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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 an apocalyptic uncovering oflanguage, an unchaining of thought and association . . . , where the chains begin to dissolve and melt together, where, rather than a universe interlinked and netted with univocal lines ofdiscourse, each in its very existence bespeaking absence or loss, we participate in the plenum of beingpresence , 'the Universal Brotherhood of Eden'" (pp. 77-78). Other words which Hilton explores include "lamentation," "fibres," "veil," "vale," "spectres ," and "stars." "Veil," for example, is found to assimilate "in sound with 'vale,' in sound and graphics with 'vein' and 'vile,' in literal similarity and reversal with 'live' and 'evil,' and in semantic association with 'tabernacle,' 'chastity,' and 'nature'" (p. 2). Although one might wish, at times, for a more systematic exposition both of Blake's myth and of his poetics, such a desire should not be taken to indicate a shortcoming of Hilton's work, which is less like a lecture on botany than a genial tour of a lush and spacious botanical garden; the stroll is at once delightful and enlightening, and its goal lies not so much in its conclusion as in the sights perceived along the way. Thus despite the inherent limitations of a method which considers Blake's words apart from their context in the poems, Hilton's analysis, by recontextualizing Blake's words, not only expands our understanding of Blake's meaning and method but also instructs us in a more rewarding manner of reading. Where previous readings had reduced Blake's poetry to a thin melodic line, Hilton's performance, although only of a few chords, produces a rich, polysemous resonance which provides not only a rewarding experience but also a new awareness of the possibilities of signification. Iowa State UniversityMark Bracher Essaying Montaigne: A Study of the Renaissance Institution of Writing and Reading, by John O'Neill; 244 pp. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982, $25.00. John O'Neill is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, and has an impressive list of previous publications in the general area of sociology of knowledge. It is somewhat surprising, then, to see that his latest work is a study ofMontaigne's Essays, and that it tackles many of the traditional problems of Montaigne criticism, as well as the critics themselves. 138Philosophy and Literature The introduction is entitled "To the Reader," thus mimicking Montaigne's "Au Lecteur." Many of O'Neill's positions are articulated in this introduction: particularly his belief that friendship should be the model for reader and writer who "participate freely in making sense together as a personal and historical institution" (p. 9). The concept of "making sense together" is familiar to us from O'Neill's sociological work. The problem which arises in applying this concept to literature is that it involves a confusion of "real" and "ideal" writers and readers, who are never sorted out in the volume. Montaigne's "To the Reader," for example, is taken seriously as a program for the real twentieth-century reader, without considering the literary conventions behind Renaissance prefaces and dedications. O'Neill's strong bias against most previous Montaigne criticism also...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 137-138
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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