In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

136Philosophy and Literature The unevenness of Lernens efforts is perhaps best illustrated in his chapter on The Misanthrope. Apparently missing the rich comic irony of the play, Lerner considers the satiric dimension its central feature. Not only does he fail to grasp the significance of Alceste's procès, or the dramatic importance of Arsinoé's machinations, but he quite erroneously asserts that Molière's dialogue "is not in itself very witty" (p. 33). Rather than addressing the ultimate meaning of Alceste's retreat, he deals with such irrelevancies as whether or not the protagonist "sleeps" with Celimene (p. 32). More insightful are his remarks on the problem of social change in nineteenth-century European realism. Lernens critical perspective on Balzac, for example, is clearly "antiintentionalist ," since Balzac's reactionary politics do not in fact preclude his positive portrayal of a dynamic middle class engineering the economic revolution of his time. Although the plots and narrative of this "frightened reactionary" are stereotypic, his value as a novelist resides in his being an exemplary social historian. Stendhal's progressive views are, on the contrary, quite compatible with those expressed in his novels, though it is overstating the case to label Stendhal a "proto-Marxist" (p. 106). In discussing Lukács's theory of realism, Lerner eschews the tendency to give priority to Lukács's philosophical framework over his literary criticism; his theory ofmediation forces him to make unsound assessments of novels, as Patrick Brady has convincingly shown in his work on Zola. Moreover, Lerner rightfully criticizes Lukács's rigid dogmatism insofar as such modernists as Proust, Kafka, and Joyce are concerned. In "Three Languages of Fiction," Lerner establishes, on the basis of close textual analysis, both the theoretical specificity of and the practical complementarity among three narrative codes: (1) Arnoldian critical tradition (moral discourse), (2) behaviorist (dialogue), (3) metaphoric (poetry). In "Psychoanalysis and Art," he offers an able discussion of Lessing^ psychoanalytic theory of art (pp. 75ff.) and a pertinent criticism of Butoirs reductionist view of Baudelaire (p. 65). Finally, in "Progress and Evil," Lerner develops several illuminating philosophic and thematic perspectives. The moral condemnation of innovative perceptions of reality — either the social or the natural order — or, more specifically, the illegitimacy of social mobility, finds expression in works as diverse as the Faerie Queene, which depicts the future as evil, and Les Mouches, in which Orestes's existential defiance is held in contempt by supporters of the traditional world view. University of Nebraska — LincolnRalph Albanese,Jr. Literal Imagination: Blake's Vision of Words, by Nelson Hilton; xvii & 322 pp. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983, $30.00. Nelson Hilton's Literal Imagination is an exemplary work of scholarship and an important contribution to Blake studies which should also be of value to more general readers. Quoting Blake's declaration that "poetry admits not a Letter that is Insignificant" and that "every word and every letter [of Blake's poetry] is studied and put into its fit place" (p. 3), Hilton sets out to reveal the "force-field of sound, etymology, graphic shape, contem- Reviews137 porary applications, and varied associations" (p. 7) of certain key words of Blake's myth. Unlike some previous scholarly expeditions into Blake-land, Hilton's archaeological effort uncovers much more than linguistic potsherds, and at times his excavations approach the profundity of the rich semantic mines explored by Freud, Heidegger, and Derrida. In investigating, for example, the significance of"chains" in Blake's poetry, Hilton links Blake's chains to "the eighteenth century's mainfold chains" (p. 56) of being, time, cause and effect, gravity, love, society, thought, and language in order to demonstrate how, for Blake, "the chain's logic of restraint is finally located and manifested in the prison of prosaic language continuously forged by reason and memory" (p. 76). Blake's strategy for escaping these chains, Hilton reveals, is through "the multiplication ofsignificance, breaking the vocal chain at its weakest link, the univocal sign" (p. 64), "through . . . contradictions in logic . . . and by dint of repetition . . . , [whereby] we are driven to wonder what the words mean and how they mean" (p. 66). Hilton concludes that "Blake's treatment of chains directs itselftoward...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 136-137
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.