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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 pardy 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 as much as it reveals. National Endowment for the HumanitiesPeter Losin Wordsworth, Dialogics, andthe Practice ofCriticism, by Don H. Bialostosky; xxvii & 288 pp. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, $54.95. As the title might suggest, Wordsworth, Dialogics, and tL· Practice of Criticism yokes together Bakhtin's concept ofdialogism and American liberal pragmatism in an exploration of Wordsworth texts, critical theory, and pedagogy. Bialostosky 's exposition works out the connection reflexively; not only do dialogism and scholarship intervolve with scarcely a ripple of dissonance, the combination of the two allows the examination of text, critic, and student with a single lens. Bialostosky manages a consistent approach to areas whose separation has contributed to the institutional crisis in literary studies. Bialostosky's Wordsworth is a "founding father ofthe constitution grounding an enterprise of literature" (p. 1). In contrast to recent cultural critics of Romanticism , the pragmatic version ofWordsworth emphasizes productive rather than seductive or repressive facets of the project initiated by the Lyrical Ballads. Reviews177 The shift in emphasis arises from a Bakhtinian retheorizing of language as a meeting point for conflicting social forces; Wordsworth, in his poetic portraits of the speech of others, most notably of distinct social groups—rustics, women, children—maintains a porous poetic texture. As a result of this textual heteroglossia , "[t]he reader's exercise of a 'cooperating power' with Wordsworth's literary power, . . . even on Foucault's authority, need not be an acquiescent repetition but may also be a counteraction, and the poet's exercise of literary power need not be a coercive imposition but may also be a provocation, even a demand, for productive questions and responses" (p. 17). The real test of Bialostosky's approach to Wordsworth lies in the practice of his own profession as critic and teacher. The several chapters on critical readings of Wordsworth poems contrast views of other critics with the author's own, highlighting the context in which the current work intervenes. This "dialogics of criticism" would "find a way to imagine the multiplicity of would-be authorities and the multiplicity of competing names they put forward for Wordsworth 's art that does not reduce the situation to a struggle against the supposed hegemony of a dominant voice or to a despair at the 'chaos' of divergent voices . . ." (p. 55). Despite this compelling rationale, however, these chapters' immersion in critical controversy tends to be more allusory than explanatory. In trying to handle several views it is more difficult to do justice to each argument. And there seems no efficient way to avoid the problem of exclusion; Bialostosky must still make choices about whom to include and whom to exclude as a relevant voice. I might, for example, have expected to see more concern with the work of Marjorie Levinson and David Simpson. Inclusions are even more striking. Bialostosky...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 176-178
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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