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296Philosophy and Literature is faced with die inevitable questions involving die definition of genre and the aesthetic limitations of genre, he skirts the issues. Is fantasy as a genre incapable of great art? Are aesthetic values, or limitations on aesthetic value, implied by the concept ofgenre, in particular , die modern fantasy? It is almost as if there is, in diis book, a separation of critical practice and critical theory, reminiscent of the split between story and significance often characteristic of fantasy literature. The substance ofhis book points to an aesdietic indictment of the genre, but his tone, especially at die end, is that ofa defender. Overall, then, the book is valuable for die reader interested in philosophic perspectives on literature precisely because it helps to focus and to pose interesting aesthetic problems about modern fantasy. Its limitations, at least for this reader, stem from the sense that the questions die book raises should lead to an even more valuable study than diis. Philadelphia College of ArtSusan T. Viguers T. S. Eliot and the Poetics ofLiterary History, by Gregory S. Jay; xii & 256 pp. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983, $27.50. T. S. Eliot's formidable legacy to poetry and criticism provoked a formidable critical response. Nevertheless, Gregory S. Jay sees Eliot as neglected and misunderstood by postmodernist criticism. Jay ventures to add diis study to die massive critical literature to demonstrate Eliot's relevance to contemporary criticism and related philosophical dunking , basing his book on the observation that "many of the issues now debated in dieoretical circles — influence, originality, authority, genealogy, repetition, difference, structure — are die very problems that generate Eliot's poetics." To reintroduce and reinterpret Eliot, Jay moves dirough the entire "corpus" (Eliot's term), applying the mediodologies of structuralism, deconstruction, phenomenological and "reader-response" criticism, and psychoanalytic criticism. Unlike most critics, who tend to study Eliot's work segmentally, Jay establishes unusual breadth with this movement from the dissertation (published as Knowledge and Experience) dirough die poetry and die plays. Structuring his examination on the basis of Eliot's developing concept of the tradition, Jay clarifies the dynamic elements shaping Eliot's work and illuminates die concepts, images, patterns, and passages. Jay characterizes his book as having a "double life: as a reading of Eliot and as a work in critical dieory." This double enterprise for die most part succeeds. Establishing first Eliot's American genealogy — the source of "préfigurations" —Jay shows Eliot's evolution from a poet "daemonically possessed" by earlier poetic figures, such as FitzGerald (of The Rubáiyát) and the Romantics, to one able to assimilate and transfigure his precursors, such as Dante. In die process of recognizing that every poet creates his own precursors, Eliot forged his critical thesis: the necessity of the writer's living relation to a tradition. Perceiving that "Tradition was Eliot's word for the intertextual debate of the past, present, and future voices,"Jay explains Eliot's concept in many ways, illustrating that Eliot uses diis "holdover" term to express a past that both haunts and autiiorizes. Utilizing the concept of "archaeology" as Foucault applied it in his philosophy of history, Jay conceives of Eliot and other modernists as "literary archaeologists," writers Reviews297 who adapted to their use the nineteenth-century view of die "privilege" of die historical mode over other modes of knowing. This archaeological approach may be described another way, as Eliot's dialectic of the tradition. It is an arduous method, requiring of the poet sacrifice, loss, and, as Eliot said, "great labour." Using psychoanalytic criticism, Jay suggests that Eliot's images of castration and dismemberment express not only Eliot's personal anxieties but also, more importandy, die difficult process of his creativity. Although sometimes stretched, as Jay admits, psychoanalytic criticism serves him in several ways. It enables him to relate to autobiographical elements and to elucidate hidden determinants in the poetry. It allows him to assert that Eliot's "social criticism is a poem," a view that deals with Eliot's sometimes "embarrassing" tendency to forget that the concepts of the social essays might be "creative fictions." And it underlies the most thorough, original exegesis, the three chapters diat present The...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 296-297
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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