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Reviews207 playful plurality of meanings in every text. While Jameson is glad to recognize the deconstructors' radical critique of a certain bourgeois "tyranny of meaning" (Derrida's phrase in describing Hegel), he also observes, acutely, that the celebration of an endless plenitude of meanings may be a way of deferring the great clash which must come if and when we admit (along with Augustine or Frye) that only a finite number of interpretations can be seriously considered for a given narrative. As one might suspect from his critique of deconstruction, Jameson's Marxism is structuralist . He follows Lévi-Strauss's analysis of art and myth in suggesting that a narrative is to be read as an imaginative resolution of a real and determinate contradiction. In this spirit he gives readings of three major novels of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries which exhibit both the class limitations of their visions and their aims at Utopian integration . In these writings, as in a number of articles, Jameson produces Marxist readings which are in the tradition set by Marx and Engels (as in their analyses of Eugene Sue's Mysteries ofParis or their hints about Balzac), but he clearly benefits from the development of both Marxist theory and theories of narrative since their day. For any reader with a serious interest in the contemporary discussion of narrative and hermeneutics this book will be necessary reading. For philosophical thought it raises this question (which may also be found in Hegel, in Heidegger, and in the biblical traditions): if narrative is indeed the most fundamental way of understanding reality, because that reality is historical, must philosophy itself become what it was in ages of faith, that is, either a form of storytelling or a commentary on stories? University of KansasGary Shapiro Is There a Text in This Class? The Authority ofInterpretive Communities , by Stanley Fish; ix & 394 pp. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980, $17.50. This volume is a collection of sixteen essays by Stanley Fish on theory of criticism. Twelve have been previously published, between 1970 and 1980: readers of New Literary History and Critical Inquiry, in particular, will have seen most of them before. Though there is some going over the same ground in different ways, the book as a whole is far more tightly focused than this would suggest: everything here attacks the problem of interpreting literary texts and justifying an interpretation, and the discussion is always set in the context of the general question of how language has meaning. Fish provides an introduction which considers how his thinking has changed and developed over ten years, and brief remarks introducing each essay also help to integrate the book. It is certainly good to have these essays all in one place, and to have Fish's latest statement of his position. And there is much to welcome in his kind of theoretical writing at the moment; there is a directness and energy in the way he devotes himself to the struggle with the central problems in critical theory, and a personal commitment which leaves no room for the pretentiousness and name-dropping so prevalent in current writing in the field. 208PHILOSOPHY AND LITERATURE His argument, right or wrong, is lucid because Fish so obviously is motivated by a desire to get to the bottom of a problem, to find coherent answers and to persuade others of their coherence — not to dazzle them with rhetorical excess. There is an intellectual honesty here, too, which allows Fish to admit that he made serious errors in some of the early essays; and that integrity, one feels, stands in the way of his merely jumping on the bandwagon of what is currently fashionable. Thus, while Fish shows a large concern with the reader's active role in interpretation, rejecting the notion of a determinate meaning located in the text itself, he does not discuss Derrida, never mentions Jauss, and has little to say about Iser; evidently, he has made a decision that, as he sees the logic ofthose problems , these well-known figures have little to contribute to his analysis. And he is probably right. But this insistence on a very personal quest for the truth also...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 207-208
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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