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ELT 36:2 1993 ows the epithet 'somdomite* applied to Wilde by Lord Alfred Douglas's father. . . ." The phrase used by Algernon certainly does not "blatantly" call forth a promiscuous sodomite, nor can the "image of a promiscuous sodomite" foreshadow the epithet "somdomite" (misspelled by the Marquess of Queensberry on his calling card left for Wilde at his club) since neither the term nor the "image" appears in the play. Finally, Behrendt contends that homosexual Eros "inspires the literary style of his most famous works—the social comedies—which transpose the physical analogies of sexual attraction to the level of language." But Behrendt's suggestion that Wilde's style is the product of his homoeroticism implies that there is an identifiable mode of expression associated with a sexual orientation, yet a major influence on Wilde was Dumas fis, an ardent heterosexual whose paradoxical, epigrammatic style significantly shaped Wilde's. Behrendt's study has, at the very least, the capacity to provoke disagreements with a number of her critical views and assumptions. Such a study, with its challenges to certain received views, will undoubtedly keep the critical pot boiling during the current revival of interest in Wilde, though St. Martin's Press list price of $45 for this slender volume seems like an even greater challenge in these times of recession. Karl Beckson ______________ Brooklyn College, CUNY Pater, Aestheticism and Deconstruction Jonathan Loesberg. Aestheticism and Deconstruction: Pater, Derrida, and de Man. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991. 234 pp. $29.95 JONATHAN LOESBERG has taken on some large intellectual tasks in the last few years. His 1986 work, Fictions of Unconsciousness: Mill, Newman, and the Reading of Victorian Prose, attempted to show that deconstruction was a viable and illuminating method through which to understand the art of the Victorian sages. That book ended with Matthew Arnold. In this latest work, Loesberg confronts the post-Arnoldian world in a manner every bit as intelligent as that earlier book. There are extended dry stretches in both works, pages where one longs for a concrete noun or a touch of humor. But one learns from Loesberg. Fictions of Unconsciousness demonstrated the manner in which the autobiographies of Mill and Newman serve as empirical demonstrations of two quite different theoretical positions. In undercutting the claims of the two writers—and by extension demonstrating the fictiveness of 218 BOOK REVIEWS Victorian prose in general—Loesberg was using a different methodology to arrive at a point that has been made by other critics for several generations, it seems to me. He himself addressed that problem in terms that relate to Aestheticism and Deconstruction as well as to the earlier book: Specific interpretations have a way of remaining disconcertingly stable in the light of the most widely varying esthetic and historiographie theories. But I would argue that my [specific revisionary readings] are a necessary consequence of my theory and my methodology. (Fictions, 17) Perhaps they are, both in the first and in the second work. Loesberg is a highly intelligent writer. But it seems to me that in both books he is working very hard for an intellectual reward that is not that great. His method in the first book produced no stunning revisions in the way we see the field. Mill and Newman are still the same gentlemen we have been reading at least since the 1950s. Loesberg travelled a long, bumpy road to arrive at a flag already planted by critics like John Holloway and William Buckler decades ago. The shape of Victorian prose simultaneously enacts and undermines the ideology of the sage. Quite true. One could point out that we didn't really need deconstruction to find that out. Nor does the author change the way we see the post-Arnoldian world in his second book. But that is perhaps unfair to both the method and the author. Loesberg's first book, though hardly necessary, was knowledgeable and instructive, and perhaps that should be sufficient praise. Few books, after all, are necessary. Moreover deconstruction is not primarily a method for producing practical literary criticism, although it usually takes that form in this country. Its original field is the linguistic veil over knowledge, and in order to...


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