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130Philosophy and Literature circles around itself." The metaphor suggests much of the exhilaration that Emerson and his tribe and this book can induce. Poirier's interpretation of Stevens's "The Rock" is a bright skating of circles that succeeded in dislodging and pushing into motion my own smug, fixed reading of the poem. His pragmatic work that thrusts against what is sticky and stodgy is the central merit of this book. Poirier's critical interpretations act out before our eyes the pragmatic ideal. Nevertheless, one can begin to feel uneasy with all this relentless subversion of boundaries and structure. The pragmatic vision begins to seem exhausting and disorienting. Poirier describes reading as a "struggle between what you want to make of a text and what it wants to make of itself and of you" (p. 167). However, to place most of the emphasis on the reader's imposition of meaning tends to reduce reading to something like a Rorschach game or Hamlet interpreting clouds. Some of us unreconstructed troglodytes still prefer doing the work of discovering what the poem wants to say. As Professor Poirier's hero Wallace Stevens wrote, "to impose is not / to discover . . . ," or one can read in his other hero, Emerson, in "Spiritual Laws," ". . . if the pages instruct you not, they will die like flies in the hour." Manifestly the struggle between self and text is always there, but there is something to be said for hoping that the text wins. The tendentious emphasis on Emersonian indeterminacy becomes starkest in the last chapter, where the Amherst gospel according to Humanities 6 is pressed upon wearied readers. Here the pragmatist tribe vanquishes utterly the wrong-headed herd of New Critics and other benighted souls who place emphasis on the authority of the text. This gives a pallid what-we-did-at-oldSiwash sort of denouement to a book that is provocative and often scintillating. Whitman CollegeWalter E. Broman SamuelJohnson on Shakespeare: The Discipline ofCriticism, by Edward Tomarken; xii & 205 pp. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1991, $35.00. With Samuel Johnson on Shakespeare: The Discipline of Criticism, Edward Tomarken demonstrates once again why so many modern literary critics and theorists have returned to Johnson's critical writings as the starting point for their own discussions ofearly English literature. Nowhere has this practice been more common than in criticism of Shakespeare. But while many later critics and interpreters have looked back to Johnson's commentary, especially to his Reviews131 Preface to Shakespeare, few have engaged in the kind of systematic study of Johnson's 1765 edition of Shakespeare's works that Tomarken undertakes in this book. By looking past the Preface and concentrating attention onJohnson's Notes, both his commentary and summary statements or "strictures," Tomarken unfolds the extentto whichJohnson goesbeyond the familiar moraland didactic statements in the Preface to contribute to our understanding of eighteenthcenturyeditorial practices and performance as well as interpretation ofcharacter and humor. In each of his eight chapters, Tomarken focuses on a different play and a different set of critical issues. The first chapter considers Johnson's take on the complicated moral and political questions raised by the relationship between Falstaff and Prince Hal in the Henry IV plays. Chapter two shows how Johnson attempts to restore Shakespeare's version of Troilus and Cressida after the alterations of Dryden and other eighteenth-century editors. Chapter three investigates Johnson's contribution to the history of criticism on Twelfth Night. In chapter four Tomarken addresses problems presented by both the editorial and performance histories of Tamingofthe Shrew and relatesJohnson's treatment of the satirical element in the play to recent feminist interpretations. Chapter five explores Johnson's well-known difficulties with King Lear, especially with the "mimetic" necessity (or lack of it) for the death of Cordelia and Lear at the play's conclusion. Chapter six delineates Johnson's understanding of "imagination " in The Tempest, contrastingJohnson's views with those of Coleridge and later critics. Chapter seven examines Johnson's notions of "closure" in Hamlet and his admiration for the play's "variety" and uses of "mimetic humor" rather than for its dramatic unity. Finally, in chapter eight, Tomarken shows how Johnson's concentration on the evil...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 130-132
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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