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

Reviews143 turai or thematic promises" (p. 113). Promises, promises. This is no principle. Back to the fleas. Kansas State UniversityDonald K. Hedrick Philosophy ofthe Literary Symbolic, by Hazard Adams; xiv & 466 pp. Tallahassee: Florida State University Press, 1983, $37.50. If language is a prison-house, then, this book argues, the only liberating key is also language — an imaginative, holistic language that makes accessible to its culture new symbolic forms, and therefore fresher, more vital "realities." This symbolic language exists prior to or beyond dichotomies such as soul/body, subject/object, particular/universal , which, using Blake's term, Adams views as "negations," where the privileging of one term creates a repressive and narrowing situation. Adams hopes to depose these negations with true Blakean "contraries," where both terms engage in a ceaseless dialectical struggle releasing creative energy. The negation that is most strenuously assaulted for much ofthe book is that of symbol/allegory, a distinction in which timid or hazy thinking often denies the full power and potentialities of language making. The strategy of the book is to examine chronologically a series of historical "moments" from Kant's view of the symbolic to structuralist and phenomenological positions both to analyze their difficulties and shortcomings and to extract whatever ofvalue they can offer. As we move through the writings of the romantics, the symbolistes, the early Yeats, the psychoanalysts, the "sentimental" theorists of myth — Campbell, Eliade, Wheelwright — we find a similar story recurring: in an attempt to make a place for poetry and myth these thinkers adopt the premises of their rationalistic, positivistic opponents and/or retreat into forms of religious or mystical allegorizing that valorize something "beyond" at the expense of the constitutive power of the expressive medium. Even congenial figures like Cassirer, Susanne Langer, and Northrop Frye are subjected to critiques revealing their contradictions and confusions. Although clearly polemical, however, the book is not quite as relentless as this summary might suggest. Such careful, detailed, almost loving attention is lavished on each author or movement that the book can serve, almost in spite of itself, as a kind of broad-ranging survey of the critical issues it engages. This sense of inclusiveness created for me one disappointment. I find Adams's positions even more fully anticipated by Emerson than by Blake or by Vico, an exposition of whose ideas introduce the book. And yet Emerson is mentioned only once, in a footnote, as is Charles Feidelson's seminal book, Symbolism andAmerican Literature. Thus, a crucial native line of thought on the symbolic, extending from "The Divinity School Address" and "The Poet" through Whitman, Dickinson, Melville to Santayana is virtually ignored. A more central and intrinsic difficulty is that the book's allegiances are often at odds with its methods, creating "the problem," as the book itself says, "ofdiscussing art in what Cassirer has declared to be a separate symbolic form — in conceptual language." Blake 144Philosophy and Literature and Yeats, for example, are treated primarily as philosophers, and the fluid, resonant aspects of their language are often ignored. Adams, aware of this difficulty, qualifies his readings of Blake, with phrases like "in my own 'allegoric' or priestly reading of the passage . . ." and "I must from another point of view — that of externality or 'fall' and, ironically enough, of critical interpretation . . . ." But in addition to being self-conscious, Adams suggests this may not be as troubling a situation as it seems. For the "antimythic" language ofanalysis, to use a term from the book, or the Devouring, to use a parallel term adopted from Blake, may not be as negating to the mythic or Prolific as it may be a force helping to create its own opposite. Indeed, Adams says in his introduction that he plans a later "practical" work, which may form the productive contrary to this impressive theoretical foundation. University of Colorado, BoulderMartin Bickman Philosophy and Fiction: Essays in Literary Aesthetics, edited by Peter Lamarque; ix & 111 pp. Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1983, £11.95. This modest volume contains five stimulating essays on a variety of topics in literary aesthetics. There is also an excellent introduction to the collection in which Peter Lamarque summarizes the individual essays and explains their relationship both to...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 143-144
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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.