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340Philosophy and Literature from its domain" (p. 226), making it impossible to respond adequately to its critics. Maclntyre's vision is of universities as "places where conceptions and standards ofrationaljustification are elaborated, put to work in the detailed practices ofenquiry, and themselves rationally evaluated, so that only from the university can the wider society learn how to conduct its own debates, practical or theoretical , in a rationally defensible way" (p. 222). This book conveys Maclntyre's current thinking on the conceptual and institutional ramifications ofthis vision. National Endowment for the HumanitiesPeter Losin The Canon and the Common Reader, by Carey Kaplan and Ellen Cronan Rose; xix & 206 pp. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1990, $39.50 cloth, $18.95 paper. This stimulating book presents a keen analysis of the current debate about the literary canon. Carey Kaplan and Ellen Cronan Rose reject the narrow positions promoted by Lynne Cheney, Allan Bloom, and other conservatives, and emphasize the key role that feminist theorists and critics have played in extending the range of texts that scholars, teachers, and students consider. TL· Canon and tL· Common Reader falters in its final chapters, and, more troublingly still, Kaplan and Rose tend throughout to view feminism monolithically, without regard to its great variety. But, on the whole, this is a rewarding study that will advance discussion of an important subject. Kaplan and Rose begin with a forceful critique ofthe influential NEH report, American Memory, published in 1987. They point out that the report's insistence on the primacy of "timeless classics" leads to a denial of America's "multivocal" culture (p. 5), and they describe feminists, along with African-Americans, Chícanos , Asian-Americans, gays and lesbians, and members of the working class, as "dissenters" who have opposed white, male, Western hegemony and demanded acknowledgment of their own texts and experiences (p. 13). Kaplan and Rose then turn to Samuel Johnson, the original canon-maker in his Lives oftL· Poets, and nicely reveal the eclectic, pragmatic, flexible relationship to texts and to the act of literary judgment that Johnson actually displays. This leads them to a thoughtful account of "common readers," the group which Johnson sought to address above all, and to the failure of the modern academy to take such readers seriously. Using the writings of Doris Lessing and Alice Walker as case-studies, Kaplan and Rose also analyze the Reviews34 1 process by which popular women writers have come to be viewed as academically respectable and have gained entry into a revised canon. The final chapters of TL· Canon and the Common Reader, one of which statistically reviews the successes and failures of women in the academy, and the other ofwhich focuses on the rhetoric that male scholars typically employ about feminists, are somewhat tedious. The thin conclusions are notjustified by the degree of detail. But the main weakness of this book lies in its oddly rigid understanding of feminism. Kaplan and Rose repeatedly stress that feminists show concern for common readers, shun professionaljargon and elitist vocabularies , and spurn the self-promotion and competitiveness that define the conduct of male academics. But not all feminists are outsiders and advocates of a clear, accessible discourse. There are plenty who now occupy (and sometimes misuse) positions of power, just as there are also many who speak and write under the sign of Marx, Derrida, Lacan, or Kristeva and whose highly abstruse language must seem very alien and peculiar to so-called common readers. The restricted boundaries of Kaplan's and Rose's approach are also evident when they comment on the changes that an enlarged canon produces. They tell of programs and curricula that have finally enabled women to read texts that dramatize their own lives and mirror their experiences. This is crucial, to be sure, but it is too limited a notion of the advantages that expanding the literary canon creates. Texts by women, African-Americans, and other marginalized groups frequendy are valuable precisely because they instruct readers about lives different from their own. Indeed, this is one of the foremost reasons to encourage a multivocal canon: it helps us to gain knowledge about cultures, and about issues of race, class, and gender, to which...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 340-341
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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