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Shorter Reviews245 ethical absolutes which are traditionally the province of pastoral and romance; and the area of conflict between the private and the public sphere. The last chapter investigates some of the manifestations of historical-philosophical thought in historical drama, for instance the dramatists' fascination with power or with the historical process. All this makes stimulating reading and this reviewer, at least, is grateful that the book nowhere bogs down in ideological dogma, in jargon, in vast generalization, or in value judgments as to whether or not this or that dramatist is "really" interested in, true to, history. Mr. Lindenberger wishes to encourage in his reader an "exploratory attitude and the spirit of intellectual play" (p. xi) and admirably succeeds in doing just that. One might quarrel with some individual points of interpretation (repeatedly, I found myself wishing to modify interpretations of Brecht or of Weiss). But such disagreements add to the fun. The book should be useful in courses on drama and literary theory in all the modern languages and in philosophy and literature. One hopes it will stimulate further discussion of historical writingalongthe lines Mr. Lindenberger suggests. A detailed index increases the usefulness of the volume. University of California, Santa BarbaraUrsula Mahlendorf The Story-Shaped World: Fiction and Metaphysics—Some Variations on a Theme, by Brian Wicker; pp. viii & 230. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975, $12.95. Brian Wicker has prepared for his readers a concoction which suggests the laboratory of an encyclopedic autodidact who is also an eclectic amateur spokesman for Vatican II. But if readers are prepared in advance for much heavy going—ungraced by the comfort of a first rate literary style or even a Second Class philosophical sense of clarity and structure—they can still hope to find some reward in scattered passages of extremely interesting discussion. There are several intriguing suggestions about differences between the New Testament and many parts of the Old. The disquisitions on Beckett and Mailer may not excite many, but some of the extended comments on Lawrence, Joyce, Waugh and Robbe-Grillet are useful and graciously offered. This short book is about a great many things, too many things. Here are two explanations by Wicker himself of what he is trying to do: (A) "We have been saying for a long time now that literature is an indispensable witness in the courts of the philosopher and the theologian; and conversely that the literary critic can no longer afford to be a mere visitor in the territory of the speculative thinker. In this book I have tried to bear witness in two places at once, by discussing some common themes from both points of view. In Part 246Philosophy and Literature One I have tried to explore die philosophical and theological implications of two main ideas: the idea that metaphor, especially as understood by linguists, is endemic to all forms of communication since it is simply one of the two 'poles' of language itself; and the idea that metaphor is never an 'innocent' figure but always implies a subterranean metaphysics. In Part Two I try to show how the conclusions drawn from these provocative and sometimes unwelcome thoughts illumine the work of various modern writers of fiction" (p. vi). (B) "But it is to my purpose to draw attention to a remarkable parallel between the current literary debate about the vocabulary appropriate to fiction and a corresponding debate about the appropriate language for describing religious experience" (p. 4). The best way to free readers to hunt down what is valuable in The Story-Shaped World is for reviewers to warn them in advance of the irritations which must be overlooked. Wicker is likely to embarrass Roman Catholics, while infuriating other readers who respect his faith, by so crudely injecting into such inquiries the message woven between some of his lines and threaded across a few others: all roads can lead the enlightened to God, and most roads can lead the most enlightened to the Christianity of Greene and Waugh (or at least to that of T. S. Eliot). This is unfortunate because Wicker consequently flutters between wisdom and dogmatic absurdity when he righdy looks at language and literature...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 245-247
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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