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1 14Philosophy and Literature The most troubling question: is there indeed such a thing as lethetic fiction — logomimetic, self-referential, a self-contained game sealed off from reality? He offers Italo Calvino's Cosmicomics as a prime example, but in my reading of Calvino he is persistently referential: quarreling lovers, murderous chases, etc. Koelb's claim that Calvino is "not really interested in the theories themselves, or in their scientific truth" (p. 160), strikes me as very questionable. True, he plays some weird games, but they keep pointing to interesting propositions and "truths." Is it even possible to use language without arousing the desire to find some commerce between symbol and reality? To try to nullify the referential thrust of language may be like trying to extract sunbeams from cucumbers in Lagado. Grant that logomimesis is to some degree possible. Why go to such lengths to obliterate a major pleasure in linguistic structures, or to thwart what Aristotle saw as our natural pleasure in mimesis? Koelb's description of Robert Nye's Merlin succeeds mainly in suggesting that Merlin probably offers the same purgatorial tedium as Barthelme's The Father. Calvino's closest approach to the lethetic ideal, the section "t zero" manages to anesthetize all latent interest. What is the point in creating these black holes of boredom? Nevertheless, Koelb deserves high praise for critical writing that goads and unsetdes the mind. When the reader frequently yearns to have Koelb trapped in the same room so that he can sputter "but, but . . .,"he knows that this is what criticism should be — a boiling dialogue. I enjoyed being irritated by this book. Whitman CollegeWalter E. Broman Romantic Weather: The Climates of Coleridge and Baudelaire, by Arden Reed; xiii & 338 pp. Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, for the Brown University Press, 1984, $27.50. Clearly this is an important book — important not only for what it says but for the way it says it. Accordingly, I shall first describe the contents and then comment on the methodology of Romantic Weather. Reed concentrates on weather because, as he shows, the meteorological metaphors of the Romantic poets are clues to their theories, and their practice, of poetry. These clues have been missed, and with them important aspects of Romanticism, by most students of the period because they "wear Enlightenment blinders" (p. 6). That is, they have failed to see that the Enlightenment's indifference to weather was an "historical Reviews115 aberration," as Reed now demonstrates it to have been, in an interesting opening chapter on the history of meteorological ideas (pp. 3-77). Having set Romantic weather in its historical context, Reed proceeds to a close reading of Coleridge and Baudelaire. In the chapter on Coleridge, "The Ancient Mariner," "Constancy," "Frost at Midnight," and "Dejection" form the centerpiece; the chapter on Baudelaire focuses on "Rêve Parisien," "Spleen," and "La Pipe." Reed argues that these poems are about (if I may allow myself a preposition he would not approve) their authors' discovery that "language is irredeemably duplicitous" (p. 183), that the poems express a desire to "strip away the dulling film of familiarity, custom, and habit," despite their recognition that the film is constantly being "replaced by another garment" (p. 192). What is woven as a wedding garment is always becoming a shroud. The personae of the "Ancient Mariner," of "Constancy," of "Dejection," for instance, are all embarked on a "perpetual quest for presence," a quest they persist in even though they know it is doomed to failure (p. 142). In persuading me, as he has done, to accept these readings Reed also convinces me — against my will, for I am anything but an admirer of Derrida's obscurantism — that deconstruction, at least in the hands of as skillful and sensitive a critic as Reed, is a very powerful instrument of literary analysis. Turning from matter to method, I would, with some hesitation, characterize Reed's approach as dialectical. Consider Reed on the subject of influence. His opening chapter discusses influence — the influence of Aristotle's Meteorology for instance, on Paradise Lost— in the orthodox manner of historians of ideas. Hence, when we reach the Interchapter, which "articulates the relationship of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 114-116
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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