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132Philosophy and Literature Telemakhos and Odysseus, allusions to the homecomings ofAgamemnon and Menelaos, the utopias of Kalypso and the Phaiakians, structure the first eight books and draw our attention to the poem's obsession with the conflict between culture and barbarism. The chapter on Odysseus' sea wanderings suggests that the seemingly disparate adventures actually form pairs treating similar dangers the hero must overcome. For example, both the Lotus Eaters and Kalypso wish to induce forgetfulness, while Aiolos resembles Kyklopes in his unhealthy isolation. The recounting of these adventures through flashback emphasizes present time, but also the rapidity with which present becomes past. Such a concept of time requires an epic form to preserve the memory of great deeds for future generations. Thalmann believes strongly that the sea adventures are linked to Books 13-24 of The Odyssey because of the reappearance of previous themes and even episodes (e.g., the underworld) in the story of Odysseus' revenge. Even the final scene, in which the hero seems to reject the peace he has established and to launch into new battles, plays upon a fundamental ambiguity in Odysseus' character, evident throughout the epic. He is both "the warrior and the man of self-control" (p. 122), restorer of civilization, yet nature's antagonist. Given the protagonist's complexity, "The only appropriate conclusion is one that draws attention to its inconclusiveness" (p. 123). The Odyssey: An Epic ofReturn offers many original, well-founded observations on Homeric language and symbolism. It reminds us, moreover, that, however this epic came into existence, it is not a haphazard composition. In his concluding remarks on the poetry of the Odyssey, Thalmann suggests what may be the true reason for The Odyssey's undying popularity with Western audiences. It is, in a sense, the perfect epic. It relates great deeds in a manner that gives coherence to the fluctuating fortunes of humanity and creates pleasure through the narration of "pain overcome" (p. 128). Because of such insights, Thalmann's book is an excellent addition to any Classical library. Whitman CollegeMary Anne O'Neil Ideals and Illusions: On Reconstruction and Deconstruction in Contemporary Critical Theory, by Thomas McCarthy; ? & 254 pp. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1993, $13.95. In Ideah and Illusions Thomas McCarthy analyzes Richard Rorty, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Jürgen Habermas. He writes cogently, indeed meticulously, about each of them, and in both the main text and detailed footnotes, he keenly comments, too, on Adorno, Marcuse, Heidegger, and others whom his central figures have examined or by whom they have been Reviews133 influenced. In its rigor and sophistication, this is an impressive book. Yet at the same time it is also an unsatisfying one, because McCarthy has not linked his separate studies to a full, rich statement of his own position. Ideab and Illusions is underdeveloped and underargued as a whole—it is less than the sum of its parts—and is inattentive to the nature and needs of its audience. McCarthy does make sharp specific points that readers will find stimulating. He notes, for example, that Rorty's philosophical and political loyalties are seriously split. Rorty employs Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Derrida to refute a line of "foundational" theorists and philosophers that extends from Plato to Habermas. For Rorty, McCarthy explains, "Nietzsche et al. are different: they are basically right," since they have rejected dreams of grand, global, "universal " claims for philosophical work and, instead, embraced the values of perpetual self-creation, fiction-making, spirited conversation (p. 40). But Rorty's admirably liberal view of how philosophy should proceed, McCarthy observes, fits awkwardly with the central feature of the heroes whom he has chosen to authenticate it: all of them are relentless, remorseless critics of "political liberalism," foes of the lucid, prudent balancing of competing ideas and values that liberalism honors (p. 40). McCarthy locates a related problem in Derrida. Here, he says, we have a thinker who has emphasized the "politics" of the deconstructionist project; deconstruction "is not neutral," Derrida has said, "it intervenes" (qtd. p. 96) . But as McCarthy shows, the actual content of this politics is obscure, irritatingly elusive, in part for the simple reason that Derrida rarely supports his interrogations of texts with "historical...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 132-134
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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