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Reviews203 Sartre: Literature and TL·ory, by Rhiannon Goldthorpe; ? & 246 pp. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984, $15.95 paper. This is a study ofthe relations between Sartre-phihsopL· and Sartre-littérateur. The author limits her investigations to Nausea, Flies, No Exit, Dirty Hands, TL· Condemned of Altana, and TL· Engagement of MaUarmé. The result is striking enough: a new Sartre, stripped of his existential and moralizing veneer, revealing an incredibly wordy phenomenologist of ambiguity. So strong is this new Sartre, the audior teUs us, that he can even withstand the terrible blows of deconstructionism. The section on Nausea—the first and by far the longest—explores the paraUels between Sartre's first novel and die theory soon to emerge in Being and Nothingness . Sartre's problem in Nausea lies not in adjusting his theoretical standpoint to his literary practice but in trying to convey modes of consciousness which are at the limits of human experience. Even here, however, the worm of phenomenology is curled at the heart of the apple of existentialism. Sartre already begins to explore "the infinitesimal and unbridgeable spaces of negation" (p. 61) which gape between pour soi and en soi. No Exit has been thought of as a classic exposition of the thesis that valid human existence is anguished. Not so, the author urges. Sartre in this play is simply trying to awaken bourgeois audiences from their weU-known delusions. HeU is not other people, the author asserts, but a mere condition of the middle class. A painstaking examination of Flies satisfies the author that here, too, Sartre is not trying to describe the human condition but only to awaken an audience. If he once did hold that only the emotion of anguish expresses good faith, Sartre is here abandoning the claim. Chapters on TL· Condemned ofAltena and Dirty Hands show that in these works also Sartre unearths and describes problems but comes to no conclusions. In a final chapter dealing chiefly, but not exclusively, with TL· Engagement of MaUarmé the author argues that Sartre has entirely given up the theses for which he is famous (chiefly the idea that negation is die central function of consciousness, but also his denial of the unconscious). Far from viewing human relations as fundamentally painful and incoherent, he sees them as fundamentaUy "grounded in Mitsein" (p. 190). Sartre is even, finaUy, able to include poetry within the ranks of literature which is truly engagée. For those of us who ceased following Sartre after TL· Critique of Dialectical Reason, this study comes, if not as a revelation, then at least as a broadening of insight. There can be no question that die author has done her work weU. Behind the Sartre of existential moralizing there stands (at least, as it seems to me, in the later works) a Sartre of sUence, ambiguity, intricately nuanced description . The second Sartre, as is pointed out in a postscript (pp. 198-202), 204Philosophy and Literature largely escapes the critiques of deconstructionism. ThL· Sartre is not "logocentric "; he is "subversive of logic." AU weU and good. But the author seems blissfully unaware of the dUemma she has created. The Sartre who was famous, who had something pointed, important, and intelligible to say to people struggling with their lives—that Sartre was (we are told) a kind of poseur—a propagandist with no ultimate insight into the human condition. The other Sartre—the real one, standing in the wings—was an unbelievably prolix transcriber of convoluted investigations leading nowhere. The process ofreflecting on our reading ofSartre, the author teUs us, "can never end" (p. 202). But now we have to wonder, given such a choice, why we should begin. University of North TexasPete A. Y. Gunter Derrida, by Christopher Norris; 271 pp. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987, $25.00 cloth, $8.95 paper. This is one of the last tides commissioned for the Modern Masters series, and it shares with the best of its predecessors the virtues of a good epitome: accuracy and concision. By proceeding topically rather than within a biographical or chronological framework (which would be suspect for other reasons in Derrida's case), Norris manages to discuss a really surprising number of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 203-204
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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