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Reviews211 lacks a dialectical imagination and ignores the complex ways idealist aestheticians try to integrate the spirit which gives rules to nature with the demands of the substance which is its subject. On phenomenology the same blinders appear. Lentricchia emphasizes the role of negation in Sartre's imagination, but not the effort to conceive the novel as adapting imagination to ethical purposes. And Lentricchia simply subsumes under Husserl's idealism other influential phenomenological attempts like Richard's and Bachelard's to explore ways of inhabiting the world through imagination. Finally while Lentricchia wants to use the structuralist tradition, he mangles Derrida into a social thinker, reduces Yale deconstructionism to the simplest statements of Miller's existential anxieties, relies on Saussure without sufficient defense, and ridicules on purely political ground Culler's powerful argument that structure must be tied to function. There is a good reading of Heidegger, and the second less polemical half of the book devoted to Hirsch, Krieger, Bloom, and de Man is much better than the first. Yet Lentricchia's arguments rarely escape high commonplaces of sophisticated academe. Perhaps the main value of this book lies in its limitations as history. For even the skeptic will recognize the gulf between Lentricchia's emphases and the projects he purports to describe. It will be clear, then, that all our rhetorics of history as the realities of power will not take the place of fully exploring the purposive contours of a critic's career. Such history may not suffice, but without it the claim to history repeats itself as farce. University of WashingtonCharles Altieri Perpetuum Mobile: A Study ofthe Novels and Aesthetics ofMichel Butor, by Mary Lydon; xv & 295 pp. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1981, $25.00 hardbound, $12.50 paper. This book presents itself"as a trajectory, only one of a network of trajectories by means of which Butor's flight path may be plotted, traced" (p. xiv). The trajectory which Mary Lydon follows leads her from an analysis of Butor's four early novels into his more recent "compromise" writings with their new form which welds together poem, essay, and fiction . Discussing both Butor's techniques and the metaphysics behind them, Lydon succeeds in retaining the mobility so characteristic of Butor's own writings. Lydon is perhaps the contemporary critic who has learned most from the structure and thought of Butor's work. Her book, like his work, is a richly woven fabric with many threads. One of the best developed of these is that of criticism as an exercise in reading. From this perspective, Lydon not only studies Butor's vast theoretical and creative opus, she also tries to fathom the varying individual and social implications of the practice of writing. For her, as for Butor, criticism becomes a "work of collaboration" (p. 248) where the critic opens himself up to the objects studied. All throughout her book Lydon brilliantly applies what Butor sets down as the prime condition for good criticism: "prolonging the artist's invention by his own, by fusing his imagination with the artist's" (p. 20). Such criticism is necessarily immanent rather than imposed coldly from without. In the 212Philosophy and Literature end it does not only lead us to understand the books of the author: it discloses life itself. Thus criticism is the necessary complement to artwork, contributing to the social function of the work and understanding books as "the score of a civilization" (p. 30). That criticism need not be a pedantic, Beckettesque monologue, but can become a poetic, dialectical adventure, is forcefully brought home to the reader by the titles of Lydon's chapters ("The Music of Time," "Train of Thoughts," "The Smithy of the Soul," and so forth) and by the suggestive quotations, from either Butor or other writers, which head each new line of thought. Unqualified and alert love of the texts recurrently prompts Lydon to elicit as starting points the keys which Butor provided in his works as tools for elucidating them. But Lydon also displays a vast knowledge of other writers and philosophers , those great intercessors with whose works Butor engages in dialogue in his own writings. Mallarmé's voice can be heard all throughout...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 211-212
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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