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Reviews167 shared purpose—what might be called mutual creative articulation or constructiveness . Happiness in relationships, rather than a mere sensation, is bound up with a lived understanding of oneself and the other and the relationship achieved. While the thought in the introductory chapters is sophisticated and subde, I found the style there uninvitingly dense. By contrast, the later discussion of the literary examples is absorbing, especially in its consideration of Pride and Prejudice. Some contemporary versions of virtue ethics, however, with their emphasis both on the character ofthe agent and on the context ofaction, might be thought to provide a congenial philosophical framework for Eldridge's analysis . It is therefore disappointing that he chooses not to discuss them. University of AucklandStephen Davies The Politics ofLiterary Reputation: The Making and Claiming of"St. George" Orwell, byJohn Rodden; xiii & 478 pp. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989, $27.50. "The words of a dead man," Auden reminds us in his elegy, "In Memory of W. B. Yeats," "Are modified in the guts of the living." This sea change, the process through which the work of a real author is transformed into the rich and strange alimentary substances that satisfy a bewildering variety of hungers, is the subject ofJohn Rodden's ground-breaking study of literary reputations. His double task is suggested by the book's title and subtide: to provide a general theory of how cultural politics shape a writer's public image; to offer a case study of this process in the extraordinary reception of Orwell's work. A sophisticated theory of how literary reputations are established is long overdue. Despite the wide interest in reader-response theory and Rezeptions- ästhetik, these critical modes tend to fabricate an ideal reader rather than investigate real responses of particular readers. Rodden's method shifts the focus from what he calls the "single, unified, and abstract" reading public to "the actual historical receiver" (p. 70). Or rather, receivers: he demonstrates that a writer's work is read in contradictory ways, and that its reception is determined as much by the reader's idiosyncratic needs as by the work's intrinsic features. Reception, in this view, is contingent and beyond authorial control. It is shaped by various extra-textual forces—the hunger for gurus, coterie politics, institutional needs, historical accidents. The second and much longer part of Rodden's book analyzes exactly how 168Philosophy and Literature Orwell's work was appropriated by a wide range of individuals, groups, and institutions that found it useful—mandarins and populists, ideologues of left, right, and center, feminists, millennialists,journalists, advertisers. In each case, Rodden shows, the particular "receiver" reduces Orwell's multifaceted identity to a single "face" that suits the interpreter's needs. The varied career is first transformed into the unitary, static figure "Orwell" and then further reduced to match one of his predictable images: "rebel," "common man," "prophet," "saint." Rodden demonstrates that readers and movements produce a simplified or distorted "Orwell" that functions as positive or negative proof for their own ideological imperatives. In short, "we construct the Orwells we need" (p. 355). Rodden's detailed evidence is so conclusive that it tempts one to see reading as a Rorschach test and books as inkblots. He sees Orwell as "a human kaleidoscope whose variegated imagery has represented nearly all things to all people" (p. 400). His sense of the likelihood of objective reading is radically skeptical, despite his attempt to distinguish "portraits" from "caricatures" and his own awareness of the irreducible variety and complexity of Orwell's work. Rodden believes too strongly in authorial intention to ally himself with deconstruction , yet the evidence he accumulates confirms, perhaps unintentionally and certainly not in a celebratory fashion, the vision of the mythical author, the imperial reader, and the infinitely malleable text that that critical movement has popularized. Such conclusions will not hold for all reception histories. Here we are up against the inherent difficulty of using a particular case to construct a general theory. Orwell's career was in many ways unrepresentative. Its atypical elements gready destabilized his reception. He shunned literary movements; he wrote in a variety of genres and for disparate audiences; he was taken up by...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 167-168
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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