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Reviews147 Unbecoming Women: British Women Writers and the Novel of Development, by Susan Fraiman; xv & 189 pp. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993, $35.00. Susan Fraiman provides an innovative and compelling critique of static views of formation and the construction of subjectivity. Fraiman reads the novel of female development against the linear coherence of the male Bildungsroman, arguing that "growing up female" produces "a deformation, a gothic disorientation , a loss of authority, an abandonment of goals" (p. xi), in short, the "unbecoming" of her tide. In her view, identity for women is provisional, conflicted, and contingent. Fraiman offers a comprehensive literary history of the Bildungsroman in its classical male incarnations, and surveys the terrain of conduct literature for women as a way to get at the necessary permutations of the genre when written by and about women. Her opening chapter is an excellent introduction to the genre in Western Europe, moving gracefully from an analysis of Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Lehrjahre to a systematic critique of the mapping of male bourgeois individuality onto women. "The myth of bourgeois opportunity," Fraiman writes, "has little place for the middle-class female protagonist, and to reinvent the genre around her is to recognize a set of stories in which compromise and even coercion are more strongly thematized than choice" (p. 6). Fraiman offers persuasive readings of Bumey's Evelina, Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte Bronte's fane Eyre, and Eliot's The Mill on the Floss. One of die several impressive achievements of diis study is Fraiman's comprehensive and sympathetic knowledge of the critical history of each of her texts. She pays thoughtful attention to the cultural moment represented by particular modes of interpretation, and adds a sophisticated understanding of the crucial role of class formation for female development. Fraiman reads Evelina as a novel of impediment, blockage, and frustration, themes that point to a fundamentally antiromantic structure of avoidance and prevention. She sees Elizabeth Bennet's predicament as equally representative of "a sociolect of anxiety about marriage and female development" (p. 63) , and reads the central conflict between Elizabeth and Darcy as "the social drama of an outspoken girl entering a world whose voices drown out her own" (p. 82). The trajectory of Jane Eyre is read alongside other working women, in particular Grace Poole, the other woman in the attic. Jane Eyre "cut[s] across the classic, vertical story ofmarrying up the social ladder with a horizontal story of community among working women," Fraiman argues (p. 120). Fraiman's final chapter on The Mill on the Floss returns to her opening history of the Bildungsroman as male and presents Maggie Tulliver's difficulties growing up as embedded in multiple social relationships and competing narratives. Not least among the virtues of this fine book is its wit and stylistic energy. 148Philosophy and Literature Fraiman is equally comfortable writing about Hester Chapone or Bakhtin, Dilthey or Freud. Unbecoming Women will be accessible and highly useful for undergraduates while also making an important contribution to feminist and genre criticism. Haverford CollegeJulia Epstein Burdens ofProofinModern Discourse, by Richard H. Gaskins; xix & 362 pp. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993, $35.00. In this work Richard Gaskins studies die role of a particular kind of reasoning in contemporary public and professional debates: the argumentfrom -ignorance, whereby burdens of proof are assigned to one contending faction and positive inferences are derived from the lack of knowledge (x is correct until proven incorrect; y wins unless ? shows that y is wrong) . More specifically, in the first part of the book, Gaskins traces the influence of that form of argument in modern judicial practice and across a wide range of discourses exploiting jurisprudential analogies: practical logic, for example, rhetoric, organizational theory. In the second part of the book, he explores the same form of argument from a philosophical rather than legal standpoint and locates its source in Kantian dichotomies or antinomies (between facts and values, between science and ethics) . Even more specifically, Gaskins shows the importance of the argument-from-ignorance in constitutional litigation of the past tiiirty or forty years but also in Stephen Toulmin's theory of knowledge, Chaim Perelman's "new rhetoric," the critical...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 147-148
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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