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182Philosophy and Literature the impression of reading a text written in their own language. Like Vladimir Nabokov (though for different reasons), they are critical of"smooth," "readable" translations that erase the alterity of the translated text. Yet, as RichardJacquemond notes, when translations lack these qualities, they are often read only by specialists and literati. Some of the contributors to this volume seem to me to oversimplify the task of the translator, who has always to strike some balance between conveying the "strangeness" of the text and making it accessible to readers. By rendering the translator's work more visible, these essays seek not only to draw attention to the alterity of the foreign text and to the processes of cultural assimilation involved in reducing that alterity, but also to win for translators the recognition they deserve. This is surely a laudable goal. But one result is that throughout the volume, a plaintive voice is repeatedly heard wailing: "I get no respect!" Many of these essays are redolent of a certain ressentiment; even ifone accepts their argument that the priority ofthe "original" is a mystification of individualist ideology, their envy of "authors" remains all too manifest. As a translator, I know the feeling well, but it still makes me uncomfortable. I confess I'd be satisfied just to be better paid. University of OregonSteven Rendall After Eden, The Secularization of American Space in the Fiction of WiUa Cather and Theodore Dreiser, by Conrad Eugene Ostwalt,Jr.; 160 pp. Cranbury, NewJersey: Bucknell University Press, 1990, $29.50. Locating Cather and Dreiser within the context of social history, Conrad E. Ostwalt,Jr. proposes that these authors conclude a process ofredefining American natural and social spaces—a transition marked by three stages: first, an innocence and confidence about American space, then a crisis or disorientation, and finally a reorientation and redefinition. As background, Ostwalt traces the vision ofAmerican sacred space from Winthrop's "city on a hill" andJefferson's agrarian ideal to the romantics like Emerson who sought communion with nature in order to commune with the divine "other," and Ripley ofBrook Farm who theorized that as a receptacle of the divine, the human animal also acts as a medium for spiritual transcendence in the social space. Crisis occurred when this legacy ofsacred space was threatened by the evolutionary theories ofDarwin and the social naturalism of Spencer. Writing on the cusp of this crisis, Cather Reviews183 and Dreiser furnish "a transition from viewing America as sacred to viewing America as a secular, but still meaningful, place" (pp. 30-31). Cather secularizes natural space by creating a new world view in her response to romanticism and Darwinism. Ostwalt suggests that, unlike humans within a romantic world view, Cather's characters often become peripheral and insignificant in a landscape that "no longer functions as the sacred meeting ground for humankind and the divine" (p. 43). Nature ceases to offer communion with the Emersonian "other." Instead, Ostwalt claims Cather's fiction illustrates that "nature is otherness itself, and it participates in satisfying the human longing for an existence legitimated by, or grounded in, something greater than human design or control" (p. 73). In this, however, Ostwalt's argument seems to overlook that romanticism values the imagination, not the mere fact of nature, as the vehicle of creating meaning in response to an alien nature, a romantic view, I would submit, that Cather does indeed maintain. Cather also redefines Darwinian determinism, Ostwalt says, by establishing an interconnectedness between natural and social worlds, for "The way one approaches the land . . . causes reciprocal consequences for human relationships" (p. 41). Dreiser, on the other hand, redefines social space by moving the American dream from Cather's natural prairie to a desacralized social space where Darwinism and Spencerian philosophy rule. Biological determinism informs and critiques the social world: in a Darwinian natural world "survival of the fittest" can be capricious and unjust, whereas in society the American dream goes unrealized because society emphasizes "ruthless self-interest" while "traditional mores continually suppress the ability of the individual to act upon his or her personal desires and dreams" (p. 90). Further, the urban space that tests the limits of the individual is also meant...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 182-184
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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