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Reviews205 were left to do afterwards but defend the oracle against blasphemers. Yet much of the power of Derrida's thought is a function of some extremely narrow and arbitrary assumptions which he makes about phUosophy and literature. By default of the true believers, opportunities for shrewd comment have been left to an even unworthier group, the rabid antideconstructors. Derrida is a great phüosopher whose views are mosdy wrong: Norris leaves us still awaiting the person who wiU argue this (not uncommon) case. A second problem with Norris's new book carries over from his previous ones, which is relendess waffling as to the critical reach of deconstruction. Sometimes Derrida is presented as having pretty much already succeeded in unraveling the fabric of Western thought, while at other times Norris shifts, jarringly, to a rhetoric of modesty, in which Derrida is described as someone who is only raising questions, casting doubts, and initiating readings. Anthony Appiah's review of TL· Deconstructive Turn remains the best diagnosis of what aus Norris in the matter of deconstruction (Diacritics, Spring 1986). The third shortcoming ofDerrida has to do with Norris's extraordinary claim that he hopes especiaUy to address analytic phUosophers in it. Here he faüs completely, partly I think because he does not know much about analytic phUosophy, as witness his amateurish discussions of Frege, Wittgenstein, Quine, Davidson, etc., in earlier writings. At any rate Norris seems to think that if he insists often enough that Derrida is not just playing "literary" games, analytic phUosophers wül eventuaUy be won over. A real confrontation between deconstructive and analytic thought would be significant; but so far the closest thing we have gotten to it is the embarrassing slanging-match between Derrida and Searle. It typifies the inteUectual depth at which Norris operates that he considers this sorry episode one of Derrida's best moments. Fordham UniversityDavid Gorman AUegory: TL· Dynamics of an Ancient and Medieval Technique , byJon Whitman; ix & 281 pp. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987, $25.00. Jon Whitman begins his book by pointing to a contradiction within the nature of allegory. Occupying an "oblique" position with respect to the truth, aUegory depends simultaneously on divergence and correspondence between its fiction and reality. Too much divergence diffuses the allegory; too litde forecloses the opportunity for narrative. Thus no sooner is an aUegory established than it undermines itself. For the texts Whitman considers, which span nearly two millennia, this dilemma gave vitality to the form, as successive writers tried to 206Philosophy and Literature resolve it and thereby uncovered new problems demanding new solutions. If this is a major motif in the book, other themes are impUcated with it. AUegory is by nature a search for underlying causes—of bodi die order of the world and of human behavior. It is, therefore, closely aUied with phUosophy, which often used hterary texts by interpreting them allegoricaUy. Alongside this interpretive tradition (which tended toward "divergence" in the basic polarity ), was a compositional or rhetorical tradition which generated imaginative aUegorical texts (with a tendency towards "correspondence," especiaUy in personification aUegory). Whitman traces not only the development of these traditions , but also their complex interaction. Interpretive aUegory, especiaUy in early stages, fragmented texts, focusing on only parts of them. The capacity for sustained aUegory depended on the development of a sense of historical and narrative continuity, and that in turn was inseparable from larger phüosophical currents, which Whitman discusses as both influencing and influenced by aUegorical discourse. Whitman begins with an episode that is not in itself aUegorical but which has potential for aUegorical elaboration and wiU prove emblematic for his story: the appearance of Athena to the enraged Achules in the first book of the Iliad. Here passion is depicted in the person ofAchilles (angerwüllaterbe represented quasi-aUegoricaUy by the Stoic Seneca) and queUed by Athena, who wül later serve as a figure for Wisdom. Whitman balances her descent from Olympus with another representation of passion, Eris or "strife," described in Iliad 4 as growing from insignificance to walk striking heaven with her head. The tension between descent from heaven and ascent from the material world, and more broadly the relation between these...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 205-207
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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