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144Philosophy and Literature Openings: Narrative Beginningsfrom the Epic to the Novel, by A. D. Nuttall; ? & 250 pp. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992, $55.00. In his preface, Nuttall cites his indebtedness to Frank Kermode (The Sense ofanEnding) and Harold Bloom (probably TteAnxiety ofInfluence) amongothers. It was Kermode who stimulated his curiosity about natural as opposed to formal, or literary, beginnings and about writers' "negotiations" between the two. He proceeds to an analysis of fiercely canonical works from the Aeneid to Great Expectations and beyond. Nuttall argues that there are, in our history and our experience, natural beginnings (creations, birth, and a variety of human determinations to begin again), that language refers, at least at times, to "realities" beyond itself, and that an entirely self-generating, self-referential text is nonsense. He equally argues the freedom of artists to shape or order their fictions as they choose within broad, naturally imposed limits. Natural beginnings are not necessarily, oreven preferably, identical with formalbeginnings, butfictions do use language to present a world outside linguistic constructs even if they are not determined by the order of that external world. Each chapter begins with a narrative beginning and develops a larger view ofthe work out ofthe beginning. In the first chapter, Nuttall shows how Virgil's beginning in medias res is Homeric rather than Hebraic or Roman, yet different in its assertion of a composing "I" ("cano") and in its teleological movement towards the founding of Rome, itself a natural beginning. Here and elsewhere, Nuttall seems more of a Bloomer than a Kermodgeon. Literature is made out of literature as well as out of referents in nature. Beginnings come in many flavors: Dante's "nel mezzo di cammin," which is both "in medias res" and the true beginning of Dante's new life; Milton's Homeric imperative to the Muse in Book I and his re-beginnings in Books III and VII of Paradise Lost; Wordsworth's Prelude, which is all about beginnings as it tries to recover a past voice ofthe self, now dimly heard; Sterne's beginnings with the distracted conception of Tristram Shandy; David Copperfield's "I Am Born." In each case the elucidation is subder and suppler than my summary. Nuttall incorporates other kinds ofbeginnings as in Chaucer's Book ofthe Duchess and Milton's Lycidas, yet there is a tendency, chapter by chapter, to drift from beginnings to acute and sensible analyses not firmly rooted in the beginnings. But we return to the discourse's main burden in the last chapter, "The Sense of a Beginning." Nuttall does not accept Kermode's notion that every ending is a beginning, that endings become beginnings, or that crisis and change are the central facts of fiction and life. He remains faithful to his conception of true and natural beginnings while recognizing the "negotiations" that writers make between nature and art. He acknowledges that the negotiation between natural Reviews145 and formal beginnings is too simple a formula for his own insights and demonstrates the complexity well in the beginning of TL· Portrait of a Lady. Most impressively, Nuttall develops powerful arguments for the referentiality of fiction: books are inspired by something real—a Muse, a past, a recollection, or an intractable world. My only disappointment with Openings is, perhaps, that it is not the book that I wished for. It does not have the sinuous grace or discursive power of Kermode and it is not a companion piece to The Sense ofan Ending. It is, however, a sensitive presentation of a critical perspective on textuality and intertextuality that deserves respect and attention. Whitman CollegeEdward E. Foster Luce Irigaray: Philosophy in the Feminine, by Margaret Whitford; xiii & 241 pp. New York: Routledge, 1991, $14.95 paper. Margaret Whitford's italicized concern with Luce Irigaray as a "feminist philosopher with emphasis on both terms" (p. 3) takes her to the heart of Irigaray's extensive and often very difficult opus. Spanning two decades and weaving in and out of discourses relevant to psychoanalysis, linguistics, and philosophy, that opus is difficult to systematize and easy to misread, as Whitford's careful presentation both of Irigaray and her critics makes clear. In her introductory remarks Whitford herself confesses that "it...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 144-145
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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