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KEVIEWS sign ofan originary postcoloniality, one that nonetheless hints early on at the inadequacy ofessentialist distinctions between colonized/colonizer. The final chapter of the book, "'Reason,' 'The Native,' and 'Desire: A Theory of "Magical Realism ,'"" diagnoses the practice ofnaming certain texts with the term of Magical Realism as "a colonial fantasy," arising from the desire ofWestern intelligentsia to capture otherness. This desire is, ofcourse, thwarted by the same texts that purport to offer access to this otherness. López concentrates on two texts in particular, Gabriel García Márquez's Cien Años de Soledad, and Salman Rushdie's Midnight 's Children to scavenge those moments when the texts subvert, and (ironically) fulfil, any expectations ofWestern readers. The book concludes with a recapitulation ofits main points, especially the idea that the postcolonial not only hints at a present but foresees an inevitable future marked by subjectivities which inhabit cultural spaces not easily essentialized. One is left in awe at the erudition that went into this handy volume, but what wins the day in the end is Lopez's sagacious close readings in support ofhis case, recapturing for us the activity ofreading as the vaccine against the ready-made category. After we put down the book, our next urge is to revisit those texts he hasjust dismantled , and maybe, ifwe are perceptive enough, to dig into our own subjectivities for that traffic ofdisparate codes that makes us also, and inevitably, postcolonial. Alexander Gil FuentesUniversity ofVirginia GAYATRI CHAKRAVORTY SPIVAK. Death ofaDiscipline. New York: Columbia UP, 2003. 136 pp. Gayatri Spivak's new and ominously titled book Death ofa Discipline emerges as the mostrecent in a venerable sub-genre in comparative literature offaux-prophetic visions. The book is the latest in Columbia University Press's ongoing series of Wellek Library Lectures—a curiously appropriate context, since René Wellek's own 1956 essay "The Crisis ofComparative Literature" was once the most famous, oft-quoted, and oft-discussed ofsuch prophecies (Concepts ofCriticism, Stephen G. Nichols, Jr., ed. [New Haven: Yale UP, 1963], 282-95). Although Spivak's is to my knowledge the only book-length study (albeit a slender one) ofthe question ofthe future ofcomparative literature, a keyword search ofthe MLA Bibliography will turn up a small number ofequally apocalyptic statements dating back at least as far as H. V. Routh's aptly titled "The Future ofComparative Literature" in 1913. We read older scholarship, I think, for the same affective reasons that some of us enjoy old science fiction films, or love Disney's Tomorrowland. Perhaps we seek on some level to confirm our own superior wisdom and savvy, so much improved since the days when the New Criticism was, well, new. One thing we can leam from the scholarship of the past—from what literature departments now quaintly call the "history ofcriticism"—is what the future used to look like. And a similar sense ofself-satisfaction rewards those who read past scholarship to measure the proverbial how-far-we've-come. My point is that it's always a precarious thing for a critic, even one as eminent as Spivak, to venture into the business of prophecy—to try to "see" into the future ofa literature or a discipline or even an author's reception, so easily does the future-anterior (the Derridean "will have been," a favorite ofSpivak's) slip into the perfect conditional ("would have been"). Just as 1950s sci-fi films such as Forbidden Planet or old Twilight Zone episodes Vol. 28 (2004): 160 THE COMPAKATIST portray in all their cheesy glory America's hopes, fears, and anxieties for the future, so examining decades-old texts bemoaning "the future ofcomparative literature" can teach us much about how a sense of crisis, fear of the future, even anxieties about the discipline's very foundations have informed it from the beginning. Many ofthese same aspirations and anxieties recur in Spivak's book, nearly fifty years after their last significant articulation in Wellek's "Crisis." In Spivak's case this still unresolved tension between comparative literature's hopes and fears, inherited from the shadow ofthe great old critic in whose name she is lecturing, takes the form of her by-now familiar attacks...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0887
Print ISSN
0195-7678
Pages
pp. 160-162
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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