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Reviews159 culture, even in advertising—usually seen by critical theory as epitomizing the "consumptive" society—by distinguishing between "true" and "false" needs. Kellner leaves the latter suggestion and much else in his own version of critical theory as promissory notes—including his claim of affinities between critical theory and postmodernism. Their common stand against modernism, however, does not, as he recognizes, preclude antagonism between them. So far as he does tip his hand, his suggestions seem virtually apolitical, moving from high abstraction at one extreme directly to micropolitics (as in environmental issues) at the other. This seems an unlikely strategy, but it does not affect the larger argument that Kellner makes persuasively—that any social or cultural or intellectual theory hoping to make sense of the whole will come from or at least resemble critical theory in its rigorous analysis of the relations, at the juncture of theory and practice, between the parts and the whole and of the parts to each other. State University of New York at AlbanyBerel Lang The Novel According to Cervantes, by Stephen Gilman; xvii & 197 pp. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989, $30.00. Professor of Spanish at Harvard until his death in 1986, Gilman has left a final book shimmering with years of thinking lucidly about a subject he knew in great depth. It reaffirms our faith in both Cervantes's work and in the genre to which he gave birth, which he invented and discovered. The juxtaposition of those three verbs to describe the creative process that resulted in "the exemplary novel of all time" (pp. xiii-xiv) is Gilman's. Each is the title of one of the three essays written by Gilman at different times that, along with a prior chapter entided "Definition," have been revised and brought together smoothly, if not completely organically. What Gilman means by a novel is defined by the narrative's effect on the reader, and to qualify it must provide both adventure—excitement that draws us powerfully into the characters' sensations and feelings—and experience—what is learned by reflection on the lessons taught in the school of vicarious hard knocks. Successful novels give us bated breath and white knuckles, as well as hindsightin advance to avoid others' madness and a glimpse ofwhat the passage oftime may whisper about the meaning ofour own lives. It seems an eminendy 160Philosophy and Literature sane and wise recasting of Horace's dictum that literature must be "sweet and useful." But how do novelists accomplish this fusion of emotion and wisdom? By making us, Gilman asserts, get inside highly energized individuals who, like Don Quixote, live intensely, often obsessively, trying, in spite of repeated frustration and with tragicomic results, to impose their idea of order on existence. Gilman seems to agree with Unamuno's pioneering existential view that authentic —or should one say, magnetic—lives are driven by a proyecto vital. Still, intensity is not enough. There must be as well an unrefusable invitation to reflect, and therein lies the importance of the famous Cervantine irony. The novelist often communicates "over the characters' heads" (p. 42), suggesting we think about an alternative understanding of the action. The "perspectivism" ofthe search for elusive human truth present in Don Çhiixote strongly reinforces this property of the book's irony, but Gilman views the latter as primary. His explanation of how it came to characterize Cervantes's vision and style is convincing and stems from Hispanism's comparatively recent recognition that Cervantes was an outsider in the grandiosely self-congratulatory yet catastrophically flawed empire of 1600. Not only had he fought and endured captivity heroically for king and country only to return to ingratitude and hardship, but he was also very probably a converso, part ofthe class ofpersecuted descendants of Jews whose intellectuals often took refuge in black humor, opening the way for the creation ofthe picaresque deflation ofofficial optimism. The other three chapters, while not as exhilaratingly panoramic, show a similarly happy conjunction of close reading of the text with placing it in the contextofhistory—literary, national, and personal. The second chapterrevolves around the idea of interruption; by authorial irony that deepens, by thematic broadening through interpolated stories, and in the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 159-160
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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