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Reviews383 Talmudian, idealist, neo-Kantian, Machiavellian, and Nietzschean metaphysician "who could both arbitrarily leap from doubt into belief and find relief from the torment of doubt by affirming the absurdity of the human condition" (p. 103). His early neo-Kantian essays in The Soul and Form (191 1) are seen as his "unwitting intellectual autobiography" unmatched by his later Marxist writings (p. 91), with the exception of History and Chss Consciousness (1923) and The Young Hegel, written during Lukács's Russian exile, which receive due recognition . "Reading Marx offers little insight into Lukács" (p. 340), observes Kadarkay , only to state repeatedly elsewhere that Lukács nevertheless "surpasses all Marxist thinkers" (p. 27). There are many more merits than flaws in this magisterial work. The skillful and honest handling of an enormous amount of information make the biographer 's occasional peremptory statements, his unconditional admiration of Lukács, and even his negative treatment of women less significant. The desire to link Lukács's work to his turbulent existence and troubled personality may have diminished some of the aura of objectivity surrounding his theories. At the same time, by uncovering the personal and historical contingencies of Lukács's work, Kadarkay has contributed in an unprecedented way to our understanding of a significant body of work that testifies to some of the most representative intellectual and human turmoil of the twentieth century. United States Naval AcademyEva L. Corredor Is Literary History Possible?, by David Perkins; ? & 192 pp. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992, $25.95. Is Literary History Possible? is puzzling. In significant respects it is exacdy what one would expect from David Perkins, a sensitive critic who has written excellent studies of Romantic literature and modern poetry. This book is informed, judicious, precise in its judgments and formulations, eleganüy arranged, and lucidly composed. Yet Perkins's specific commentaries on writers and texts, and his analyses of the theoretical problems in literary history, are often sketchy, glancing, allusive, and fail to cohere in a satisfying general argument. For all its learning and careful thought, it is unclear whether Is Literary History Possible? has any consequences. Perkins's first chapter surveys "the present state of the discussion," noting in particular the revival of, and return to, literary history in the aftermath of the New Criticism and its poststructuralist, especially deconstructionist, successors. 384Philosophy and Literature The next two chapters focus on the nature of narrative and plot in literary history and on postmodern "encyclopedic" forms, such as the Columbia Literary History of the United States (1987) and A New History ofFrench Literature (1989), which seek to embody contradiction, multiplicity, heterogeneity rather than present a single, unified story. The fourth chapter inspects literary types, taxonomies , and classifications; and the fifth—a case study—explores the ways in which literary historians have described and, in the process, constructed the English Romantic movement. In his sixth chapter, Perkins treats efforts at "historical contextualism," most notably the new historicist scholarship that Stephen Greenblatt and others influenced by him have displayed. The seventh, which fastens on W. J. Bate, Harold Bloom, and the Russian formalists, moves from theories of literary history as a kind of thickly detailed contextualization to those that highlight internal or immanent change. And in his final chapter, Perkins invokes Nietzsche's On the Advantage and Disadvantage ofHistoryfor Life as a means to reflect upon the "functions of literary history." The topics that Perkins engages are important, and he offers some keen observations about them. He deals well, too, with the problems that arise in "partisan" histories that mobilize the literatures of disaffected, marginalized groups, and with reception history, periodization, criteria of plausibility, and point of view. There are also plenty of tart, mordant remarks about a range ofcontemporary literary historians, as when Perkins refers to the "insensitivity" and "ruthlessness" of Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar's feminist studies and dryly indicates the "ornamental" quality ofthe discursive formations that Greenblatt attaches to his readings of Shakespeare's plays. But while remarks like these are bracing, they are also unfair, because Perkins does not provide full arguments to sustain them. Rarely does he spend much time on any one issue, text, or figure, and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 383-384
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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