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178Philosophy and Literature pecially Fackenheim who, after Adorno, would radically challenge such a conservative manoeuvre. A third might concern his curious relation to mentors (both alive and deceased) whose projects he gets wrong in ways that ironically enact the very issues they describe. If this be the stuff of which Seeskin's dreams are made, it behooves him to say so more forthrightly. If not, then it behooves him to identify the batdes he is waging and discard the pretense. In any event, it would probably be advantageous for him in the future to read somewhat more carefully and "gratefully" the architects ofthe positions he borrows and worry less about interesting nonJews in "Jewish philosophy" (p. 7) or promoting Judaism the way one would a new flavor of soft ice cream. Cornell UniversitySandor Goodhart The Discourse of Self in Victorian Poetry, by E. Warwick Slinn; ix & 213 pp. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1991, $35.00. In this carefully written and tightly reasoned study Professor Slinn offers essentially deconstructive readings of three long Victorian poems, arguing that in these works the poets develop "the problematics of selfhood, pursuing a post-Romantic displacement of the self as an originary guarantor of meaning and truth" (p. 1). Slinn devotes his first two chapters to establishing a continuity between what he labels Hegelian "objective idealism" and Derridean textualism, his object being to show "how anti-dualist thinking and post-structuralist ideas are already present in the nineteenth century" (p. 38). Once he has established that Hegel undermines epistemological distinctions between subject and object and posits the concept of self as constituted by difference, Slinn turns to works of Tennyson, Clough, and Browning to demonstrate that similar problems of the relation between self and world play through Victorian poetry. In Maud, the speaker yearns for unmediated self-presence but finds himself defined by absence and lack (chap. 3); in Amours de voyage, Claude vacillates between solipsistic idealism and brute empiricism but finally emerges as a displaced self in a world of unstable oppositions (chap. 4); and in TL· Ring and tL· Book, textual sources of the narrative and its multiple perspectives reveal the irreducibly discursive nature of truth and the illusory nature of the self-present subject (chaps. 5 and 6). On the whole, Slinn's readings of individual texts are original and insightful. The troubling questions raised by Slinn's argument, however, are less issues of Reviews179 critical analysis per se than problems in literary and intellectual history. That one can fashion a Derridean Hegel or trace logocentrism's self-contradictions in Browning is not surprising. As Derrida has repeatedly demonstrated, no text is so righdy woven that it cannot be made to unravel itself. But whether Hegel and Browning are Derrideans avant la lettre is another matter. One of Slinn's key moves is to establish a Hegelian precedent for Victorian challenges to the Cartesian subject, but he does so by relying heavily on a revisionist reading of Hegel that poses considerable difficulties as a work of intellectual history. Slinn's principal guide to Hegel is Robert C. Solomon, whose In tL· Spirit of Hegel offers to "re-do Hegel ... to re-create, in our terms, the spirit of his philosophy" (p. 1) by separating the PL·nomenology from Hegel's later works and by differentiating between a totalizing Hegel of the Absolute and an antimetaphysical , anti-epistemological Hegel of non-teleological process. Solomon admits that fidelity to the letter of Hegel's text is not his primary aim, but one wonders at several points whether even the spirit of the text that Solomon uncovers is Hegelian or simply a modern appropriation of nineteenth-century thought. Similarly, when Slinn praises TL· Ring and the Book as "the triumph of dialectical thinking" (p. 1 19) in which "the self, like the world, is textualised, written into and through the structures of language" (p. 149), one must ask whether it is Browning or Slinn who has created this masterpiece oftextualism. Slinn's textual version of the relativist reading of the poem and his challenge of Pompilia as ethical center of the work, however capably these arguments may be mounted, finally are not persuasive enough to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 178-179
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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