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244Philosophy and Literature grace) through achieving balance, comprehensive understanding, and tension of a creative kind (passion). The remaining chapters, even the final one, are devoted to summaries of various superior and inferior works, and to discussions sometimes relevant to his point about proper balance in the best writings only. No systematic conclusions are duly worked out anywhere. Two quite different ideas of reconciliation-and-creative-tension seem to be conflated. One is philosophical, as promised, but we only find it at all clearly and appropriately pursued with regard to a few personal leanings at the end of the chapter on Lord Jim (pp. 106-107). Gekoski's second idea is not philosophical but "purely" literary: in Conrad's most moving and best crafted writings he seeks to describe situations of human beings in ways which are profound, but apparently opposed. A related, unphilosophical point is that, when Conrad drops the tensions and moralizes too conventionally without "existential" contrasts, his work, especially the work of his last decade, may deservedly bore us (cf. p. 137). Apart from confusing these objectives, the author in his surveys knocks into a baffling array of Philosophical Opposites. He talks either as if some of these were identical (!) with Conrad's two views of man, or as if members of each new set of opposites had been clearly identified and distinguished, so as to fit obviously into one or the other of those two (and only two) Conradian world views. He appears, for example, unaware of reasons why "autonomy" in one sense might pertain to one sort of Ism and in another sense to another, incompatible kind. Hence there is too little obvious relation between all the later enigmas and the Isms gestured at when chapter one begins. As for his purported paradoxes, Gekoski—like Conrad's soul—should really work at Aristotle's naturalist ethics and Elizabeth Anscombe's classic essay, "Modern Moral Philosophy." University of AlbertaJohn King-Farlow Neil DeCorby Writing and Difference, by Jacques Derrida, trans. Alan Bass; xx & 342 pp. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978, $20.00 "Deconstruction" is by now a household word, and "Derrida" a sacred name, among students of literature. Even a few philosophers raise a mildly interested eyebrow when the name is mentioned. It was to be expected, therefore, that Derrida's works would appear in English translation, as his two other publications of 1967 have already done. Two questions arise on any such occasion: is it worth doing and has it been done well? Is it worth doing? I have taught other texts of Derrida in translation and have found them not intractable. Speech and Phenomena, in particular, fits in well with other French philosophical responses to Husserl, and, like some of Shorter Reviews245 the essays in the collection under review, is still sufficiently, should I say, academic in style to bear translation without absolute disaster. The closer his essays come to literature, however, and the more exclusively French his subject matter (as: Artaud, Bataille, Blanchot, etc.), the less appropriate does publication in another language seem. The writers he is commenting on are unknown to his readers, and the play (game?) with his own language characteristic of his style must be partly neglected, partly explained with a laboriousness that negates that very playfulness. This is not said in disrespect of the method— though it may well show incomprehension to call it a "method"—but rather with the thought that the best rendering of Derrida in English is criticism practiced in English in the spirit of his enterprise, as, for example, by Hartman, Mehlman, or Ferguson. Sometimes translation is not the best translation. If it is done, though, is it (relatively) well done here? On the whole, Bass has done a better job than some translators of French philosophy. He has tried very hard to deal with Derrida's language games, although one has to keep consulting the footnotes to find out—and sometimes he just leaves bits untranslated. Sometimes, too, he misses a bit of ambiguity he could have kept in English. Occasionally, for all his hard work, he produces a surprising schoolboyish literal rendering. And he has some annoying turns of phrase, like "principled" for "essential...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 244-245
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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