory and practice. It does explain deconstructionist practice, but it does not fit well with deconstructionist theory. Schauber and Spolsky suggest that the reason for this is that deconstructionist theory is 148Philosophy and Literature not an adequate theory of literary perception. They suggest, for example, that Derrida is prevented "from explaining a situation which he acknowledges obtains : people do make categorization decisions, even though the units they categorize are impure or fuzzy" (p. 170). They also test their theory by having it account in a principled way for highly variable interpretations of particular works. It passes this test. But it is not vacuous; various falsifying possibilities are canvassed. This is a valuable book in what it attempts to do. It is not without faults: the prose is labored at times when it needn't be. But the general theory is well worth further articulation. University of Canterbury, New ZealandKoenraad Kuiper Hermann Broch, by Ernestine Schlant; 193 pp. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987, $9.95 paper. Thefin-de-siècle satirist Karl Kraus, whosefeuilleton wit lashed out at numerous Viennese targets, served as one of Hermann Broch's life-long heroes. With Ernestine Schlant's portrait of Broch in mind, it is difficult to imagine that Broch was attracted to Kraus's humor. Rather, he must have found allure in Kraus's indefatigable cultural criticism, for the Broch of Schlant's biography is deeply serious, serious to the point of tragedy. Schlant depicts an autodidact, the owner of a weaving mill who sells the mill to turn to matters of intellect, only to find a life of frustration. Although he gained recognition...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 147-148
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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