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Reviews213 What, then, is Empson's value? We are encouraged to admire "Empson's benevolent ethical spirit" (p. 14) and, perhaps, to imitate his "critical blindness" in the hope of becoming benevolent ourselves. The remaining four contributions on the topic, with the exception of Conway 's, are scarcely more successful. Bander writes on the uses of silence inJane Austen. She locates the sUent sources of morality in observation, reflection, and judgment, arguing that Austen's interest in conversational pauses reveals a desire to resist authority. But she has no understanding of the relation between judgment and authority in Austen. Berg attempts to bring literary critics out of Plato's cave by teaching them what Luce Irigaray has to say about ethical resistance, but, most unfortunately, she does not even make reference to Irigaray 's book on ethics, LEthique de h différence sexuelle. Berg predictably links Irigaray with the forces ofplurality against the unity of phallocentric discourse. Charles Abbot Conway makes to my mind the sole contribution to literary ethics in his article on Boethius. He traces the symbolismbywhich Boethius interpreted the ethical, explaining his view of the virtue of perfect numbers in contrast with the vice of superabundant ones and of how geometry was used to establish territorial boundaries in order to maintain the peace among quarrelsome nomads . Conway's conclusion that Boethius's organization of the arts writes a secret allegory of a "model kingdom or polity" (p. 104) deserves to be applied in general to formalist theories of language and literature, for it might reveal a secret ethical agenda in even the most oppositional thought. Finally, David Braybrooke addresses the arguments in favor of and against academic tenure; but for a practical contribution, it is sadly lacking in concrete suggestions, concluding oddly that the nonacademic world would be advised to adopt the tenure system, no doubt, in order that it too may gain entrance to what Braybrooke calls "an adult band of warriors" and "a knighdy order" (p. 136). University of MichiganTobin Siebers TL· New Eighteenth Century: TL·ory, Politics, English Literature , edited by Felicity Nussbaum and Laura Brown; vi & 320 pp. New York: Methuen, 1988, $35.00 cloth, $13.95 paper. As editors Felicity Nussbaum and Laura Brown demonstrate in their introduction to this volume, the field of eighteenth-century studies has been peculiarly resistant to theory. Their anthology tries to open theoretical discussion of that literature, offering not "the last word on the subject," but "one of the first" (p. 4). 214Philosophy and Literature They define their task against a background oftraditional eighteenth-century studies which "has fostered acriticism whose ultimate concern is the preservation and elucidation ofcanonical masterpieces ofcultural stabüity" (p. 5). The dozen learned and lucid essays in this volume—written mosdy from Marxist, feminist, and new historical perspectives—use various strategies to caU into question both the canon and the assumed stabüity that it mirrors. Thus, if a crucial move in the traditional game is to preserve stabüity by resolving conflicting interpretations, an equally crucial move for these theorists is to foreground such conflicts. Michael McKeon organizes his essay "Historicizing Absalom and AchitopM," for example, around critical disputes about Dryden 's poem, arguing that the various readings contribute to a dialectic, that they "are not 'wrong' but partial" (p. 38). Similarly, John BarreU's and Harriet Guest's essay "On the Use of Contradiction: Economics and Morality in the Eighteenth-Century Long Poem" emphasizes the contradictory discourses in Pope's Epistle to Bathurst to show how "by being 'knotted together' [these discourses ] were able nevertheless to mask the very contradictions that might have been disclosed by dieir conjunction" (p. 123). Both essays demonstrate the efforts of ideology to impose stabüity on the^profound instabUity of history. Another way of caUing eighteenth-century stability into question is to listen to voices outside the canon. When feminist critics do so, they hear both the voice of the patriarchy and something else. Thus Felicity Nussbaum writes of the women who authored "scandalous memoirs," showing that their "texts both refuse and adopt the substantial unified identity that the heterosexual gender system requires in order to reproduce itself" (p. 167). And Donna Landry's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 213-214
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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