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THE COMPAKATIST their declaration of"the death ofeverydiing" (7), as well as their indulgence (by way ofcritical theory) in "meaningless intellectual games" (8). Other proposals for bringing comparative literary study into a broader multicultural perspective include "refounding die humanities on the sciences," developing a semiotic method for cross-cultural study, and using an intertextual approach to contextualize the heterogeneity ofvarious Latin American literatures. The theoretical and methodological differences between the essays in this volume and the ACLA report edited by Bernheimer reveal that defining me current status of comparative literature is fraught with many polemical negations and contestations. The subject clearly needs furtherjudicious study and discussion. Christine Kiebuzinska Virginia Polytechnic andState University YVES CHEVREL· Comparative Literature Today: Methods andPerspectives . Trans. Faruda Elizabeth Dahab. Introd. Gerald Gillespie. Kirksville MO: The Thomas Jefferson UP, 1995. xv + 111 pp. Yves Chevrel intended this work to be a follow-up to a volume ofthe same title written by M.-F. Guyard in 195 1. The Guyard text went through six different editions and for many years was a major reference. Chevrel is unlikely to fill mat void. While he outlines die impact ofvarious French theoreticians ofthe discipline of comparative literature from the 1960s through the 1980s, his work lacks the breadtii and depth expected in treatises on comparative literature today. Chevrel limits his discussion largely to Gallic and German sources. The bibliography at die end ofhis text, while helpful, is in chronological order, with no cross-referencing by author or title. Thus, its utility is diminished. There is no index to the volume. Chevrel's analysis, in a competent translation by a former student, runs only seventy-six pages. The book is fleshed out with two earlier essays, one originally published in a Frenchjournal and illustrating the importance ofcomparative studies that focus on a single year ofliterary activity, the other a discursive look at how the city has been depicted in twentieth-century literature. The date ofthis latter essay is not given. Chevrel, a former officer ofdie International Comparative Literature Association (ICLA), correlates various trends in comparative literary criticism with ICLA conferences and research projects through the years. His knowledge ofinternational research centers, while almost exclusively European-based, is also helpful. His best analysis emerges in his treatment oftranslations, when his practical side considers such things as the typography ofa translation or its political impact. While erudite and urbane, Chevrel's perspective remains Eurocentric. As he comes closer to the present day, he sometimes becomes decidedly more tentative, as he does when discussing feminism, which he treats in a one-page section, labeled "A Feminine Writing?" Chevrel has the difficult task ofmoving through uncharted waters. As he explains , the influence studies ofthe past—once the mainstay ofGallic comparatism —have yielded to structuralist, semiotic, or otiier perspectives. While he stresses the Vol/. 21 (1997): 175 BOOK NOTES need to keep an open mind about what lies ahead, he seems to long for absolutes. Tentativeness, as already mentioned, or pedanticism, as he struggles to define comparative literature and its metiiodology, seem to be the Scylla and Charybdis through which he navigates. As he veers toward Charybdis, he writes such words as "Comparatists do not claim to study essentially die relation ofthe creator to his work—which is die concern ofother specialists . . ." (73). His defining comparative literature negatively hurts what should be vibrant and free intellectual inquiry. He also runs the risk oftruisms with statements like, "It is . . . vital to read the texts in the original," or "the comparatist should have active knowledge of two or three languages ..." (14). One would have expected Chevrel to have been a bolder navigator in his exploration ofthe discipline. Nevertheless, the introduction to the volume by ICLA president Gerald Gillespie is extremely laudatory, and suggests that Chevrel is simply writing for a broader audience. Jeanne J. Smoot North Carolina State University BEATRICE MARTINA GUENTHER The Poetics ofDeath: The Short Prose ofKleist andBalzac. Albany: The SU of New York P, 1996. 216 pp. Scenes ofdeath abound in the short fiction ofKleist and Balzac, but Guenther's study does not focus on a thematic study ofthe kinds ofdeath portrayed. She concentrates instead on die narrative structure ofthose scenes and their significance for the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0887
Print ISSN
0195-7678
Pages
pp. 175-176
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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