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Book Reviews Nik Farrell Fox. The New Sartre: Explorations in Postmodernism. New York and London: Continuum , 2003. Pp. 195. This valuable book examines the cultural and theoretical views that define the postmodern condition, as François Lyotard dubbed it some thirty years ago, and asks whether these are present in Sartre. The ground has to a large extent been covered before, but never so thoroughly. Though Sartre hardly ever engaged postmodernism in debate, many of its concerns were also his. The unmasking of the Western mind so relentlessly undertaken by Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida , Lacan et cie. draws its inspiration from Sartre himself, who arguably is the progenitor of the postmodern movement. In the mid-sixties Foucault, then a cynosure on the rise, decreed Sartre a traditionalist who had not kept up with History. Sartre was portrayed as a neo-Cartesian "modernist "—an oblique way of saying that he was unequipped to deal with emergent philosophical, political and cultural realities (later in life Foucault would rethink this assessment). New realities had appeared, calling for new approaches; Foucault and other dissident academics were only too eager to provide these. Thus came and went the successive modes of structuralism, post-structuralism and deconstruction: their meager remains would be snatched up by postmodernism. The new approaches galvanized the pluralistic discourses that shaped the Procrustean bed of cultural studies that encloses today's academic orthodoxies. Countless passages in Sartre show that his theoretical horizon spreads over that of his postmodern successors. Challenging standard accounts, Fox finds in Sartre a community of interests shared by Foucault, Lacan, Deleuze and Derrida. Contrary to the claims of certain postmodern enthusiasts, Fox demonstrates that the movement constituted no epistemological break with the "modern" past. In La Nausée, for instance, the day-by-day account of the dissolution of the Self prefigures remarkably postmodern representations of the fragmented Subject. Fox traces the vagaries and vicissitudes of the icons of Post-War French ideologists— Deleuze, Foucault, Derrida, Baudrillard et al., not to mention the many shifts of position of Sartre himself. The term postmodernism, incidentally, includes competing "affirmative" and "skeptical" forms: both underindulge in philosophical rigor and overindulge in discursive extravagances. Could anyone today, for instance, endorse Foucault's late-in-life post-Nietzschen cultivation of estheticism as a guiding principle for Being-in-the-world? All told, postmodernism mirrors the disillusionment and ultimate abandonment of those Marxist schémas that originally inspired so many progressive French intellectuals of our Age; but it was surely Sartre who suffered the most from Marxism's failure. Shortly before his death, his faith in man's transformative capacities had become radically downgraded to a quasi-religious notion of hope: "What with ... the wretched mess our planet has become, despair has come back to tempt me with the idea that there is no end to it all, that there is no goal, that there are only small, individual objectives to fight for. We make small revolutions, but there's no human end, there's nothing of concern for human beings. ... But the point is, I'm resisting and I know I shall die in hope (my italics, 161). Ernest Sturm University of California, Santa Barbara Julia V. Douthwaite. The Wild Girl, Natural Man, and the Monster: Dangerous Experiments in the Age of Enlightenment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002. Pp. xiii + 314. $19.00 (paper), $55.00 (cloth). Hope and anxiety are the closest of kin, and their proximity underwrites this study of the shift in the eighteenth century from a conception of human nature as stable to a burgeoning investment 98 Winter 2004 ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
p. 98
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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