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Reviews189 early twentieth century coincided with a renewed concern with scientific realism in the case ofwave theory. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the relation between taxonomic systems and the zoological species they "ostensibly catalogued" was particularly ambiguous according to Harriet Ritvo. And in a fascinating essay, LudmillaJordanova considers the complex role of science museums in their display of reality, noting that they create "relationships . . . between onlookers and objects . . . diat pertain rather to the realm of fantasy than to knowledge." The only proponent of what Levine calls "strong realism" in the volume is Paisley Livingston who argues that "scientific realism matter[s] to literary knowledge." What such "literary knowledge" is, however, or why it should matter, remains unclear. Does it refer merely to quasi-scientific knowledge about literature, or, more suggestively (as Livingston hints all too briefly), to literary and mythopoetic insights about human nature such as those detected by René Girard (or, one might have added, Vico in his appropriately titled New Science)? Because such "strange" knowledge doesn't fit accepted scientific criteria, it is likely to be passed over unless alternative criteria and models of realism and knowledge can be developed. In a final attempt to salvage realism, Bruce Robbins suggests that we forego epistemological discussions about "the accuracy of scientific representations" and aesthetic approaches that consider realism "as a form or period"; instead, reality should be thought of "as a continuing social project that (in some form) one might still want to sign onto." Such a notion has a certain appeal until one considers that whatever social project one might sign onto is not reality, but precisely one of those "symmetr[ies] with a semblance of order" described by Borges—fictions like "dialectical materialism, anti-Semitism, [or] Nazism" that are "sufficient to entrance the minds of men." Realism is not so easily rehabilitated (or dismissed) as a social specter, but—as the rich exchange of views in this volume admirably shows—must be strenuously debated from a variety of positions by each new generation of theorists. University of GeorgiaJoel Black The Poetic Structure of the World: Copernicus and Kepler, by Fernand Hallyn; translated by Donald M. Leslie; 367 pp. New York: Zone Books, 1993, $23.95 cloth, $16.95 paper. Fernand Hallyn's The Poetic Structure of the World transcends its locus in the Renaissance, merging into that genre of texts which theorize scientific change. In its potential application, it could have the impact of Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, approaching the mechanism of change in terms that 190Philosophy and Literature complement that text. Kuhn argues that change results when science culture radically breaks with prior models. Hallyn, however, focuses on how new hypodieses are chosen, and argues that the process is not delimited by "science," but is conditioned by a cultural dynamic in which science, art, indeed contemporary notions of representation and symbolology, constitute an intertext. Hallyn's approach to imaginative discretion develops the Foucauldian "episteme" beyond mere delineation of homologies, which he suggests do not explain "what happens" (p. 113). Hallyn asks how the individual acts to produce revision both implicated in cultural problemata but consequent upon choice. Hallyn's analysis does not depend upon premodern discursive practices in which science was not a "discipline," set apart from other forms of rhetoric. He proceeds radier from an assumption that intertextuality itself drives the interanimation of cultural projects. His analysis has a postmodern resonance. Though numerous scholars, particularly feminists, have shown that science is not remote from cultural imperatives, no one has demonstrated so forcefully the embeddedness of science in complex cultural exchanges ranging across music, rhetoric, architecture, and art. Hallyn's discussion of Copernicus illustrates how the astronomer's concern with cosmic "symmetry," the proportional relation of parts of the universe to each other, was "not limited to the history of astronomy, but bound up with general aesthetic tendencies during the Renaissance" (p. 74). Ptolemy had described each planet's motion, but not the planets' relations. In De revolutionibus, Copernicus applies a perspective diat produces symmetry. Hallyn argues that Copernicus's choice of perceptual stance is culture-driven, implicit in the Renaissance discovery of a "perspective" that coherendy organizes the world into art...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 189-191
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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