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THE COMPAKATIST Schlegel, who came after Rousseau, evidently had a certain contempt for both Cellini and Rousseau (in apassage quotedby Costa-Lima). Forhim tiiey represented a concentration on me selfthat was almost unwholesome. But he eventually thought of Rousseau's Confessions as a novel, quite superior to La Nouvelle Héloise. His idea of "romantic irony" is essentially opposed to system and finished theory; thus he can be considered an exponent of"criticity," like Montaigne. Costa-Lima seems to admire Schlegel's preference for the fragment. In this respect, Schlegel anticipates latercritics such as Walter Benjamin. Since he was the first writerwho devoted himself entirely to criticism, and he had a considerable influence in England and France as well as in Germany, he has some claim on our attention. Throughout The Limits ofVoice Costa-Lima speaks of"the Law," the external structure ofbeliefs that provide die selfwith orientation. It is what gives "criticity" its meaning in that it resists the act ofquestioning. When he comes to Kafka in the last part ofhis book, Costa-Lima is dealing with a writer who is almost obsessed with power and its machinery. The Trial, The Castle, most ofthe shorter fictions turn on this theme in an age when the fixed rules of "the Law" have virtually disappeared and the "consecration ofthe individual" could hardly be an ideal any longer. The author ends this book in a kind ofsuspension; he thinks "that Kafka's great achievement signals not as much an end as another beginning." And he hints that the book under review is part ofan ongoing project that may lead to another work. What he has published so far is very impressive. Celso de Oliveira University ofSouth Carolina PAUL H. FRY. A Defense ofPoetry: Reflections on the Occasion ofWriting. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1995. 255 pp. Collecting and supplementing essays published over roughly die past fifteen years, Fry's book concerns itselfrelatively little with defending the usefulness of poetry from the attacks ofa Gosson or Peacock. Rather, tiie work merits attention as an index to the state of literary criticism today, particularly as exemplified by Fry's own practice. Fry wants to recuperate poetry and criticism from formalist and/or historicist impulses, whereby deconstruction has become simply a return to high formalism (with Continental inflections), and new historicism has merely offered a counterreturn to the irreducible genesis of a literary artifact. Arguing that both methods implicitly lay claim to an exclusive priority for hermeneutics (whetiier determined by conditions oflinguistic instability or historical production), Fry challenges this claim by positing what he calls "the ostensive moment": I claim that poetry (literature, expressive communication), unlike other forms of discourse that exhaust themselves shaping or making sense of things, is that characteristic of utterance, defined as "ostensión" in the ensuing chapters, which temporarily releases consciousness from its dependence on the signifying process. (4) Vole 21 (1997): 171 BOOK NOTES Since the ostensive moment, as Fry conceives it, inherently eschews meaning, he must, and does at numerous places throughout his text, perform ostensión rather than define it. Although free from meaning-dependence, the ostensive moment is both intentional (in the phenomenological sense, a consciousness ofsomething) and, in fact, preconceptual (11). Though part ofa culture-specific artifact, it is not constructed; and, altiiough dialectically interconnected with reference and form, it resists being subsumed by history or structure (5-6). Further, ostensión is not to be aligned with the sublime (a potential misreading which Fry emphatically preempts in his introduction and subsequently in Chapter 7), epiphany (all ofPart Two, and Chapter 5 specifically), or social or aestiietic indifference (Chapter 6). And when Fry writes elsewhere that the intentionality ofostensión involves an awareness ofthe unintended that is either expressed as such or provokes, as non-construction, that compensatory construction ofintentional consciousness with which the notion of"hieropoetics" confuses it (29), comparatists familiarwith Maurice Blanchot's work—whose essay, "Literature and me Right to Death," Fry aptly calls "Blanchot's defense ofpoetry" (8)—can begin to detect how central the movement ofnegativity is to Fry's argument. Phenomenology, as it is re-emerging in Anglo-American literary studies today, presumably affords the critic a more sophisticated vocabulary than...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0887
Print ISSN
0195-7678
Pages
pp. 171-172
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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