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THE COMPAKATIST cultural ("hegemonic") tradition(s). Transformative strategies and re-visioning postures associated witii critical rereading are in fact mentioned by many contributors , but the collection fails to describe rereading either as a conscious, culturally stimulated activity or as a natural, inevitable outgrowth ofdie continuing reading process. It merely suggests that "reading as rereading opens up a temporal space of reading, an irreducible difference in the time that we take to read" (14). Also puzzling is the editor's decision to include Maurice Blanchot's "Reading ." The essay is apparently meant for those readers who cannot find their critical niche in either direction emphasized by Bennett: that readers are the product of historical/social concerns, or mat even as individuals they are multiple. Blanchot holds that reading, for readers, is the reverse offinding an identity, that it is in fact, a "dissolution ofdie . . . sense ofself" (188), a position that undermines everydiing this collection has tried to establish concerning the interactive, transformative aspects of reading as a conscious act. His theory robs text and reader of cultural context, presenting each as an entity "torn from its place" (190). (Georges Poulet, whose "criticism ofidentification" encourages readers to identify with the spirit of the work, may have been a more suitable—and certainly less radical—inclusion at this point in the collection.) For Blanchot, reading merely affirms the existence of the work: "The book needs the reader to become a statue" (191)—immutable, unchanging , a "tranquil and silent presence" (194) that produces nothing. Blanchot is clearly among those famousely described by Bardies in S/Z, "who ... are obliged to read the same story everywhere." Robin Rison Ashworth Virginia Commonwealth University J. HILLIS MILLER Topographies. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1995. 376 pp. Topographies is more manjust J. Hillis Miller's most recent book (published in the Crossing Aesthetics series edited by Werner Hamacher and David Wellbery). The title is, in fact, a perfect introduction to me subject-matter and a most concise synthesis ofthe critic's method as well. A former member of the so-called Yale School with Paul de Man, Harold Bloom, and Geoffrey Hartman, Miller is by now a prolific author in whose work a phenomenological heritage is blended with a rare talent for "deconstructive" reading. To be sure, after the phenomenological period at Johns Hopkins, when Miller practiced a comprehensive criticism of identification, two other important moments followed: his affiliation with the Yale School, and the current post-Yale sequel at the University of California, Irvine. However, Miller never really lost touch during his Yale and Irvine phases with phenomenology as a reading strategy for unifying die subject and the object. In this connection, it should be recalled that at the time of The Disappearance ofGodand Poets ofReality, phenomenological criticism acted mainly as a challenge to New Criticism and its general aim ofestablishing a more "objective" approach to literature. A similar polemical note appeared in Miller's work, except that what for other interpreters was a political strategy dictated by the urgency ofdie moment, was for Miller more abiding: phenomenolVoI . 21 (1997): 163 REVZEWS ogy never vanished from his critical practice. Georges Poulet has remained a strong influence, along with an unbroken faiui in a sort of"humanistic" outlook on literature which emphasizes thejoy ofreading. The chapter on Derrida in Topographies reformulates the two main directions ofMiller's phenomenological career: phenomenology as a reading technique and as programmatic polemics. The act ofreading especially has capital significance for understanding Miller's evolution. The critic constantly reinforces the idea that, for him, deconstruction is nothing else but "good reading," and that the central difficulty in criticism arises wim our choice ofwhat to read. This necessarily leads to die ethical question: why does one choose to examine Trollope's fiction instead of Wilde's, for instance? The answer, at least for Miller, seems to be one ofthe definitions ofdeconstruction, which is a critical metiiod based on "me ethics ofreading." In other words, "ediics" is a signifier for the subjective affinity, or the phenomenological principle ofidentification, whereas deconstruction stands for the signified, the way to give one's textual choice a proper and comprehensive reading. This theoretical shift distances Miller within the Yale School from...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0887
Print ISSN
0195-7678
Pages
pp. 163-166
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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