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ELT 49 : 1 2006 Ling Shuhua's friendship scroll, a hand scroll that she had given to the poet Xu Zhimo to take with him to Cambridge in 1922. It contained inscriptions, poems, and pictures by Chinese artists and scholars, and when he returned to China it had been filled with sketches and inscriptions by Fry, Dora Russell, Tagore and others he had met in England. Later when Ling Shuhua was in England after the war, more were added. It stands as tangible evidence of the relations between the artistic communities sketched here, an emblem of what this complex if not always successful study tries to fill out in myriad ways. JUDITH SCHERER HERZ __________________ Concordia University Aesthetics of Chaos Michael Patrick Gillespie. The Aesthetics of Chaos: Nonlinear Thinking and Contemporary Literary Criticism. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003. 140 pp. $56.00 THE CRUCIAL drawback that Michael Patrick Gillespie sees in most literary criticism is that it is "linear," ruled by a cause-and-effect logic that seeks to relate all aspects of a work to one another and, ultimately , to resolve apparent contradictions between plausible readings. For the most part, as his subtitle indicates, Gillespie is responding to trends in recent criticism, but in a suggestive early passage he traces the problem to "literary commentaries ranging back as far as Aristotle 's Poetics." In place of these typical interpretive strategies, he seeks one "grounded upon the way a typical reading simultaneously sustains a range of different responses to a work without giving primacy to any." Rich literary works are open to many interpretations, and the question is how to embrace their pluralism rather than setting up a hierarchy of meaning. Gillespie devotes two introductory chapters to general exposition of the limitations of purely linear analysis and the advantages of nonlinear responses based in part on principles of post-Newtonian physics, particularly chaos theory. In the next five chapters, using readings of works as diverse as the Book of Job, Beowulf, The Importance of Being Earnest, Finnegans Wake, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, he attempts to demonstrate how an openness to multiple meanings may be sustained. The book ends with a brief conclusion and an appendix in which are outlined some key developments in nonlinear science that parallel this method of reading. In the Finnegans Wake chapter Gillespie makes the important point that "we comprehend the complexity of Finnegans Wake through com92 book reviews plicated models of discernment, and efforts to articulate those models according to a linear form prove hopelessly simplistic." Even so, in this chapter at least, Gillespie is better at calling attention to the limitations of other interpretations than at showing us the richness of his own reading. In discussing the encounter of St. Patrick and the Archdruid in the last chapter of the Wake, for example, he faults critics who have over-emphasized the conversion of the Irish to Christianity as a key to the passage and argues that an understanding of the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity (represented by Patrick's shamrock) significantly enhances our appreciation of the incident. But for the most part he tends to assert rather than to demonstrate the importance of the shamrock as emblem of the Trinity in the episode, and at no point does he address the other issues to which Joyce, in a letter to Frank Budgen (20 August 1939), called attention. Gillespie's analysis makes good sense, but focusing on the shamrock and the Trinity while omitting elements that Joyce cited as important—the Sino-Japanese conflict of the 1930s, George Berkeley's theories, and the episode's role as a key debate about Finnegans Wake itself—leaves him open to the same charge of reductivism that he levels against others. As the first of the demonstration chapters, this one could have used more work. Gillespie's difficulties arise in large part from his ambitious attempt to handle a very complex subject within a short space: for example, the Finnegans Wake chapter has just over thirteen pages of text, supplemented by slightly over two pages of notes. He needs more room to work out the implications of his richly suggestive approach, especially in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 92-95
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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