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164 the minnesota review of "good sense and soundjudgement," a phrase which O'Neill never tires of repeating. In one respect this is a salutary gesture. O'Neill is good at diagnosing the will to power that informs many "omnipotent metareadings" of Montaigne (8). But his own reading is equally partial, and overlooks much that is striking and problematic in the Essays. Togive one briefexample: Montaigne 's pleasure in the body was complicated by his long and excruciating experience ofthe kidney stone. He discusses this problem at length in his essay "Of the Resemblance of Children to their Fathers," and by so doing suggests his amused awareness of how the "third hand" could inscribe a cruel joke on his own body—in the form of a lifelong affliction (le pierre) that bore the Christian name of his father (Pierre). Montaigne's ruminations on his "qualité pierreuse" open textual and psychoanalytic depths which simply cannot be wished away. But O'Neill "essays" Montaigne for reasons other than those generated by the text ofthe Essays alone. For one thing, his book is not merely a reading ofMontaigne but a study of reading as such. Each chapter, which addresses a specific aspect of Montaigne's authorial practice, also scrutinizes and evaluates one or more modes of contemporary criticism, be it phenomenologica!, Bloomian, deconstructive, or Marxist. O'Neill hopes to appropriate the methodological subtlety of some modes of recent criticism while defusing their challenge to humanist assumptions. His own approach is heavily influenced by Husserl, but he also endorses domesticated versions ofdeconstruction and "the anxiety ofinfluence"—the latter, particularly, in a form which its critical fatherwould find unrecognizable. This project is not wholly assimilative, however. As the blurb on the dust jacket says, O'Neill's book "defends the Essays as a work of friendship and family resistant to theories ofalienation fostered by Freudianism and Marxism." And here we come to the heart ofthe matter, forthe defense of humanist values involves O'Neill in a political crusade ofsorts. He often treats his critical adversaries with dismissive nastiness—a curious thing in a book devoted to the virtues of friendship—but none more so than Anthony Wilden, whose, Marxist reading of Montaigne provokes O'Neill into what I can only describeascritical red-baiting. He sneers at the "Marxist license for reading history backwards and forwards" (65), bewails the "Freudo-Marxist historicization ofthe antinomy of self and society that leaves no room for friendship or mortality {sic}" (81), and complains: "It is the essential violence of Wilden's revolutionary reading of the 'Essays' that in our view makes him hostile to Montaigne's ideals of friendship and family" (71). This near-hysterical reaction is abit surprising from the formeradvocateof"wild sociology." It is also disappointing, since Wilden's reading, whatever its excesses, aimed at a valuable project: to situate Montaigne in the transition from feudalism tocapitalism. O'Neill insists that we must attend to the "real historical and political affairs which shaped the concerns ofthe 'Essays'" (49), but his hostility to Marxist categories, his avowed distaste for systematic thought, his actual spareness of historical reference, and his incomprehensible assertion that "Montaigne is a pre-ideologica! thinker" (154), all sabotage an historical or political reading. As a result, one never really leams why Montaigne reading orwriting should be considered a specifically Renaissance institution. The historical origins of humanist discourse, as well as its ideological effects, remain obscure because O'Neill himself is too heavily invested in it. And here his critical approach finds its internal limit. Friendly readings are fine, but not when complicity is allowed to suppress interrogation. RICHARD HALPERN William C. Dowling. Jameson, Althusser, Marx: An Introduction to "The Political Unconscious. " Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1984. 147 pp. $22.50 (cloth) ; $6.95 (paper). Barry Smart. Foucault, Marxism and Critique. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983. 144 pp. $11.95 (paper). Steven B. Smith. Reading Althusser: An Essay on Structural Marxism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1984. 230 pp. $19.95 (cloth). In Britain and France, the moment of Althusser has come and gone. In the United States, that moment never quite arrived. For the British, Althusser's star has been largely eclipsed by Foucault reviews...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 164-168
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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