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396Philosophy and Literature The Concept ofModernism, by Astradur Eysteinsson; ? & 265 pp. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990, $29.95. With the critical world now abuzz with postmodernism, Eysteinsson sets the stage by providing a readable introduction to modernism—the concept, rather than the history. Thus in five chapters he surveys and evaluates the term and its cognates as they have been used in mostly American, British, and German scholarship. He begins by looking at the formulation of the concept of modernism in critical paradigms over the past century. These paradigms are then set within their critical and historiographical contexts, with the emphasis on the way in which the literary history of modern times has been constructed (chapter 2). Eysteinsson evaluates the limits and problematics of these paradigms, juxtaposing the conceptofmodernism to current debates on postmodernism (chapter 3). But then, going beyond juxtaposition, he examines the more incisive and even more problematic relationship between modernism and the avant-garde as both a time-bound indicator of style and as a marker of inflectional styles (chapter 4). Lasdy, in place of formal conclusion or synthesis, Eysteinsson extrapolates from the discourses of theory a sketch of the limits of the debate on "Realism, Modernism, and the Aesthetics of Interruption," seeing in the latest manifestation of modernist anti-bourgeois avant-gardism an almost deliberate blindness to the complexities and continuities in post-Enlightenment literature (chapter 5). Eysteinsson is, without awareness or acknowledgment, engaged in what the Romanian critic Adrian Marino calls the history of critical ideas; yet he does this without providing any social or political contexts to the emergence of particular ideas, concepts, paradigms, and debates. Correctly examining recondite theoretical tomes alongside elementary textbooks for undergraduates, book reviews, popular histories, and other books in which the terms modernism, realism, avant-garde, and postmodernism are used and abused for a variety of heuristic, polemical, and descriptive purposes, Eysteinsson does not, however, differentiate between the kinds of discourses, their order of appearance, the chronology of translation and retranslation, redaction, and so forth. In other words, while he clarifies the concept of modernism for his own sake, he denies the sweeping dynamic and confusion of its historical usages. Only in the last chapter does the author start to come clean: that modernism— whether called realism, avant-garde, or postmodernism—is defined by its counterhegemonic relationship to the hegemonic discourses ofmodernity. However it is articulated, from within or from the margins of those discourses ofpositivist science, technology, and commerce, modernism depends on the hegemonic presence of the bourgeoisie in order for its claim to otherness to be recognized and felt as unfamiliarity, shock, or gap. For all its pretenses to being an alter- Reviews397 native, modernism has never seriously challenged the hegemony of bourgeois order. "It is," he writes, "the other (of) modernity, or to put it differently, it is modernity held in abeyance" (p. 240). For modernism is nothing more (or less) than a suite of differences, deferrals, and interruptions to modernity. Its very techniques are, moreover, subject to appropriation by the dominant discourses for use in advertising, propaganda, and self-justificationsbecause, as Eysteinsson points out, modernism's debate with modernity is dialogic: it is always more or less a response to the rationality and the persuasiveness of the dominant culture. If, therefore, it now seems that the classics of modernism have themselves been absorbed into the teaching canon of institutionalized modernity (university syllabi and media kitsch), the counterhegemonic discourses of postmodernism play out a new game of pretended subversion by seeming to appropriate the pre- or nonmodernistic aspects of modernity itself. Holes in jeans can be mass produced and punk hairstyles rendered by high-fashion models. It is, finally, all very bourgeois. University of Waikato, New ZealandNorman Simms Occidental Poetics: Tradition and Progress, by Lubomir Dolezel; 261 pp. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990, $33.50. Lubomir Dolezel's Occidental Poetics represents, first of all, a major achievement in the historiography of poetics. But at the same time, Dolezel's study marks a significant advance in poetics itself. Subsuming two millennia ofthinking about literature under the rubric "occidental poetics," the book in large measure produces precisely that global framework or "research tradition" of which it purports to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 396-397
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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