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Reviews219 the recent history of German and Continental thought. Where Nägele potentially alienates even the erudite reader is in the presupposition that it was unnecessary to situate his study within the tradition ofscholarship on Benjamin. Given the numerous insights that his close reading of the Ursprung engenders, this minimal reference to others might seemjustified, were it not for intermittent statements—e.g., "A few more ambitious critics occasionally struggle with the immensely difficult epistemological preface" (p. 1)—that left this reader wondering exactly who these other critics might be. University of California, BerkeleyLynne Vieth The Vanishing Subject: Early Psychology and Literary Modernism , by Judith Ryan; ? & 267 pp. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991, $29.95. Nineteenth-century empirical psychology was short-lived and quickly superseded by Freudianism. As it broke away from philosophy, it built its principles —in opposition to positivism—upon the concepts of the eighteenthcentury empiricists. Ryan's survey of numerous works by fifteen authors in as many brief chapters outlines the relation between empirical psychology and modernist literary figures: Pater, Huysmans, Rilke, and Alice James represent the "mass of sensations" school; Henry James, Stein, and Kafka mix empirical and Freudian schools; Hofmannsthal, Schnitzler, Joyce, Döblin, and Broch illustrate the "selfsalvaging" psychologies; while Proust, Woolf, and Musil mark the heightof"empiricist modernism" and practice "daylight mysticism"—Musil's term for experience that stretches the limits of perception. Ryan traces the development of these "psychologies without self" in literary experiments with impressionism, stream of consciousness, and point of view. The effect is to revise our understanding of the importance of empiricism for the early modern debate over subjectivity. Influenced by these psychologies, early modern literature no longer regarded the subject as a self-contained, knowing monad capable of representing a world. That departure called into question both the lyrical subject prevalent in poetic form and the individual subject narrated by the form of the novel. The book argues that the influence of empirical psychology on literature was deep and encompassing. It is most convincing in the instances of Pater, Schnitz- 220Philosophy and Literature 1er, Musil, and Alice James, writers who deliberately worked with empiricist principles. For the rest, one notes with interest Ryan's disclaimer that "literary empiricism should not be thought of as merely a new garb for empiricist psychology" (p. 224). Disclaimers aside, Ryan finds it "tempting" to speculate about the influence ofempiricism on the way literature responds to the problem of the subject. To reduce the argument to influence denies voice to both empiricism and literary modernism in the ongoing debate over subjectivity. When the empiricists rejected metaphysics and the boundary of subject/object, when they saw the self as a temporary bundle of sensory perceptions, fragmented, disseminated and unlayered, they also detached subjectivity from its traditional philosophical soul, mind, consciousness, and materiality. Were Ryan to situate her claim for empiricist influence within the broader context of theory of language, phenomenology, and ontology, the argument would be better served. The book limits the impact of empiricist influence by grounding literary study in unexamined concepts, by, for example, conflating the self with the subject. Without distinguishing between a singular, conscious entity and the constitution of identity, it obstructs our grasp of what is at stake in the question ofthe vanishing subject. To say, for example, that Rilke's character Malte "seems to have no central core of his own" (p. 59) and "no continuity in time" betrays the assumption of an essential, autonomous "self" and of time as a linear construct extrinsic to subjectivity rather than co-constitutive with it. Without this distinction it is impossible to see more than "impressionistic aspects" (p. 53) in Rilke's "voice that is indeterminate, unrealizable, emanating from many positions at once" (p. 52). Further, it prevents our seeing that the early Rilke moved beyond the evaporation ofselfinto things, that Stein rejected a utilitarian version of objects, or that Woolf celebrated an empty subjectivity without self. An alternative would be to use the term "intersubjectivity" to suggest why empiricist psychology vanished so abruptly and why the term "literary empiricism " may be too limiting. Neither empirical theory nor this study sufficiendy questions the concept of "consciousness." Ryan's preferred binary categories...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 219-220
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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