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Reviews227 To teachers ofShakespeare, this book will stimulate new ideas for introducing the plays, and itwill facilitate an understanding ofNew Historicism. It is scholarly and demanding; but the author's frequent restatement of his thesis at crucial points in the text is a useful aid to the reader. Willamette UniversityRichard D. Lord Myth, Truth and Literature: Towards a True Post-Modernism , by Colin Falck; xv & 173 pp. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989, $34.50. Recent literary theory has been dominated by an opposition between both intentionalism and New Criticism, on the one hand, where the effort is to get at some really existing stable thing—an intended meaning or an aesthetic object —and poststructuralism and New Historicism on the other, where criticism calls our attention only to the sectarian and ungeneralizable character of all works as constructs. Both styles of literary study have clear liabilities. Intentionalism tends to cast literary work as gratuitously personal or autobiographical, while New Criticism tends to cast it as gratuitously aesthetic, detaching the aesthetic from the moral, the political, the scientific, and the social. Poststructuralism and New Historicism tend to deny the existence of either human or natural reality and as a result to leave us adrift in moral and political nihilism. In order to overcome the failings of each of these schools, what is needed is a rethinking of the nature of the human subject and its place in the world. It is this necessary rethinking that Colin Falck offers us in Myth, Truth and Literature. Drawing self-consciously on the Romantic literary tradition, and on related ideas in twentieth-century philosophers such as Wittgenstein, Heidegger, and Collingwood, Falck proposes that both discursive language and individual human consciousness are emergent from natural, preconscious expressions that arise prior to the separation of subject and object. Our preconscious life is practical, in that our expressions arise in die course of our involvement with the world, widiout being instrumental, for there are not yet distinctive subjects with specific purposes in mind. Truth is primordially a matter of glimpsing new possibilities for furthering our involvement with the world in the direction of freedom. Pursuing truth requires a stance of concern for the glimpsing of new and freer possibilities of involvement. Though art and literature are themselves pardy conventionalized and constituted within already existent particularized social structures, they are nonetheless, as efforts in expressiveness, the principal and most satisfactory vehicles for glimpsing new possibilities of in- 228Philosophy and Literature volvement. "The poem or fiction . . . gives us the truth of, or the truth behind, the world which we ordinarily inhabit. It takes us to where the real life of that world lies; or as D. H. Lawrence said of the novel, 'it can inform and lead into new places the flow of our sympathetic consciousness, and it can lead our sympathy away in recoil from things gone dead' " (pp. 113—14). Hence poets are, in the phrase ofShelley's thatis the leitmotifofFalck's book, "the unacknowledged legislators of the world" (p. 78). Taken as theory, the development of these Romantic conceptualizations of subject and object is sound and convincing. Falck moves easily through both German and English sources, both philosophical and literary, in developing his tiiemes, all the while developing careful criticisms of recent French and American literary theory that has been influenced by Saussure. In virtue of its compelling arguments, Myth, Truth and Literature is a book that might well do some good in changing the current drift of literary theory and in reinvigorating literary work. It deserves a wide audience. But, despite die compelling character of its arguments, Myth, Truth and Literature also might well fail to have its intended effect, and this should lead us to rethink its achievement. The cultural world is both Balkanized and overwhelmingly influenced by the surrounding commodity culture. In this setting, could any intellectual argument—no matter how sound—by itselfopen up new possibilities of more coherent theory and practice? It seems unlikely. And if that is so, then perhaps it is not so open to poets to remake our world and restructure our involvements as Falck suggests. What is needed in order to develop the argument ofMyth, Truth and Literature further is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 227-228
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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