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160Philosophy and Literature and theories so much as an application of them, students of the Bible "as literature" will find Bakhtin, as his dieory is applied here, a compelling partner widi whom to engage—"dialogically"?—in dieir enterprise. Lafayette CollegeEric J. Ziolkowski Word andSpirit:A Kierkegaardian Critique oftheModernAge, by Ronald L. Hall; xiii and 219 pp. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993, $27.95. Among current trends in humanistic scholarship, one of the most striking is the proliferation of books and articles devoted to interpreting their subjects from perspectives avowedly derived from seminal thinkers. Thus, "Kierkegaardian " critiques seem to be proffered on coundess topics and texts, as do interpretations dubbed "Nietzschean," "Lacanian," "Derridean," etc. (In addition to this book by Ronald L. Hall, consider, for example, Walter Reed's recent "Bakhtinian" exegesis of the Bible, also reviewed by me in thisjournal's present issue.) The quality and worth of any such critique can be judged on three criteria. Is the critique faithful to the thinker from whom it derives its hermeneutic? Does the critique enhance our understanding of diat thinker's ideas and writings? Does the critique illuminate its subject (in this case modernity) in a new and meaningful way? Hall's book succeeds in all three respects, especially the latter two. Asserting that human being is defined by the call to speak (chap. 2), he contributes importantly to our understanding of both Kierkegaard's thought and modernity through a constructive use of Author A's distinction in Either/Or (vol. 1) between the "psychical" and the "pneumatic" qualifications of the self. In pagan Greek consciousness, the self is qualified as psyche (soul), situated in static harmony with the sensuous world; in Christian consciousness the self is qualified as pneuma (spirit), existing in dynamic conflict with the sensuous (chap. 1). Extrapolating from this distinction, Hall reiterates A's claim that Christianity "introduced" sensuality into the world by making possible an absolute severance ofspiritfrom sensuality. Christianity, in displacing paganism's static, "psychical/aesthetic" depiction of the selfs relation to the world, depicted the selfin a dialectical, "sundered/bonded," "pneumatic/existential" relation. But modernity perverts this relation into a "pneumatic/aesthetic" misrelation that "sunders" the self from the world, resulting in two forms of worldlessness: "demonic sensuality," or passion without reflection, as epitomized by Mozart's Don Giovanni; and "demonic spirituality," or reflection without passion, as epitomized by Goeure's Faust (chaps. 3-4). Reviews161 These extrapolations support three theses derived from Kierkegaard. (1) The modern age is essentially "demonic" because of its "spiritual denial of the spirit [sic]" (p. 4). (2) Music, a "nonreflexive semantic medium . . . perfectly suited to expressing the spirit of discarnate rebelliousness," is the "perfect" medium for the demonic (p. 53). Thus (3) modernity, finding its supreme expression in music, finds co-avatars in Don Giovanni, whose "hovering" existence as indifferent seducer can only be expressed truly in musical tone, and Faust, whose distrust of speech {das Wort) and avoidance of worldly responsibility effect "a musicalization of self and world" (p. 132). Hall persuasively concludes that the reduction of writing and speech to a kind of unreflexive, rootless music by Derrida and other postmodernists is ironically not a poiftnodernist act, but represents the final triumph of "demonic," "musical" modernity (chap. 5). Hall pleads for restoring "reflexively integral speech" (p. 202), which in effect reaffirms what George Steiner has termed (in a book [1989] Hall does not mention) the "real presences" behind language and "the covenant between word and world." Is Hall's "Kierkegaardian Critique" faithful to Kierkegaard? Drawing mainly upon Either/Or (vol. 1) and much less so upon five of Kierkegaard's other pseudonymous works, Hall employs all six skillfully. However, other texts should have been consulted as well. Given Hall's task of "ferretfing] out Kierkegaard's own voice ... to show its critical bearing on modernity and the postmodern reaction to modernity" (p. 5), might nothing pertinent be gleaned from what is said about modernity in Kierkegaard's/crarraais, or in his analysis of the "present age" in Two Ages} More specifically, Hall's stress on Kierkegaard's apparent linkage of freedom, spirit, and faith with speech might need to be qualified, given the emphasis on the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 160-161
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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