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Shorter Reviews251 a longstanding philosophical controversy. Fowler's essay on the historical life of literary forms might well interest philosophers who, like Nelson Goodman, regard art as something like a language and those who, like George Dickie, attempt an institutional analysis of art and criticism. Philosopher Louis O. Mink observes "that the task of philosophy is to make explicit the patterns of rational inference which inform complex thinking of all sorts" (p. 109) and explores how we understand narratives. Mink thinks through his argument before the reader more carefully than anyone else in the volume. The less satisfactory aspects of the volume stem largely from the state of the field. The collection has less coherence than Cohen indicates in his introduction. But, again, this is an area of critical theory where fresh starts are needed, and there is no reason that a survey of these starts should turn up a firm pattern. Some of the best essays seem too short, and one suspects that their authors were led by the critical void in the area to squeeze a book-length proposal into the space of an article. None of these problems of focus or scope detracts from the value of the collection. For critics or philosophers still unacquainted with this lively area of critical theory, the volume offers a suggestive introduction to the current issues in the field and to the work of several influential figures in the revival. State University of New York at Stony BrookBruce Bashford Modern Critical Theory: A Phenomenological Introduction, by Michael Murray; pp. ? & 233. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1975, 47.50 guilders (approx. $21.00). The method of this book is an interesting and intellectually challenging one. Recognizing that "Anglo-American literary criticism suffers from an extremely underdeveloped theoretical reflection on the nature of its enterprise and its place in the landscape of the humanities" (p. ix), Murray proposes a remedy by undertaking a "theoretico-historical" analysis of what he calls the "critical situation"—the subject of his first chapter. Here we see that the fundamental task of criticism is (and Murray paraphrases from Hubert's L'Esthétique des Fleurs du mal) "to inquire: What can we say about the relationship between the 'universe of the poem' and the 'universe of man'?" (p. 2). This enterprise is best begun, Murray argues, by looking at the wellsprings of modern criticism: Plato, Aristotle, and Augustine. By examining such historical dimensions , we lay the proper foundation for a reassessment of the critical situation. The historical analysis is strategically brief and to the point. It argues the novel, but not unprecedented, position that it is Plato and not Aristotle who is the real partisan of poetry in the ancient world. Plato recognized the creative function of language in the disclosure of truth and sought to distinguish true poetry from false poetry. Aristotle did not (and neither did, according to Murray, 252Philosophy and Literature Dante or Augustine or Aquinas), seeking only to determine the structures of the various forms of poetry and thereby abrogating the aesthetic relevance of the question of truth. From analysis of the basic features of ancient aesthetics, Murray proceeds to a brief but effective commentary on what he calls the modern critical tradition: I. A. Richards, the New Critics, the Chicago Critics, and what are termed the "Old Critics." Ultimately it is the "New Hermeneutic" which Murray suggests will rectify the shortcomings of the critical tradition which he has been at pains to elucidate. And it is this strategic move which attempts the rapprochement between phenomenological theory and critical act. The third and final section of the text is devoted to an exposition of the central concepts of the "New Hermeneutic" and to augmenting the proposition that contemporary phenomenology provides the focus on the linguistic character of art (poetry) essential to the redemption of modern criticism. It is a sweepingand inclusive argument, ideologically motivated by the author's strong desire to demonstrate the crucial relevance of phenomenology to the critical act. While we may not be willing to concur that the bridge has been solidly built, the relevance has surely been demonstrated. This is important for several reasons, not the least of which is that Murray...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 251-252
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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