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200Philosophy and Literature History, Politics, and tL· Novel, by Dominick LaCapra; vii & 217 pp. Ithaca: CorneU University Press, 1987, $22.50. Over the last few years, Dominick LaCapra has established himself as the champion of poststructural literary critical methods in the discipline of history. WhUe some inteUectual historians have moved away from textual analysis, LaCapra has been unapologetic in his focus on die text. Indeed, LaCapra's books often appear like manifestoes for textual criticism after the style of the current literary criticism, always possessing a fluency in Bakhtin and de Man, Jameson and Lacan. In the very tide of History, Politics, and tL· Novel, LaCapra has moved completely into the realm of the literary critic, taking with him the baggage of the historian—history and politics. The tide promises a synthesis of the historian's and the literary critic's domains. History, Politics, and tL· Novel is composed of individual studies of some of the major novels of the last two centuries from TL· Red and the Black and Notes from UndergroundtoDoctorFaustusand To tL·Lighthouse. In those studies, LaCapra attends especially to the layerings in the novels, interactions between character and narrator, author and reader. Largely influenced by Bakhtin's dialogics, he has worked with particular care on the ironic distance between narrator and character and ruptures in that irony. And he is concerned with the novelist's effort to "implicate" the reader. LaCapra's chosen novels become uneasy balances , in which every problem worked out becomes again problematic. Here LaCapra has absorbed the poststructuralist antagonism to "totalization": no problem can be satisfactorily solved, no solution can be complete. He talks of "the way significant novels themselves resist providing satisfying symbolic resolutions to the problems they disclose" (p. 213). His own discussion, he insists, wül be no more complete and rounded than the novels he studies. And he "confesses" to "emulating these novels" in his own "discursive strategy," which suggests a strange cycle—his anaylsis of the novels mirrors his analytical understanding of them. LaCapra's intricate work with the layerings and tensions in the eight novels he discusses is indeed impressive. But he has remained so fully engaged in his examination of narrative strategies that the history and the politics of his tide make litde appearance. Only the Nazis in his discussion oíDoctor Faustus assume a significant role, but even there the Third Reich becomes a relatively disembodied and symbolic presence, when Thomas Mann's own interaction with Nazism led to exUe. In his study of To tL· Lighthouse, LaCapra points out that "World War I and the death of Andrew Ramsay from the explosion of a shell take place in brackets (here one has a book in which the First World War occurs in brackets!)" (p. 140). Despite LaCapra's own exclamation point, the First World War remains for him, too, between parentheses. The war is bracketed by Woolf, but its absence may have been determined by its very significance. If the cat- Reviews201 aclysm hanging over most texts written after the Great War is not what LaCapra means by "history," his notion of history remains unclear. In the chapter on Woolf, he talks of "social relations" and "institutions," but he is eUiptical, for the institutions are described as those "that regulate repetitive temporality" (p. 148). In his conclusion, he refers to contexts of"the petty intrigues in Restoration France, the world of the intelligentsia in Czarist Russia, or life in the Midlands in 'ante-Reform' England" (p. 204). The suggestion is tiiat the book he hasjust completed brought its reader into each of those worlds, matching texts with contexts. But LaCapra has done litde to usher the concrete worlds ofFlaubert's France or Woolf's England into his readings. He has not merely avoided the great historical events that surrounded his chosen novelists; he has also avoided all the aspects of personal history which provided the raw material for the worlds they created. Ultimately, History, Politics, and tL· Novel is an extremely interesting confrontation between a critic and eight novels, but it is not about history, politics, and the novel. University of California, BerkeleyCarl Landauer Time and Narrative, Volume III, by Paul Ricoeur; translated by...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 200-201
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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