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138Philosophy and Literature Mimesis, Semiosis, and Power. Mimesis in Contemporary Theory: An Interdisciplinary Approach, edited by Ronald Bogue; viii & 208 pp. Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 1991, $53.00. These nine fresh and interesting essays address the fortunes of the sign from the delusions of Ion to Victoria's Secret. The introduction by Ronald Bogue is a model short history of the sign as an investment of power and sets the standard of conceptual interest and clarity for the entire volume. Having eight other contributors of high quality helps, some of whom write with all stops out, like Louis Marin in "Stating a Mysterious Figure" in the Annunciation of Filippo Lippi (1440); Linda Brooks, arguing for the fascism of Anselm Kiefer's paintings ; and Jerry Herron, situating a culture of violent "visual interrogation" of the five senses in the mall. The volume follows the chronology of its subject matter. Mihai Spariosu, intellectual historian of mimesis as both imitation and play, explores Plato's ambiguities in Ion. The dialogue "mimics or stages a trial against poetry and in favor of philosophy, with all the ambiguous, double effects that one can expect from such self-conscious staging" (p. 14). Against the background ofthe struggle between "archaic" values of overflowing power and "median" values of askesis and self-knowledge, the Ion enacts a competition over the head of Socrates, suggesting, finally, "the agonistic origin of rational logic itself" (p. 23). Giuseppe Mazzotta paraphrases Petrarch: "The truth elaborated by the philosophers is the daughter of time, in the sense that it forever carries with it the marks ofirreducible contingency" (p. 31). This contingency inscribes into thought a history of individual experience. Among the rewards of Mazzotta's essay is his reading of Song 129 of the Canzoniere with its poignant lines (pp. 50—53) that, except for the tears, are Kafkaesque: ". . . pur lì medesmo assido / me freddo, pietra morta in pietra viva, / in guisa d'uom che pensi et pianga et scriva." Louis Marin brilliantly analyzes "the enunciative structure of secrecy" of textual and pictorial signs in Fra Filippo Lippi; Terranee King gives an admirably lucid account of "triadic" realism as Peirce's dominant, even when it blinks. He is thus led to a prudent deconstruction of Peirce's "trust in institutional consensus," which suggests a contrary interest in seeking to contain "the question oftruth within a notion of Utopian closure" (p. 73). Ronald Bogue organizes Deleuze's semiotics ofthe visible which, in asserting the systematically nonrepresentative character of cinema, struggles for taxonomic grounding in ajargon ofnew formalisms. Linda Brooks's essay on the work ofAnselm Kiefer spares no pains to indict it as a "fascist semiotics." The argument strikes me as too resistant to a second dimension of Kiefer's iconography, which "takes back" the depicted content. He almost never simulates the visual experience ofa Nazi mass public without marking it with material residues or otherwise. This nee- Reviews139 essarily complicates his semiotics, but I agree with Brooks that the portmanteau category "irony" does not answer the problem. Marcel Cornis-Pop argues for a mimetic function in poststructuralist American novels, "a form of radical hermeneutics, ... a delayed 'analytical codification' " that shifts attention to "the discursive layering of cultural 'reality'" (p. 130). Joel Black's incisive and entertaining essay on "Mixed Signals in the Body Languages of Sexual, Commercial , and Extraterrestrial Discourse" focuses on the disparity between the ubiquitous nonerotic discourse ofsexuality and the violendy sexy "disembodied image" that the body has become. Jerry Herron gives Black's semiotics another habitation and a name. His "Mailing of the Semiotic" traces the ramifications of the shift in the cultural market paradigm from a university and department store dominated "downtown" to a placeless flux oftelevision and mall simulacra. Both essays are feats of media-theoretical info-tainment that do not have to be entirely followed to be enjoyed. In nine capable hands the hegemony of the sign proves worryingly—and exhilaratingly—alive. Princeton UniversityStanley Corngold Borrowed Lives, by Stanley Corngold and Irene Giersing; 189 pp. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991, $44.50 cloth, $14.95 paper. "Moment upon moment, pattering down, like the millet grains," one of Beckett's characters muses, "and all life long you...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 138-139
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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