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214Philosophy and Literature the moment when someone (Nietzsche) thinks he has escaped the past, he finds he has never been more involved in it, etc. De Man's antinomies specialize in an instability allowing no imaginable end to the confrontation that drives them. Eliot's point surely offers something more in the reverential vein, as in "I am the incarnation of the past and its renewal; as it makes me possible, I allow it to live." Despite what Riquelme would have us think (p. 84), the sentence is a paradox designed for eventual conciliation and consolation. It is a "harmony oí dissonances," precisely what one would expect of an incipient Christian. Auburn UniversityDan Latimer Darwin and the Novelists, by George Levine; ? & 319 pp. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988, $27.50. Rather than posing the more straightforward "What is the influence of Darwinian thought on/in Victorian literature?" George Levine considers certain scientific/Darwinian patterns or, as he prefers, themes in Victorian literature, i.e., ". . . certain fundamental attitudes towards science and towards the study of life that, if not exclusively Darwinian, were essential to Darwin's project" (p. 14). The result of this determination is that readers find themselves not viewing the influence of Darwin on literature so much as taking the more ethereal tack of focusing on Darwin and literature. The author looks at a number of themes as they appear (a) prior to the Darwinian ascendancy, (b) during its struggle for life, and finally (c) during its difficult late nineteenth-century period, dealing in the process with authors as early as Jane Austen and Walter Scott, and as late as Joseph Conrad. What is perhaps of novel interest is that Levine does not so much look at authors whom we know to be Darwinians, as he calls our attention to authors who are not. The substantive consequence of this is that he is looking at issues/themes which are "in the air" and are Darwinian, either inherendy or consequendy. Indeed, Levine manifests the not unfounded presumption that this gives us sharper vision than looking at the "Darwinian" aspect of Victorian culture, more generally considered to be important, than does looking at the overdy Darwinian George Eliot. Levine's tactic is to trace some ten themes through a number of writers, showing how these themes appear and are treated, themes such as the human subject, observation, uniformitarianism, change, and history, etc. He discusses Austen's Mansfield Park and Dickens's Little Dorrit at greatest length as well Reviews215 as (among others) Trollope's TL· Claverings. The differences I have with the author are on generally minor points—for example, the general academic tendency to look for influences and understanding in contemporary works, whereas too often inadequate attention is given to family dispositions, in this case those most apparent from Darwin's Grandfather Erasmus through his father—or on dispositions by literary thinkers to perceive science solely through literary eyes as, for example, evidenced through the audior's statement, "Having learned from earlier metaphors, Darwin exposes the metaphorical nature of science, and then, in a necessary shift . . . claiming that [the metaphors] are literal after all" (p. 1 10). This seems to manifest a basically misfocused understanding of science. These indispositions, however, have no substantive effect on Levine's general interpretation. Difficulties of a notable character did seem to me to appear when the author engaged in some of his rapid movements between literary interpretation and historical observation where I often found him to have lost sight of substantive ground and, with the adroitness of the accomplished rhetorician, to be attempting self-supportedly to float full on a sea of air (see particularly p. 204). Furthermore, I surely must refuse to treat as more than concluding rhetoric, the statement in the book's ultimate paragraph that Darwin's "way of seeing has imprinted itself permanendy on the imagination of the West, but his presence is so diffused and various, so much part of the Freudian mythology, of the deconstructive turn, of the largest movements of mind of the twentieth century that efforts to trace it further become futile" (p. 272). The difference between basic ideas and the execution and exposition thereof tends, unfortunately...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 214-215
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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