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344Philosophy and Literature pertinence of Marxist literary and cultural criticism in an era when Marxism has fallen into disrepute in so many quarters. It seems strange for Bennett busily to immerse himself in narrow differences of opinion among Marxist theoreticians while not alluding to the fact that the Soviet empire has collapsed, Eastern Europe has been transformed, and socialism is everywhere in retreat. His inattention to the political realities of the late 1980s and 1990s makes his book seem rather unreal, as though he were conducting a rarified exercise that mattered only to persons confined to the academy. The second, related problem widi Outside Literature is that, for all of its sophisticated worrying about politics, it is very abstract and recondite, and is perplexingly divorced from real things and the lives of people. In one section, for example, Bennett ponders "theories of the novel" (pp. 86—98) but does not name or explore specific writers and texts: it's all straight theory. One wonders whether he noticed this omission. In another, longer section that purports to focus on "criticism and pedagogy" (pp. 244—71), Bennett manages to meditate upon the topic without ever referring to teachers, students, courses, and curricula . At the very end of his book, he finally asks about the "differences, practically speaking," that his arguments might produce (p. 285). But he offers only a rehearsaloftruisms aboutthe formative power ofinstitutions, and couples this with windy talk about the urgent need for "analysis" and "intervention." In this book Bennett has gone badly astray. Wellesley CollegeWilliam E. Cain The Politics ofInterpretation:Ideology, Professionalism, and the Study ofLiterature, by Patrick CoIm Hogan; xiv & 242 pp. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, $29.95. Don Quixote "proves" the existence of his chivalric heroes by imagining their faces. Academia today provides safe haven for many such knights of woeful countenance, unhappy warriors whose political battle-cry, "If you can dream it, you can do it!" echoes harmlessly from distant, unmoved windmills. Patrick CoIm Hogan seeks a literary criticism guided by political principles "closer to the political concerns of real human life" (p. viii). He aims not at the "deconstruction" of "texts" or the "construction" of literary-political "theories." Poorly disguised assertions ofarbitrary will and politically correct attitudinizing fail to impress him. As a man of the Left, he sees that the political victory and Reviews345 moral legitimacy ofthe Left require the congruence ofits doctrines and insights with the real world. To change the world, one must understand it. In Hogan's view, political criticism should combine evaluation of ideological aims, beliefs, and actions, the examination of how literary works foster these, and an answer to the perennial question, Cui bono?—the examination of what interests or "power relations" the inculcation of a given ideology "might serve" (p. 30). Deconstructionism and some forms of feminist criticism impede diese activities by condemning "logical inference and empirical investigation" as "patriarchaland repressive" (p. 31). "A denialofthe Principle ofNon-Contradiction makes all of one's claims into dogma, brooking no dispute" (p. 35), ending with the substitution of "intimidation for dialectic" (p. 49). This kind of criticism is political in the worst sense: partisan in tone and substance, coercive in spirit. Against Derrida, Hogan observes that definition need not entail oppressive hierarchies, that "logocentrism" has no necessary historical connection to "phallocentrism ." "Clearly, the ordinary guarded and skeptical methods of rational enquiry—so disparaged by deconstructionists—are far more germane to forging an anti-Leninist or anti-Stalinist left, especially if these are combined with a Kantian ethics which grants to individuals their rights as ends in themselves" (p. 86). Against certain varieties of feminism, Hogan questions the attempt to make womanhood prior to a woman's individuality, as when "women are encouraged not to develop their own capacities, but the putative capacities of dieir genderessence " (p. 98). Even as Voltaire twitted earlier philosophers for defining a tree by its "treeness," Hogan rejects claims that, say, Simone de Beauvoir could be adequately defined or explained by "femaleness." No empirical or logical evidence sustains such claims, which are litde more than the photographic negatives of long-existing stereotypes, valorized to serve the interests or, more accurately, to caress the vanity of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 344-346
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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