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Shorter Reviews121 The main contribution of Nuttall's book is not in his knowledgeable but ordinary comments on the philosophers nor in his weak attempts to refute solipsism, but in his insights into fictional and poetic works. Here his thesis stimulates him to illuminating analyses. Typical is his interpretation of Wordsworth . He shows that Wordsworth as a boy felt intimations of the unreality of physical objects: "I was often unable to think of external things as having external existence .... Many times when going to school I have grasped at a wall or tree to recall myself from the abyss of idealism . . ." (p. 253). In the light of this temperamental solipsism, Nuttall claims that, rather than springing from Coleridge's sense of imagination as fancy, Wordsworth's poetry is the work of the primary imagination which is essentially cognitive, giving us a picture of the real, public world of objects of perception. "Wordsworth's poetry pleads continually for something resembling an epistemological conversion in the reader" (p. 126). Nuttall notes that we do not normally mention that which is obvious. Thus, literature for many centuries did not focus on the obvious presence of physical objects. In a world which has philosophical or other doubts about the reality of objects, however, it makes sense to focus on objects. Nuttall cites in contemporary literature Forster's characters who discuss the existence of the cow in the field and Hemingway's preoccupation with the immediacy of physical experience. He might well have added Woolf's cataloguing of physical objects in the "Time Passes" section of To the Lighthouse. This is in many ways an ambitious and intellectually exciting book. It is also puzzling to read, since Nuttall so often deals in paradox and writes about philosophical topics in literary language. But it is well worth the reading. Wheaton CollegeRosalind Ekman Norton, Massachusetts The Main of Light: On the Concept of Poetry, by Justus Buchler; pp. 183. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974, $6.50. Aesthetic theories, particularly theories of poetry, come from two sources. On the one hand, critics and artists speak from their direct familiarity with specific works of art. Beginning with concrete appreciation of particular poems, dramas and novels, they move toward general reflections on the nature of literature. On the other hand, the primary interests of philosophers lie elsewhere, and their aesthetic theories are supplements, sometimes incidental ones, to their philosophical systems. More often than not, the entire cast of an aesthetic theory will reflect these origins, derivations, and directions. Justus Buchler's The Main of Light belongs primarily to the kind of poetic theorizing that derives from, and is an extension of, a philosophical system. 122Philosophy and Literature This is so much the case that to an unusual degree it requires for its appreciation an understanding of the structure that Buchler says it represents and extends. A reading of Buchler's four earlier books could help to provide such understanding . But since it is also the case that this work "is written to stand on its own," it must recapitulate, and reintegrate into a new context, the philosophical explorations and tenets of those other works. The result is a treatment of topics not ordinarily found in a treatise on poetry. There are Buchler's tripartite theory of judgment, his explorations of method and query, his concepts of "ontological parity," "natural complex," "prevalence," and others. That a poem "is an exhibitive judgment wrought in language" (p. 102) tells us litde unless we are solidly grounded in the distinction between assertive, active and exhibitive judgments, and how these relate to, translate, and sometimes overlap each other. We cannot know what a poem L· apart from the difficulties and subtleties of exploring what—in terms of Buchler's theory—the poem is not. The concept of "ontological parity" is also complicated and involves Buchler's daring and original repudiations of Western philosophy's preoccupation with presumed orders of reality. If such preoccupations are indeed misguided, the case has to be made on a larger terrain than that of poetry itself. Poetic critics who in their narrow enthusiasms have claimed that poetry gets us "close to reality," or gives us the "peculiarly real," are...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 121-123
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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