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Reviews171 lead him into two difficulties. At times the thread that connects the various thinkers under consideration gets lost, and the reader is left wandering after Bruns wherever his imagination takes him. More important, Bruns's desire to critique the narrowly conceived definition of hermeneutics as interpretive methodology produces a history of hermeneutics in which everyone sounds like Heidegger. His description of ancient Biblical commentator PhiloJudaeus, for example, reads exactly like his descriptions of Luther, Gadamer, or the interpreters of the Torah: "Philo's practice presupposes a hermeneutical situation in which text and interpreter are not sealed off from each other but are caught up in a complicated mutual appropriation" (p. 102). The title and structure of Bruns's book promise an elucidation of some distinction between ancient and modern hermeneutics; if such a distinction exists, it never clearly emerges from Bruns's wanderings. Despite these flaws, philosophers should appreciate Bruns's considerable depth in issues in contemporary philosophy, and literary theorists should benefit from his philosophically grounded reflections on a variety of works of literature and criticism. Northwestern UniversityJames M. Lang Originary Thinking: Elements of Generative Anthropology, by Eric Gans; 225 pp. Stanford: Stanford University Press, $32.50. This is an important book; it makes a simple and eminendy reasonable demand of academics, though one that is rarely met. Generative anthropology asks us to focus on the unity of our species intensely and rigorously enough to entertain a hypothesis of human origins that is congruent with our entire cultural evolution, from ritual beginnings through free market consumerism. It is a long haul and multidimensional project, spanning countless articles and three earlier volumes—The Origin ofLanguage, 1981; The End of Culture, 1985; Science and Faith, 1990. Originary Thinkingviernes the essential strands of these earlier works around aesthetics, which it reads as a "discovery procedure" en route to a properly scientific study of human culture. Along the way it regales the reader with stunning insights into classical, neoclassical, romantic, modernist , and postmodernist anthropologies that complement even while trying to negate each other. Gans departs from a single, simple idea and expands it maximally and, I think, optimally. The founding idea is René Girard's, namely that desire is mimetic; it imitates other desires in its choice of objects and therefore leads to 172Philosophy and Literature conflict when desires converge on the same object. Gans's originary hypothesis conceives the birtfi of language, and therefore of what is properly human, in the collective, mimetic designation of a central object that is sought by all surrounding it, and that is therefore dangerous for any to appropriate. Language emerges as a remedy to the violence of a species that, as ethology studies suggest, is "too mimetic to remain animal." Human culture is born and thereafter defined for all time as "die deferral of violence through signs." This fundamental structure ofsacred center and desiring periphery remains the constant, the cultural invariant, in Gans's analyses, which read human progress as essentially centrifugal in its self-understanding. In our social arrangements and political organizations, we have been moving from an increasingly desacralized center towards a commensurately omnicentric periphery , via die dialectics and detours of resentful desire which at times interrogates its object, at times its ubiquitous rivals. Resentment is a key concept in human relations throughout these pages, die role of culture being to regulate its dynamics and of aesthetics to interpret them. Classical tragedy highlights the profane resentment towards a humanly occupied center, while comedy diematizes the unwordiiness ofjust any one to occupy it. Neoclassical aesthetics is Christianity's decisive contribution, variously formulating the insight, requisite to all theologies but also to humanistic inquiry, of God's definitive absence. The periphery expands, notionally and otherwise. Romanticism, signally with Rousseau and Hugo as archetypes, makes its home in resentment, resacralizing a self in unwitting collusion with a market society it stridendy and futilely opposes. Postromanticism, with Manet and Flaubert for instance, reacts by ironically insisting on the central object's unwordiiness of desire. Modernism naturalizes and therefore somewhat democratizes desire in its decentralizing impulse, that is in its ambivalence toward a center which it knows—Duchamp's urinal to witness—anything can occupy. This in turn...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 171-172
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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