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Book Reviews Green would have connected this novel more effectively with Reed's earlier elucidation of the philosophical, scientific, and theological background. One error, perhaps, rises above the merely routine or trivial. In his discussion of The Way of All Flesh, Reed describes Ernest's grandfather as "a creative, impulsive, constructive man." But it is Ernest's great-grandfather who is so portrayed in Butler's novel, whereas George, Ernest's grandfather, is a vicious tyrant. The point is not a minor one, for the timorous and priggish autocrat Theobald is himself a faüed rebel; the resumption of familial progress, albeit quahfiedly, in Ernest's modest success as a writer is deferred for two generations, not just one, thereby dramatizing aU the more acutely the at-best hesitating process of development implicit in Butler's adaptation of Lamarckianism. On the whole, what makes Victorian Will less hkely to be read aU the way through may also make it more hkely to be consulted, whether for its useful summary of lesser-known nineteenth-century inteUectual texts or its crisp and penetrating readings of much major and less-thanmajor fiction. This in itself is no mean achievement. Lawrence Poston University of Illinois at Chicago Poetry, Theory, and Critical Cases Frank Kermode. An Appetite for Poetry. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989. χ + 242 pp. $22.50 HERE ARE TEN PIECES of practical scholarship and criticism on a diversity of topics from the dechne of the common reader to poetic and scriptural interpretation and the nature of hterary canons—with hermeneutics as the recurrent exercise and each essay set forth as a numbered "chapter" of the whole—these ushered in by a Prologue on the issue of hterary study and post-structuralist theory. In what sense is this assemblage a book? That it does make a book, a highly stimulating one, becomes evident as a function not of a plan or strategy of argument but of the diverse stimuli administered. As obhque as some vast composite modernist artifact laid athwart the pathway of plain experience, the book contains many clues to its essential unity, and if the reader should hasten past the Prologue, with its confrontation between hterature and theory, he may miss those clues. For An Appetite for Poetry seems to express a subtext, one that defines the job of the scholar-critic by means 251 ELT: Volume 34:2, 1991 of such clues—which are simply the different kinds of intellectual activity exemplified by the various essays. In other words the book is telling us that the learned writer's job is to use all the tools of the trade. Frank Kermode announces in the Prologue, composed after the miscellaneous essays, his conception of the value of the scholarly enterprise, gauging the possible interferences as well as benefits that may be posted to the account of theory. Echoing William Empson, who said that the critic has to trust his own nose and not be distracted by any theory, he places himself not as an adversary of theory but in a free relation to it, thus disclosing the rationale for the diversities of the essays. The freedom to seek wisdom in diversity itself is the subtext; but the text, the sermon text as it were, remains for the entire book the civilized value of the encounter with hterature. That it is literature more than theory that should concern the academic scholar results from the pedagogic commitment of the academy, and this in turn from the obhgation to maintain the hnkage between the present of civilization and the past of the human experience in attaining it. The need to study hterature (a great deal more than belles lettres) is a corollary of Kermode's premise that the main concern of the academy is value itself. The reader who skims the Prologue, perhaps from a certain ennui with the claims of post-structuralist critical theory but after all with a suspicion that semiotics has undercut the value of traditional meaning, wiU miss Kermode's scornful repudiation of the current cant about the "pohtical" character of canons, often as the legacies of an aUeged "white-male" hegemony of oppression. That this contention is voiced in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 251-255
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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