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Reviews145 Schwarz's humanism and pluralism allow him to make the salutary point that not only do different readers respond differently to the same text but that the same reader ought to respond differently to different texts. On the other hand, perhaps because he is anxious not to become the perpetrator of limited dieories himself, he relies rather too heavily on rhetorical questions addressed to the reader: "Is it not ... ?" or "Do we not ... ?" echo a bit tiresomely. The two essays just mentioned, plus the first chapter, "Humanistic Formalism : A Theoretical Defense" seem to me the most valuable portions of the book. The fourth chapter, "The Narrative of Paul de Man" is a thoughtful reflection on the revelation of de Man's wartime anti-Semitic articles. The final chapter is a summary and critique of the theories of some fifteen literary critics from I. A. Richards to the present, which serves to reiterate the values of what Schwarz means by a humanistic poetics. In brief, the volume does not attempt to sweep the reader along by the clever ingenuity of its theorizing, but to cut through the constraints of particular theories and urge readers to reflect on the multiple values they have actually found, and others worth seeking, in the literature they read. Pennsylvania State UniversityWendell V. Harris Derrida: A Critical Reader, edited by David Wood, ix & 297 pp. Oxford: Blackwell, 1992, $54.95 cloth, $19.95 paper. There is a paradox at the heart of any venture to explain the work ofJacques Derrida. While there can be few readers who would not welcome help in making sense of his writings, Derrida himself explicitly denies the utility, or even the possibility, of such an analysis. Nevertheless, ten writers—Jean-Luc Nancy, Michel Haar, John Llewelyn, Geoffrey Bennington, John Sallis, Robert Bernasconi, Christopher Norris, Irene E. Harvey, Manfred Frank, and Richard Rorty—have attempted the impossible in this anthology introduced by the editor David Wood and commented on, from within as it were, by Derrida himself who has contributed an essay. The volume is closed by a useful and increasingly necessary bibliography of Derrida's extensive writings and interviews . The essay Derrida has contributed, "Passions: An Oblique Offering" (pp. 535 ), seems tided specifically to deny the possibility of creating a focus around which other texts might be grouped. Here, of course, is the difficulty. Derrida no more believes in the possibility of explaining his own texts than those of other writers, any more than he believes others are in a position to "explain" his own. The paradox, then, is that Derrida is in the position of writing a 146Philosophy and Literature commentary to fit a collection ofessays written specifically to comment on him. As Derrida himself notes while searching for the means of entering this discursive space, "Whatwould it look like ifI supposed I could reply to all these men and this woman at the same time, or ifI supposed I could begin by replying, dius disregarding the very scholarly and very singular strategy of each of these eleven or twelve discourses, at once so generous and so unsatisfied and so overdetermined?" He acknowledges that any reply is impossible (p. 19). The essayists are acutely aware of writing under this inhibition. Thus JeanLuc Nancy speaks of "tracing" (p. 36) Derrida's thought, while recognizing that "there is no first meaning which a second writing would then come along to divert and upset" (p. 38). Likewise John Llewelyn discusses the issue of "indecidability and responsibility" of the text (for Llewelyn indecidability does not imply ¿r-responsibility, but on the contrary greater responsibility, forcing us to offer finer and finer distinctions between different kinds of indecidability) (p. 93), while Geoffrey Bennington asks, "how are we to place [Derrida's] writing, once the rather silly temptation to write it off as literature has been resisted?" (p. 98). Robert Bernasconi's contribution, "No more Stories, Good or Bad," perhaps offers a cogent defense of this position when he suggests that the title could in fact be phrased in the interrogative, thus Derrida: A Critical Reader?As Bernasconi remarks, "the contributors would no longer be assigned die task of criticizing the thinker to whom the volume is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 145-146
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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