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ELT: VOLUME 34:3, 1991 fiction—there is Vanessa. And when Vanessa faced the depths of despair and doubted her existence, it was Virginia to whom she turned." But that is not quite a parallel statement, though Dunn seems to imply that it is. I think she underplays the toll the sisters' competitiveness took on Virginia. But then, until I read this book, I made the same mistake with regard to Vanessa. There has been an unfortunate tendency in recent Woolf criticism of taking sides for or against her family and friends (as if Virginia Woolf needed our protection and advice). Most simplistically this tendency has fallen on sexual lines: against the men in her life and for the women. My tendency has been to argue, instead, how destructive the legacy of her mother and the presence of her sister were for Virginia. Jane Dunn has shown me how Victorian type-casting was a negative legacy for both sisters, how each sister harmed the other, and how each (though in different times and ways) sustained the other. Abandoning a rigid chronology and a mechanical recital of works and events, empathizing with both sisters, refusing to make one sister the heroine, the other the villain, or one central, one subsidiary, Jane Dunn has written a book which attests to the power oÃ- l'écriture féminine. Panthea Reid Broughton Louisiana State University James, Joyce and Woolf Daniel Mark Fogel. Covert Relations: James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Henry James. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1990. χ + 210 pp. $26.50 IN COVERT RELATIONS, Daniel Mark Fogel adopts Harold Bloom's theory of a psychodynamic literary tradition to argue that Henry James was a profound, and inevitably repressed, influence on the writing of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. Fogel's project is itself marked by a sense of "belatedness," that term which Bloom coined to denote the sense of anxiety felt by writers who follow in the footsteps of a literary master. Bloom's work has a terrifying boldness: mystical, deliberately obtuse, scornful of documentation, The Anxiety of Influence (1975) and subsequent books reflect his encyclopedic knowledge and boundless memory. In these works Bloom doesn't exactly argue his case; rather, he demonstrates how "strong poetry," like Wordsworth's sense of the 366 Book Reviews sublime, "rolls through all things." Those readers who were skeptical of Bloom's grand project often found his readings to be provocative and liberating. These days few scholars can write or think like Bloom, much less get away with it. The critics most hostile to Bloom's readings were often less troubled by Freudian theory per se than by its specious application in argument. Thus Eric Warner blasted the "double-edged Freudian sword of influence " in a TLS review of Perry Meisel's The Absent Father: Virginia Woolf and Walter Pater (1980) arguing that Meisel demonstrated literary influence by direct evidence, and then took the absence of written evidence to be "proof of repression." Fogel protects himself from such accusations by being careful and lucid about his method: I believe that the principle points in the argument of Covert Relations rest on strong conjunctions of external and internal evidence. When, however, one is working on the presumption that the authors one is treating have been engaged in conscious and unconscious deception, in covering their own tracks, and in repression, one must have recourse at times to the conjectural and the circumstantial. I have tried to avoid the dubious, fail-safe technique of asserting influence when it is obviously there and when it is conspicuously absent. I hope, moreover, that readers will agree . . . that the main lines of the arguments . . . are amply supported by a variety of kinds of evidence, and that the more speculative points gain in plausibility as they are drawn into the context those main lines define. Paradoxically, Bloom domesticated—in the form of Fogel's cautious approach—is less persuasive than the original "loose and baggy," fearless Bloom. For to amass a quantity of "external evidence" is to beg the question of why we need a psychodynamic theory of influence at all. Further, both Joyce's playful co-optation of his influences, and Woolfs acutely self...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 366-369
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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