In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviews175 Literature and Personal Values, by Patrick Grant; ? & 255 pp. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992, $59.95 cloth. In his Preface, Grant describes a view he calls "hermeneutical realism" which "implies that our descriptions are value-laden, and we participate in a human world by learning how to grasp and shape certain meanings," and yet also "implies that things exist over against us, and our descriptions of them can be assessed as more or less adequate" (p. viii). In developing this view, Grant draws from hermeneutics and phenomenology (chapter 2), positivism and reactions thereto (chapter 3), theories of the imagination (chapter 4), Christian theology (chapter 5), and Marxism (chapter 6). In addition, "with a view to maintaining [his] own recommended dialectic between practice and theory" (p. viii), Grant intersperses readings of Gulliver's Traveb and Synge's Playboy ofthe Western World (chapter 1), the fifteenth-century Secunda Pastorem and Beckett's Endgame (chapter 2), The Pardoner's Tale and Four Quartets (chapter 3), Felix Holt, The Radical and MacDonald's At the Back ofthe North Wind (chapter 4), Mark's Gospel and The Cloud of Unknouring (chapter 5), and The Merchant of Venice and Rasselas (chapter 6). Throughout, Grant acknowledges debts to Heidegger, MerleauPonty , Polyani, Ricoeur, Moltmann, Schillebeeckx, Antonio Gramsci, and Charles Taylor. In arguing for hermeneutical realism, Grant identifies a number of false dilemmas: between objectivity as value-neutrality and an anything-goes relativism (chapters 2 and 3); between simple-minded appeals to authorial intentions and rejection of the notion of an author altogether (chapter 3); between the claim that individuals exist prior to and independently of social, economic, and cultural forces and the claim that individuals are wholly determined by such forces (chapters 5 and 6). In fact, the essence of hermeneutical realism seems to be that most currently fashionable critical approaches rest on such false dilemmas. For instance, Marx and Freud brought to light certain truths about humans and human relationships; and Marxist and psychoanalytic readings reveal "something of our personal contradictions and their social embeddedness, the dark places of our motivations, the fragility and uncertainty of consciousness, and literature is thereby a means of recognition that we are not just what we think we are" (p. 186). On the other hand, these approaches can also hide from us other aspects of literary texts and other truths about human beings. So "we ought not to dispense with the idea ofthe person altogetherjust because persons are deeply entangled in contradiction and do not see themselves clearly; such entanglement, indeed, is part of what it means to be a historical person" (p. 187). Literature teaches us that "a person is neither wholly autonomous nor wholly communal nor wholly self-identical, but in process, exigent, fragile, selfdivided , and centrally engaged in culture through language. One value of 176Philosophy and Literature literature and criticism is precisely to produce and enable clarification of the very claim that persons are emergent in this way, situated historically, prepossessed by the body, socially formed, with a degree of autonomy and responsibility " (pp. 220-21). Against postmodernism and "the ultra-nominalist trends of much recent literary theory" (p. ix), Grant argues that "the great books tell us how to live, and if they do not do this, they are escapist" (p. 218). It isn't just that we can or should look to literature for moral prescriptions or models. Grant's claim, as I understand it, is twofold: (a) that literary texts present us with "values" (the inexhaustibility or subjectivity, the extent of our historical embeddedness); and (b) that to comprehend these texts we must in some way exemplify the values they present. So, for example, reading Four Quartets requires our participation in "the processes by which the articulate points beyond itself to a reality that is always more than we know, and where the conscious, controlling ego is subtended by a deeply fissured and ambivalent subjectivity that we might come partly to recognise but not to encompass" (p. 96). The exegetical-interpretive parts of Grant's book are supposed to complement and inform its theoretical parts. Some do; but many of the readings seem strained, and most are presented injargon-laden prose that obscures...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 175-176
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.