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376Philosophy and Literature bourgeois ideology left over from the Enlightenment. Instead, Eagleton maintains the thesis that the aesthetic is both dialectical and contradictory, often supporting middle-class hegemony at the same time as it challenges it. Eagleton's claim that the aesthetic is a dialectical phenomenon can be understood as follows. The appeal to absolute law by an existing order can be countered and resisted in a radical wayby a validation via the subjective intuitions of sentiments, affections, and customs. The existing order can also be resisted in a radical way by a self-validation in which the law is given to a subject by that subject in a self-determining manner such that "human powers and capacities " are seen "as radical ends in themselves" (p. 9). On the other hand, subjective intuitions can merely allow an existing power structure to solidify itself more securely. In like manner, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish a law that a subject gives to itself and a law which is given by the existing power structure, yet readily accepted by that subject. Eagleton thinks that only an analysis of the history of the aesthetic as a dialectical and contradictory phenomenon —radical and conservative—can do justice to its dual-sided nature. However, "the test of a truly radical aesthetics," he asserts, "will be its ability to operate as social critique without simultaneously providing the grounds of political ratification" (p. 119). Many readers will find Eagleton's revisionist definition of the aesthetic original , interesting, and valuable. The strength of his text is that it poses a strong political project that links developments in aesthetics to broader developments in both philosophy and the material world. His reading of the "history" of aesthetics as dialectical also has its merits. However, some philosophers may think Eagleton's readings skewed in order to fit the narrative of the history of aesthetics that he wishes to write. He sometimes glosses over the most radical tendencies of the "aestheticians" he reads, resulting in a dialectic that seems rather one-sided. Purdue UniversityTimothy C. Lord Dialogue at the Margins: Whorf, Bakhtin, and Linguistic Relativity, by Emily A. Schultz; xii & 178 pp. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990, $37.50 cloth, $16.95 paper. Two seminal linguistic theorists of this century are Benjamin Lee Whorf and Mikhail Bakhtin. Whorf is notorious as the advocate of linguistic relativity, the Reviews377 thesis thatlanguage shapes (perhaps even determines) thought and perceptions. Bakhtin also seems to have been sympathetic to linguistic relativity, but he is perhaps best known for his theory that Dostoevsky's novels are polyphonic— rather than presenting a single authorial consciousness, they present instead a dialogue ofa plurality ofconsciousnesses. Schultz's book is an ingenious attempt by an anthropologist to reread Whorf's writings through Bakhtin's categories and to draw some wider implications about rationality and relativism from this reading. Precisely what Whorf's advocacy of linguistic relativity amounts to has long been a focus of controversy. Given that Whorf's motivation for his study of language was his personal struggle to resolve the competing claims of science and religion, it is probably unsurprising that critics have had difficulty isolating a single consistent voice in his work. Schultz suggests we acknowledge all the different voices in Whorf's essays and understand these texts as polyphonic dialogues, thus refusing to delimit the Whorfian canon in such a way as to marginalize some works. She offers a reading ofWhorf that pays close attention to the style ofhis essays. She stresses the dialogic structure ofhis verbal rhetoric, the way the composition (rather than the content) ofthe essays seeks to develop in the reader an experience of a multilingual consciousness that permits the coexistence in dialogue of a plurality of contending voices. The standard objection to the strong version of linguistic relativity is that it is refuted by the possibility oftranslation. Schultz responds that Whorfwas concerned with crosslinguistic (and cross-cultural) understanding, rather than translation. Such understanding is less a matter of shared grammar than of potentially shareable nonverbal experiences, i.e., of context. This accounts for the curious drawings which appear in Whorf's texts. These are part of his nonverbal rhetoric, an intertextual technique to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 376-378
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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