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374Philosophy and Literature them from their own premise that all language is indeterminate and therefore not clearly decipherable. Fromm writes with a verve that imparts resonance and glitter to his arguments . A reviewer is tempted to quote him excessively: a "trendy absolutism" treats "passing ideologies like universal panaceas"; by the time these fads reach PMLA they have acquired "the character of naturalized academic tics" (p. 67). Vivid phrases come like raisins in a pudding. At times, however, there is a disquieting excess in his language that prompts a doubt, a brown hesitation. Analysts of the Woolfs are charged with "a pornography of the soul" (p. 91). Some black critics are described as "turning other people's flesh not into lampshades but into pelf . . ." (p. 97). One begins to wonder what could be said for the other side of the argument. As good as this book is in general, it calls for at least one more caveat. Too much of the time, Professor Fromm is not taking on major critics, but minor firefly examples of "currendy fashionable ideology." After so many specimens oftheirjoyless theorizing andjargon-barnacled prose a gray dust of depression setdes over the reader. Alas, one sighs, surely there must be sanity somewhere in Academe; surely, Deconstructionists et al. do not continue to have quite the dominion that Fromm and other Jeremiahs postulate. Perhaps as melancholy as anything described in the book is the radical divorce between the academic world and the world of diurnal human beings. "Colleagues have replaced a public, and jargon has supplanted English" (p. 207). Criticism that used to be readable and even nourishing has been displaced by clots of "self-absorbed Laputans" and supercilious mandarins murmuring to each other. At the MLA meetings the speakers, Fromm warns, will soon only be talking to God. Meanwhile, the literature that they have commandeered and perverted is in its essence and purpose communal and ardendy communicative . The reader is finally inclined to agree with Professor Fromm's suggestion that these academics need to return to "quotidian realities while resisting transcendental afflatus and bombast" (p. 254). Whitman CollegeWalter E. Broman The Ideology of the Aesthetic, by Terry Eagleton; 426 pp. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990, $49.95 cloth, $17.95 paper. Terry Eagleton's book provides a Marxist analysis and critique ofthe ideology of the aesthetic since the eighteenth century, beginning with the aesthetics of Alexander Baumgarten and culminating in the postmodern "aestheticism" of Reviews375 Michel Foucault and Jean-François Lyotard. His historical reading redefines the traditional notion of the aesthetic as the realm of the arts, arguing instead that the aesthetic is a versatile, indeterminate concept that "has served . . . many disparate functions" (p. 3). What Eagleton makes clear, however, at the beginning of his "history" is that for him the aesthetic is manifested in any context in which either self-validation or validation by intuition occurs. Thus if something —e.g., one's ethics, metaphysics, ontology, or one's theory of the subject, the state, or social life—is aesthetic, it is either "autotelic" (with its end in itself, as an artwork), or it is validated by sentiments, affections, or customs (as an artwork). A key point is his tracing of how the aesthetic broadly construed comes to encompass the realms of ethics and metaphysics and to "aestheticize" all realms of philosophical knowledge and social life. The appropriation of ethics and metaphysics by the aesthetic is the result of both Kant's formulation of distinct divisions between the cognitive, the ethical, and the aesthetic and the cornmodification of art under capitalism, which Eagleton contends have led to the belief that art exists autonomously, for its own sake alone. Once the aesthetic is separated from the autonomous spheres of the cognitive and the ethical, and art is commodified, he argues, art comes to exist for itself in a self-regulating and self-determining fashion. Because of this status as an autonomous and decontextualized commodity, art makes a virtue ofits social poindessness, claiming to be an end in itself. According to Eagleton's history, eighteenth-century ethics were no longer grounded in existing social practices because the classical interrelation between facts and values had been pulled asunder. Searching for...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 374-376
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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