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304Philosophy and Literature comments about die work of Aeschylus, Dante, and Shakespeare. He also provides insights into the philosophical and theological views of many of the audiors he analyzes. In discussing that archetypal action which he evidently believes is most significant for culture — pursuing consummation — he deftly moves from Everyman, Moby Dick, and The Song ofSongs to The Heart ofDarkness, Wuthering Heights, and A Portrait oftheArtist as a Young Man and then examines the "mode of affirmation" in the science fiction ofOlaf Stapledon and Arthur C. Clarke. Elsbree in attempting to illustrate his basic concepts fails to take into account the complexities of some ofhis selected audiors. He speaks, for example, of Flannery O'Connor's "Jansenist view of tilings" and says: "For city people O'Connor has almost no hope whatsoever , since the city is 'nowhere', the place of the doubly damned because diey do not even have the capacity for guilt" (p. 63). Yet in one of her best stories, "The Artificial Nigger," OConnor depicts die redeeming quality of die black community of a soudiern city. Other sweeping statements are easily detected, yet Elsbree nevertheless has written a perceptive book, one whose comments illuminate many individual works as well as whole movements in literature. He is particularly good when he discusses the relationship between contemporEiry literature and die film, and he succeeds in showing how archetypal actions, as he defines diem, help us understand the relationship between the imaginative narratives and our most important cultural activities. In doing this he defines the meaning of universality in literature. His aim in dealing with this worn-out concept is to relate the discussion ofliterature to individual experience in modern culture. He is at least partly successful in achieving this aim. For all his excellent insights, Elsbree fails to work out in detail his own basic concepts. He relies heavily on concepts of the sacred and the profane but never once refers to Mircea Eliade, who wrote most effectively on these ideas. He refers toJung several times but never discusses that psychologist's theory of the archetypes. He tells us that the warrior has "at least a thousand faces," but he never mentionsJoseph Campbell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces nor Joyce's concept of the "monomyth" that inspired Campbell's work. Because the audior is neither philosophical nor scholarly enough in exploring his own basic concepts, I do not think his book can be called a work of "philosophical anthropology ," yet it is an excellent and provocative work of literary criticism that, among other things, challenges some of the philosophical theories of our leading myth critic, Northrop Frye, and goes on, in its conclusion, to suggest ways diat people can and still do use stories to affirm humEinity Eind restore culturEil values. Georgia State UniversityTed R. Spivey Literature and Possible Worlds, by Doreen Maitre; 128 pp. London: Middlesex Polytechnic Press, 1983, £9.50. How do die events and objects described in fiction — some realistic, but some quite fantastic — become intelligible to us as we read about them? And how does it come about diat Reviews305 our understanding of them can influence our understanding of things in the real world? These are the main questions Maître sets herself to answer. She associates with each work of fiction a merely possible world "created" by its author (p. 22). For each of these worlds, as for die actual world, there are underlying physical laws and generalizations about psychological tendencies in virtue of which it is intelligible. As die reader of a novel proceeds , piling fact upon fact about a fictional world, he seeks the underlying generalizations and factual conditions that will most coherently explain the events he is reading about. What he will be willing to accept as explanation will depend on the genre of the work in question. The mental faculty undertaking most of this work is the imagination. Just as happens when we are considering actual events, our imaginations cast up explanatory hypodieses to us as we read. The worlds offiction are like the real one in that they are intelligible and contain particulars, but they are unlike it because they are "indeterminate" and "lack the plenitude of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 304-305
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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