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ELT 45 : 2 2002 of industrial production: that the breast is a kind of factory running amok. Metaphors derived from the world of consumption dominate the descriptions of tumours. Marx refers to the populace as a "disintegrated mass," and this is exactly the same term used for the breast after it has been riddled with cancer. Cancer is a destructive contagion just like the revolutionary crowd described by Gustave Le Bon. If you fail to be convinced by these weak analogies, O'Connor's next rhetorical move falls flat on its face. The second half of the chapter rewinds to the beginning, and this time refuses any analogical resonances to the cancerous breast at all, in the name of resisting the specious analogic thinking of much contemporary feminist and cultural theory on the body. But O'Connor has merely offered a poor parody of some sophisticated and valuable work, and it means that all of the valuable research is locked into an unconvincing structure. The basic point is a good one, that sometimes what looks like a cultural symptom remains mute and resistant , simply itself. But why does the author deny the analogy of the factory and the breast, yet propose that the freakish Fat Man operates as a "symbol of urban sprawl"? These seem the same in many respects: implausible , weak and over-stretched. The strategy feels even more bemusing , given an introduction which outlines rather well the aim of "tracking metaphors, allusions, and images across a range of representational spaces" in order to "break down barriers between texts, disciplines and genres." In short, this is a book with a wealth of fascinating material and some absorbing and intelligent readings of nineteenthcentury culture. It tries too hard, though, to seize a piece of the critical terrain to call its own, with ungenerous readings of fellow critics. It is all the more ironic that the Afterword reflects on the monstrosity of academic cultural studies: let's hope the future can be more generous and slightly less "deformed" than the meta-critical argument O'Connor presents here. Roger Luckhurst Birkbeck College, University oÃ- London Wilde as Humanist Bruce Bashford. Oscar Wilde: The Critic as Humanist. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1999. 197 pp. $36.00 BASHFORD'S STUDY, long in the making and deeply meditated, attempts to replace Wilde's stereotyped reputation for paradox, improvisation , and parody with evidence of his capacity for coherent criti230 BOOK REVIEWS cal and theoretical thinking. In this quest to define in Wilde a basic expression of human thought, his book contributes to the growing attention in recent years to Wilde's prose. Bashford discusses the critical dialogues of Intentions, the autobiography of De Profundis, and even (at exhaustive length) Wilde's juvenile essay, "The Rise of Historical Criticism ." As his discussion progresses, Bashford provides a number of enlightening aperçu. Of Wilde's idea of the mask as artifice, Bashford observes in his chapter on "Creativity and the Self in the Critical Dialogues": "in finding a form for his characters, the dramatist, though perhaps only for the moment of creation, fashions his own identity. And by adopting a mask, the man is able to tell you who he is because he then has an identity to reveal ." And considering "self-realization" in De Profundis, Bashford states his thesis, that Wilde is "a typical expression theorist," thus: According to his basic principle, the critic's subjective desire for expression combines with an ostensibly objective form in a manner that acts back on that desire by giving it a definite character. Form, then, does for Wilde what it usually does for a formalist: allows the inner to become outer, makes the private accessible for an audience of other persons. But what I most eagerly anticipated was Bashford's explication of his volume's title that suggests Wilde's accomplishment as thinker and theorist can be understood and appreciated as a form of "humanism." What, how, and why is Wilde a humanist? In Chapter 5, "Defining Humanism ," Bashford grapples with just the sort of slippery term that Arthur Lovejoy once wrestled with in defining Romanticism. Bashford knows that simply to state that "the goal of life for the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 230-232
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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