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164Philosophy and Literature actually Greek ecphrasisl Glaringly missing is the Greek of Homer's shield, Apollonius' cloak, Moschus' cup. For matters Roman, where is a proper appreciation of Heinze's discussion ofVirgilian ecphrasisldescriptidi How can Leach relegate the literary problematics of ut pictura poesis to the desert of a physical relationshipbetween the viewer and the objetd'art (pp. 5-6), and later to Lessing's "contrived effort to maintain his principles" (p. 11)? After all, Lessing has had more to do with the discussion of art's "narration" and its reliance upon "imagination " (Einbildungskraft) than the book gives pause to understand. Goethe's reception ofLessing's narrative aesthetics in the eighteenth century, moreover, gave the clue why Leach should have had second thoughts before bundling Republican and Augustan art and literature under the rhetorics of "space" and modern audience reception theory. For Goethe, the humanist, bad art necessitated the use of the imagination (read also "excessive narration" and "critical metaphorics"). Why? Because unbridled imagination runs the risk of trivializing art, literature, and, ultimately, language. Metaphors become inane. Rhetorical linkage becomes only what it is. Yet, rhetoric can too easily trivialize more thanjust the aesthetic object. Leach at one point analogizes about "brush strokes" that make poetry art and art poetry (p. 243). Even Lessing attacked this "painting in words" when he spoke against Caylus. In the classical period Lucían attacked Cebes for the same reason. Why? When rhetoric is not allowed to obfuscate "the text," it is painfully clear: ruled by empty metaphors, we ourselves fall outside of our own human experience. Raymond Adolph Prier The Comparative Perspective on Literature: Approaches to Theory and Practice, edited by Clayton Koelb and Susan Noakes; 378 pp. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988, $42.50 cloth, $12.95 paper. "Now proceed: compare the literature!" Harry Levin's exhortation as ACLA president in 1968 has been drowned out in the past two decades by a cacophony of new cries, none achieving, and few even seeking, canonical stature in the discipline ofcomparative literature. Therein lies the challenge Professors Koelb and Noakes undertake in this collection of critical essays: how to translate the current Babel of comparatist voices into a discourse intelligible to both the practitioners themselves and all others who may legitimately ask: "What is comparative literature?" Eschewing both the prescriptive and descriptive methods which they claim characterized earlier texts about the nature of the disci- Reviews165 pline, the editors' emphasis is on recent transformations in the field, and the only question they are committed to addressing is: "What are comparatists (primarily North American) doing these days?" The twenty-one contributors, with few exceptions holding advanced degrees and academic positions in comparative literature, respond in complex and contradictory ways. There is an eloquent defense of the discipline, as it has historically been defined and practiced, by Lowry Nelson, Jr. But in an irony characteristic of this collection, Nelson's view leaves his fellow essayists unconvinced. More persuasive are those essays, from all generations of comparatists, which offer vigorous critiques of the discipline. Diagnoses: the discipline is in a state of crisis, "suffering" (Frank Warnke) and "at risk" (Wlad Godzich). Symptoms: Eurocentrism , provincialism, masculinism. Prescriptions: canon revision—inclusion of previously ignored or marginalized literatures (Warnke), notably those of the East (A. Owen Aldridge, Pauline Yu); increased attention to emergent literatures (Godzich, Woon-Ping Chin Holaday); more sophisticated interdisciplinary work (Richard Weisberg, Ulrich Weisstein); hospitality to feminist and Marxist approaches (Margaret Ferguson, Koelb, and Noakes). Paradoxically, diis extended self-criticism is accompanied by a celebration of comparative literature's new prominence and promise: "comparatists . . . representwhatis most progressive and mostinteresting in the teachingofliterature" (Godzich, p. 19). Apparendy, the historical indefiniteness of the discipline has made it uniquely hospitable to, and even an incentive toward, recent and current transmogrifications of intellectual life. Thus, although the editors did not set out to produce a case study of the way the spread of contemporary theory and the increase in global awareness have transformed a particular discipline, TL· Comparative Perspective has special appeal to a diversity ofreaders as an intriguing example ofjust such a study. Readers will be further provoked to consider seriously the implications of these writings in the context of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 164-166
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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