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Reviews347 Toronto Press. It was received with a few rave reviews and mosdy silence, and soon went out of print. But though such books often die, they also rise again, and now that marginal if not wayward (but possessed of impeccable taste) independent publisher, David R. Godine, who prints always only what he likes, has resurrected TL· Grasshopper. Good. TL· Grasshopper is in the form of a Socratic dialogue, only more so. When Prudence asks near the end, "And do you really believe, Grasshopper, that there w some Agency which controls our destinies?," the Grasshopper replies, "More specifically, I believe that there is some Author who writes our dialogue." And when Skepticus suggests that this Author is playing the game ofPirandello with them, the Grasshopper responds drily, "I think he is writing a treatise on the philosophy ofgames." And so he is: "To play a game is to attempt to achieve a specific state of affairs (prelusory goal), using only means permitted by rules (lusory means), where the rules prohibit use of more efficient in favour of less efficient means (constitutive rules), and where the rules are acceptedjustbecause they make possible such activity (lusory attitude) . . . playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles" (p. 41). One need not be a philosopher to rise and cheer at the succinct elegance of that summation after 41 pages of feinting to get there. But then the counterexamples begin: the annoying triflers, cheats, and spoilsports; the batde to worse than death between Ivan and Abdul; the sexual act; the frustrations of Sir Edmund Hillary who would climb a mountain for sport; the adventures of Porphyryo Sneak, the greatest spy in the world, and of Bartholomew Drag, the greatest bore; the counsel of the therapist Dr. Heurschreck; and the final resolution of the puzzle as to why, in Utopia, no one would ever do anything but play games. Watson: Grasshopper, you obsessive monomaniac, I love you, but you're wrong to think that in Utopia we would only play games. My idea of Utopia is eternally to read books like this. Grasshopper: If you think that undercuts my case, you'd better reread Chapter 15. Washington UniversityRichard A. Watson Signatures ofthe Visible, by FredricJameson; 254 pp. New York: Roudedge, Chapman & Hall, 1990, $25.00. "The visual is essentially pornographic," FredricJameson begins his new book: films "ask us to stare at the world as though it were a naked body" (p. 1). In 348Philosophy and Literature the pages that follow, the tension which generates the text of Signatures of the Visible emerges from what Jameson will call an "ontology of the visual"—the existential struggle between "mastery of the gaze" and the "illimitable richness of the visual object." True to the Hegelian-Marxian dialectic, Jameson approaches film as a medium which simultaneously fascinates and disgusts him: the sheer physicality ofthe cinematic experience, the intensely intimate manner in which film comes to be inscribed into the very being of the viewer, provokes Jameson to conclude that "film is an addiction that leaves its traces in the body itself" (p. 2). Readers who have struggled withJameson's prose in the past will be pleased to learn that his latest book constitutes his most personal and accessible study to date: in the opening pages, a parallel is drawn between what is attempted here and the analytic writings of Freud, a therapeutic "exorcism" ofsorts which tries to extract the filmic image from the very body ofthe writer. Though never entirely at ease with the inevitably "self-indulgent" character of film analysis itself, Jameson maintains that we must not neglect the uniquely ontological dimensions of the cinematic experience which necessitate such personal film readings. However, as we would expect, the "historicity of perception," for Jameson, must also be understood as saturated through and through with the social and historical. Since the early eighties, Jameson has increasingly shifted his attention away from theory towards a more practical application of the principles first established in Marxism and Form (1971), TL· Prison-House of Language (1972), and TL· Political Unconscious (1981). Not surprisingly, in Signatures of the Visible, Jameson's readings of film all gravitate within the arena of the hermeneutic procedures...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 347-349
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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