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216Philosophy and Literature of Romantic poetry, especially Wordsworth's, the source of one of Levin's examples ("The sea was laughing," Prelude, IV, 326). I admire Levin's refusal to soften Wordsworth's demands on his readers. Wordsworth does challenge us to take his metaphors at face value and thus conceive of an animated world with murmuring rivers, laughing seas, and breathing mountains. But I would resist opposing this world to "the ordinary world" (p. 236) and making its expression depend on "deviant" statements accessible only to an "elected few" (p. 235). Picturing Wordsworth's achievement this rarefied way clashes with his repeated commitment to everyday language, common people, and "the actual world ofour familiar days" (Prelude, XIII, 357). Wordsworth dares us not simply to conceive of his world but to make it the "simple produce of the common day" (Prospectus to TL· Excursion, 55). In thus contesting what we regard as "ordinary" (or "deviant"), Wordsworth may be even more audacious than Levin's sympathetic account supposes. University of New MexicoMichael Fischer The Literature ofGuiltfrom Gulliver to Golding, by Patrick Reilly, viii & 178 pp. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1988, $18.00. In his introduction, Professor Reilly oudines the modern repudiation of nineteenth-century redemptive mythology. "We live in the time of the dark epiphany" (pp. 12-13). He pursues this negative epiphany in Heart ofDarkness, Death in Venice, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Lord of tL· Flies. Some ofthe basic generalizations are intriguing but porous. "The redemptive mythology, whether religious or secularized, favoured by the nineteenth century excluded the idea of the doomed culprit . . . the man sundered from grace, who, wanting to pray, cannot" (p. 2). Possible exceptions spring to mind: Dostoyevsky , Buder, Twain. "The literature of our time is attuned to hell; it is the heavenly chord that jars" (p. 7). Well, what about Eliot, Tate, Faulkner, and others? The experience of reading this book is one of alternating from nodding in assent, to groaning, then hanging suspended in dubiety, now and dien shaking off ideas like bothersome insects. This is not meant as disparagement, for this is a morevibrantexperience than plodding through academic aridities ofnarrow definitions propped upon "hard" evidence. As to nodding in assent: in spite of the difficulty of delivering anything new on Swift, Professor Reilly's discussion reveals fresh aspects of Swift's detestation of fashionable doctrines that preached the exculpation of man. When Swift is Reviews217 brought into the vicinity of Camus, we get nimble comparisons showing where they separate and converge. We receive similar profit from the author's comparison of Swift and Conrad. I approached yet one more earnest discussion of Golding with a sinking heart, but found fresh insight, while at the same time enjoying some shady glee in noting that the religious nuances and hints of possible redemption in Golding tend to undermine the "dark epiphany" thesis. As to the weedy passages: when Professor Reilly refers to Swift's "nihilistic speculation," suggesting that "perhaps there is ultimately no selfat all, no central human core" (p. 93), I wonder if Swift is not being encrusted with the bitter accretions of history and of thought since his time. Gulliver is something of a chameleon, but does this negate the continuum of values that for Swift are not relative and that are bound to a definitive self in Gulliver and in us? A few pages later we are told that Swift wishes us "to act outside and after his text, to stop being the yahoos we are . . ." (p. 98), a strange expectation if none of us possesses a responsible, ongoing self. In the discussion of Orwell, Winston's abject surrender to Big Brother is seen as ineluctable and universal. Ifour fecklessness is like the migratory instinct of birds, how can we be said to be guilty of anything? Did Orwell intend the book as a terrible emetic to purge us of guilt? Again, we feel a similar uneasiness as in the discussion of Swift. If the self "has ceased to exist" (p. 113), what is the point of the cautionary residue of the novel, or of the moments that seem to suggest the validity residue of the novel, or of the moments that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 216-217
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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