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Reviews175 a new post-Holocaust humanism and ethics, one founded no longer upon Kantian universals but upon individual responsibility? And if great literature is "about" human relations (as Siebers suggests), do we not now need concomitant ìy a new understanding of great literature, one which sees it no longer as a "flawed form of thinking" but rather as critical reading—the best, in fact, we have? In such projects the work of Foucault, Girard, de Man, and others may prove more helpful than Siebers has allowed, and philosophic thinkers like Buber, Rosenzweig, Lévinas, and Fackenheim may assume a new and unexpected prominence within literary criticism. But the very asking of such questions remains a tribute to the brilliandy iconoclastic and generative power of Siebers's book and its inevitable place within future inquiry into these matters. Cornell UniversitySandor Goodhart The Ecstasies ofRoland Barthes, by Mary Bittner Wiseman; xvii & 204 pp. New York: Roudedge, 1989, $39.95 cloth, $13.95 paper. Mary Bittner Wiseman states in her preface that TL· Ecstasies ofRoland Bardies consists "of broadly drawn sketches of what my imagination makes out of Bardies" (p. xiii), and this personal slant accounts for both the strengths and weaknesses of her book. At her best, Wiseman provides a subde exploration of Barthes's key insights and texts, and shows a keen feeling for the elusive, highly experimental nature ofhis style as a cultural critic. But while TL· Ecstasies ofRohnd Barmes is often rewarding, it suffers from the narrow approach that Wiseman chose to pursue. She responds to Bardies so sympathetically that she is unable or unwilling to argue with him and query where his work might be limited. Wiseman surveys Barthes's ideas about literature, postmodernism, semiology, poststructuralism, autobiography, representation, time, and identity, and she nicely develops her discussion through readings of Writing Degree Zero, On Racine, TL· Pleasure of tL· Text, Roland Bardies by Roland Bardies, and Camera Lucida. Wiseman is especially helpful in detailing the changes in Barthes's criticism that occurred in the early 1970s when "he came increasingly to emphasize the values of plurality, intertextuality, productivity ofmeaning, and the infinity of language; as a result he came to attach less importance to the sciences of die subject and more importance to the subject's performance in reading" (p. 93). Wiseman maintains that Barthes's later writings stand as his greatest con- 1 76Philosophy and Literature tribution to contemporary criticism. In these adventurously conceived texts, Barthes engages in a "rewriting of the concepts surrounding the notion of the human subject and, in particular, a rewriting of the concept of the self" (p. 134). Wiseman supports her case for the later Barthes effectively, but an unfortunate consequence of her procedure is that she pays litde or no attention to Critical Essays (1964), Criticism and Truth (1966), and SIZ (1970), all of which have proven very influential for literary critics and theorists. In addition, and more importandy, Wiseman fails to locate Barthes in any kind of comparative context. She basically considers him in isolation, supplying only an occasional reference to Jacques Derrida and Jacques Lacan and not mentioning Stanley Fish, H. R. Jauss, and others who have examined matters that Barthes treated. In her preface, Wiseman declares that she decided to forego situating Barthes within "the contemporary French play of ideas" (p. xiii), but saying this does notjustify the absence of comparison and contrast in her book. Because Wiseman confines herself to Barthes's texts alone, she does not enable her readers to see his contribution clearly—where he overlaps with Derrida, where he diverges from Lacan, where he goes beyond or falls short of Fish and Jauss. If Wiseman had introduced other theorists and critics into her analysis, she might have been guided toward a more measured, if still admiring, relation to Barthes. Nowhere does she speak skeptically about him: it is as though he never uttered a word that she has felt inclined to challenge. Her desire to present her "responses to Barthes's own mode of thinking" (p. xiii) has led her to produce a sensitive, intimate book, but, in my view, it also means that she allows Barthes to define the terms for his own appraisal...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 175-176
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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