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Reviews119 Kripke tries to avoid the skepticism inherent in Frege's distinction between meaning and reference by arguing that meaning is not the product of an arbitrary structure but instead is itself referential. The signified, for Kripke, is always already constituted; we simply name the referent. Though this might seem to answer deconstructive skepticism, in Norris's view it fails expectedly to account for the problematic and metaphoric "origin" or prior existence of referential signification. Norris's book hints at connection and mutual problems in ways which show that Rorty has just scraped the surface in taking note of the challenge of deconstruction. Contemporary philosophy and the historiography ofphilosophy are caught up in the deconstructive turn. Either most professional philosophers have too much at stake to recognize it or (less likely) have chosen to respond to it with the silence which Norris leaves open as the only option available to those who would challenge deconstruction. Texas A&M UniversityStephen H. Daniel Reconstructing Literature, edited by Laurence Lerner; 218 pp. Totowa, New Jersey: Barnes and Noble, 1983, $27.50. One professed purpose ofReconstructing Literature is to launch a "counterattack" (p. 3) on semiotics, structuralism, and deconstruction in literary studies, and the book's (mainly British) writers challenge selected principles of these interpretive modes. This counterattack is complemented, however, by the book's second purpose: to select the more useful elements from structuralism and poststructuralism without abandoning "belief in reason, in the possibility of meaning , in the conception of literature, and in the need for value-judgments" (p. 9). The editor's introduction presents the partisans in current critical debate as already hopelessly polarized into "two simple extremes": one (la nouvelle critique) holds that "all meaning is subjective" and the other (traditionalist criticism) maintains that "every text has one fixed meaning" (p. 14). Resolved to borrow the best from extremists on either side, the contributors to Reconstructing Literature trust the "reader's acumen" to judge the best ways to read (p. 15). They implicitly assume that any specific interpretive procedure can be judged apart from its place in a structure of constraints which disciplines the reader with the rigors of method. While the contributors sometimes make useful observations about individual ideas in contemporary criticism, the book as a whole lacks a common or even 120Philosophy and Literature coherent grasp of the systems of thought it intends to oppose. The cheerful and occasionally quirky eclecticism of most of the essays has few attractions because the contributors often presuppose without discussion the very ideas their opponents have labored to discredit. For instance, the editor's assertion that poststructuralism is "subjectivist" leads neither him nor his colleagues to analyze the poststructuralist contention that "subjects" must be understood in the context of socially validated, intersubjective forms of knowing. Other characterizations of contemporary critical theory are so frequently onesided or inadequate, if not inaccurate, that it becomes difficult to credit the book's synthetic ambitions. To cite only a few instances, structuralism is treated as if it were a nongenerative formalism, Fredric Jameson's The Prison-House of Language is cited as if it championed textuality, and Roland Barthes's texts are discussed as if they comprised a single homogeneous statement. Only Gabriel Josipovici seems aware that quite different epistemologies inform Barthes's various texts, but for all its strengths, Josipovici's essay is marred by the failure both to consider sufficiently the Cartesian context of Barthes's ideas and to see that Proust is a cultural eminence with and against whom Barthes works. Wayne Booth praises Gérard Genette's achievement but at the expense of slighting the serious questions raised about origins in current critical theory. Furthermore, several contributors see deconstruction as the consequence of infusing structuralism with leftist political sympathies. To American eyes, this judgment seems quite mistaken because it discounts deconstruction's roots in phenomenology and confuses deconstruction with other currents in poststructuralism . As Edward Said and Frank Lentricchia have frequently observed, deconstruction is a political quietism because it submits all projects — including leftist ones — to a deconstruction of their description, rationale, and intentions. To see Paul de Man, Hillis Miller, or their epigones as radical leftists requires a rare comic gift. Lerner and his...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 119-120
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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