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BOOK REVIEWS there is no history and everything—literature, advertising, political scandal, and different economic and political systems in various times and places—all exist on the same plane. PATRICIA LAURENCE ------------------------ Brooklyn College "Constructing the Experience" of Hardy's Tess Arthur Efron. Experiencing 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles': A Deweyan Account . New York: Rodopi, 2005. xii + 248 pp. Paper $72.00 ARTHUR EFRON'S Experiencing 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles': A Deweyan Account has a foreword by Michael Irwin and is divided into seven chapters: 1) Clearing the Foreground for Experiencing Tess, 2) The Body-Mind of Young Tess, 3) Toward Recovery, 4) Beyond Frustration to Experiential Disaster, (5) From Confusing Movement to Integral Restoration, 6) Consummations, and 7) Experience goes Further. These, in turn, are followed by notes, a bibliography, a brief author biography, and an index. It is a formidably dense and complex book, for which no review of limited scope can hope fully to do justice. I attempt here, then, only to single out what I judge to be some of its major weaknesses and strengths. While averring that his project will "have nothing to do with searching for innovative or radical interpretations," Efron nevertheless makes a sweeping claim for his "experience": "I do find that when the novel is approached from the perspective of the reader—myself—almost everything in it appears in a different light." But Efron's use of the word experience in his title needs clarification. First of all, it refers to an "experience" reflected through the filter of his particular enthusiasms: his dedication to a "Panzaic Principle" he has promoted in his review titled Paunch; his anarchist readings; his enthusiasms for the ideas of the psychologist Wilhelm Reich; his judgments about what "experiencing" literary works based on Dewey's Art as Experience must conform to, including Dewey's emphasis on the visceral and on the "fusion" of perception ; and Efron's consequent preferences for what kinds of "experiences" he wants to have. Efron, in short, is no tabula rasa but approaches the novel through a limited set of personal preferences which make him in many respects unique as a reader of Hardy's Tess—only some of which he acknowledges in his conclusion. Moreover, it is important to note that although he pointedly claims that other working critics apply various "stencils" to the work they discuss and so lack what Dewey describes as "genuine emotional excita359 ELT 48 : 3 2005 tion," he seems unable to relate that criticism to the fact that he views the novel through his own "stencils"—various aesthetic categories such as "emotional excitation," "energy," "bodily experience" and the like— which all too persistently, and intrusively, govern his "construction" of his "experience" of the novel. Hence, one important point to be made about Efron's Experiencing 'Tess' is that—although he claims to approach the novel "openly" and with a "consciousness that becomes fresh and alive"—it is more about Efron's construction of a narrative of recollections of his reactions as they are filtered through his personal perspectives , through the sometimes annoyingly intrusive theoretical quibbles which (often unhelpfully, I think) pervade his account of his experience of the novel, and through his responses to the many commentators to whom he refers. As to critical method, Efron describes his this way: I will use several critical methods in the task, depending on what I think is called for in the novel's many contexts. I may linger over a key passage in a manner that resembles a phenomenological investigation, I will often use my personal response to the text, I may use elements of Hardy's biography and of my own life experiences, I will pay attention to the historical context in which Hardy's novel appeared, and I will do close reading in the manner of the New Criticism. From my Deweyan perspective, I will make many connections between experiencing the novel and furthering that experience by showing its connections with culture as it exists today—and how those connections remain personal as well as social. In effect, Efron appeals to Dewey for leave to allow him any and all comments he may wish to make about Hardy...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 359-363
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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