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??? COHPAnATIST his formative years steeped in the Neo-Kantian philosophy ofthe Marburg school (mainly Hermann Cohen), although he also often refers to its opponents Heinrich Rickert (a Neo-Kantian ofthe Southwest school who directed Heidegger's Habilitationschrift ) and William Dilthey. In addition, Bakhtin invoked virtually every contemporary German writer on aesthetics in some context, such as Conrad Fiedler, Friedrich Vischer, Alois Riegel, AdolfHindelbrant, Theodor Lipps, and many other authorities on art and the psychology of perception. Bakhtin would usually sort these often unwieldy theories of aesthetic response into two categories, the "impressive " centered on the art-work's formal properties and the "expressive" involving an artist's ability to communicate feeling or affirm values through his works. However, Bakhtin's early manuscripts did notjust radicalize these theories of aesthetic response by driving their logic to the breaking point; he managed to transform the terminological apparatus of German aesthetics into an original philosophical project. In particular, the concept of"vnenakhodimost"' (translated as "outsidedness" by Emerson; literally, "finding-oneself-outside") became the vehicle and focal point ofhis ontological "architectonics." It is no surprise, therefore , that Emerson chose to drop "prosaics" and "unfinalizability," and give "outsidedness " more prominence. It is now a key concept with "polyphony and dialogism " and "carnival," each ofwhich receives a separate chapter with summaries ofBakhtin's texts and contemporary responses arranged by their authors' positions. Rather than describing the wealth ofthis part ofthe book, however, I would like to address a discursive gesture that Emerson makes whenever professional Dostoevsky or Rabelais scholars attack Bakhtin's expertise. That gesture consists in defending him from such criticism by affirming his status as a thinker, rather than a literary historian or critic. This defensive strategy has a price. First, some readers might find the criticisms so meticulously collected by Emerson more convincing than her insistence on his basically philosophical aims. Second, ifBakhtin is a thinker, it is essential to clarify the relationship between philosophy and literature on the thematic as well as the discursive levels ofhis writing before evaluating the claims ofhis literary analyses. In opening up issues ofthis kind, however, Caryl Emerson has written a timely and erudite reception study that should contribute to the major reconsideration ofBakhtin's work now needed due to our growing awareness ofthe philosophical motivation behind his recourse to literature. Oleg KrochikHunter College, City University ofNew York MARJORIE PERLOFF. Wittgenstein 's Ladder: Poetic Language and the Strangeness ofthe Ordinary. Chicago and London: U of Chicago P, 1996. xvii + 285 pp. In her new and intriguingly original book, Marjorie Perloff scrutinizes pivotal moments in the history ofthe twentieth-century literary avant-garde and neo-avantgarde from Gertrude Stein to the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets through the lenses ofthe Wittgensteinian philosophy oflanguage. But the Wittgenstein who climbs PerlofFs own, critical ladder may not fit the expectations ofreaders familiar with fairly recent appropriations ofthe Tractatus and PhilosophicalInvestigations for literary-hermeneutical purposes. In Wittgenstein and Derrida, Henry Staten has shown how and to what extent poststructuralism might provide a context for "reVoI 23 (1999): 195 BOOK NOTES discovering" Wittgenstein. In fact, Staten wonders whether the connection implied by his title is legitimate, considering the complicated issue of"ordinary language." His answer is ultimately affirmative: both Derrida and Wittgenstein define meaning as an effect oflanguage's materiality ("games"). Staten also reminds us that the French philosopher draws upon modern writers to understand how these games come to be played. But Wittgenstein is, as Perloffnotes, far less interested in modern art and literature. Notably, he reaches markedly modernist and avantgarde conclusions about language by taking the path ofrather abstruse, deductive argumentation. It is the critic's role—which Perloffperforms brilliantly—to explain how Wittgenstein and representative writers ofour century go down this path more often than not unaware ofeach other's company. Or, following Perloffs Wittgensteinian metaphor, it is incumbent on the critic to tell us how the philosopher and authors like Gertrude Stein, Samuel Beckett, Ingeborg Bachmann, Thomas Bernhard , Joseph Kosuth, and American poets of"the everyday life" like Robert Creeley , Rosmarie Waldrop, Ron Silliman, and Lyn Hejinian climb the ladder of ordinary language only to face the "strangeness ofthe language we actually use" (xv). There...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0887
Print ISSN
0195-7678
Pages
pp. 195-196
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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