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Reviews151 Question and Answer: Forms ofDialogic Understanding, by Hans RobertJauss; edited, translated, with a foreword by Michael Hays; ? & 283 pp. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989, $45.00 cloth, $16.95 paper. Hans RobertJauss is one ofthe founding members of the so-called Constance School of reception history and aesthetics. The essays translated in this volume are drawn from his Aestheüsche Erfahrungund literarische Hermeneutik (Suhrkamp, 1982), and represent the latest refinement of his thought. By yoking the problematics of the question with that of dialogue, the tide chosen for this English version points not only toJauss's central theme but also to the philosophical currents that converge in this book. The first derives from Collingwood's argument—in his Autobiography—that genuine historical understanding requires us to discover the question to which a given artefact or event was the answer. Reflecting on this suggestion in the context of Heidegger's hermeneutics, Gadamer stressed "the priority ofthe question" and showed how the Socratic dialogue could be considered a model for historical inquiry. Jauss brings this line of thought into conjunction with Mikhail Bakhtin's theory of the "dialogic" character of language. In the concluding essay, "Horizon Structure and Dialogicity," he argues that the apparent contradiction between Gadamer 's insistence on the historicity ofunderstanding and his notion ofa "fusion of horizons" can be resolved by recourse to a dialogical model of the relation between past and present horizons. This is not an easybook to read, despite Michael Hays's accurate and generally idiomatic translation. The vast range of references inspired by Jauss's encyclopedic learning, coupled with an unavoidably Germanic syntax and a highly abstract vocabulary, can make for pretty tough going at times. But the reader's effort is rewarded by insights into some of the central issues of literary theory and by a plethora of stimulating comments on literary history and texts from the Old Testament to Rousseau, Goethe, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. Jauss's essay on Le Neveu de Rameau is a striking example of his method. Situating Diderot's text in the tradition of the Socratic dialogue, he argues that contrary to what one might expect, Diderot casts Lui (the cynical, ne'er-do-well, musician-parasite Rameau), and not Moi (the "philosopher"), in the Socratic role of questioner. In doing so, Diderot transforms the asymmetry of the magisterial dialogue: "he dismandes the authority of the teacher, grants the countervoice equal status, and gives the conversational openness thus recovered a new sharpness by employing a casuistry of question and answer." Jauss then shows how Hegel's interpretation of Le Neveu in the Phenomenology develops this alteration of traditional roles, treating the "philosopher" as representative of the naive consciousness supplanted by the modern, divided consciousness (Rameau) in the dialectical return of Spirit toward itself. Although Hegel's 152Philosophy and Literature reception of Diderot's dialogue brings out a significance that could not have been intended by Diderot, Jauss treats this not as an error, but as an unfolding ofthe latent meaning ofthe work through history. Noting that Hegel's reading nevertheless seems to reduce Diderot's philosopher to a moment in a dialectic that transcends and subsumes him, Jauss closes his essay with a question: does the dialectic necessarily close off a continuing dialogue, or could it "allow new truth to arise from a polyphony of voices without garnering for the voice of the other the unhappy fate that awaits Diderot's philosopher in Hegel's interpretation " (p. 147)? Like Bakhtin's, Jauss's commitment to dialogue is based on respect for the voice of the Other. His book is full of references to fellow scholars, in whose work he almost invariably finds something valuable; it is refreshingly free of polemics. For all its imposing erudition,Jauss's discourse remains open, weaving together a chorus of voices, and always questioning. University of OregonSteven Rendall The Bible as Rhetoric: Studies in Biblical Persuasion and Credibility, edited by Martin Warner; ? Sc 236 pp. London: Roudedge, 1990, $55.00. For the general topic of this eighth volume of the Warwick Studies in Philosophy and Literature, Warner has proposed "the ways in which persuasive (and related literary) procedures of the biblical writers cut across...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 151-152
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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