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REVIEW ESSAYS study of Chinese literature relevant to the interest and concerns ofpeople outside the narrow circle ofChina specialists," Zhang nonetheless points to the dangers in "collapsing the difference between politics in the Western academy on the one hand, [. . .] and state politics in China on the other" (139). To guard against such a collapse, Zhang reminds us, is to take a truly theoretical position, which means "first and foremost to think critically oftheory itself (126). And this thinking is not done in a theoretical or ideological vacuum either. "To think critically ofWestern theory thus means to rely on the aesthetic experience ofreading a Chinese text and, in a broader context, to rely on the experience ofreal life in China, the experience ofthat economic, political, and cultural environment we call China" (126). This personal, lived experience that "is part ofour own being, our identity or historicity, which cannot be truly suppressed or separated from our historical consciousness," thus "forms the basis ofour ability to know, [. . .] a perspective not wholly contained by Western theory" (141). This personal experience is repeatedly invoked throughout the book, though never entirely spelled out, and serves as the vantage point for critique. Indeed, Zhang takes it to be "a special advantage—and I may even say a special responsibility" (127). While I am sympathetic to Zhang's insistence on the reality and humanity ofthe Other, and the reality of lived experience of China, at times I fear the emphasis on this special advantage may not be conducive to what he advocates as "the openness in the study ofChinese literature." To reiterate a concept-metaphor that Zhang uses in his essay collected in China in a Polycentric World, East-West comparative study is like parallelism, with the two lines resembling a couplet in Chinese poetry, "carrying on a dialogue." The dialogues, debates, and polemics recorded in these two volumes are indeed witness to the growing and vibrant field ofthe comparative study ofnon-Western literature, which must ofnecessity carry on a dialogue with Western theory as well as among participants with vastly different backgrounds and interests. HU YingUniversity ofCalifornia, Irvine DORRIT COHN. The Distinction ofFiction. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1999. ix + 197 pp. * HAYDEN WHITE. Figurai Realism: Studies in the Mimesis Effect. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1999. xii + 205 pp. + JOHN JOHNSTON. Information Multiplicity: American Fiction in the Age ofMedia Saturation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1998. ? + 307 pp. FICTIONALITY, TROPOLOGY, "MACHINIC" ASSEMBLAGES: COMPETING MODELS IN NARRATIVE ANALYSIS The titles given above foreground the ongoing exchanges in narrative studies among approaches as diverse as poetics in the Käte Hamburger-Gérard Genette line, the deconstructive revival ofrhetoric à la Barthes, Derrida, and de Man, and the focus on textual and contextual "assemblages" theorized by Deleuze and Guattari . Formalism's distinctions, poststructuralism's scumbling of the same, and cultural criticism's renewed case for the environments ofrepresentation bear here on each other polemically in revealing comparative and theoretical contexts. Among the three books, Dorrit Cohn's plea for the "distinction of fiction" strikes me as the most belligerent. Her intervention responds to recent developments in narrative and historiographical theory that challenge basic oppositions and categories. As the critic states, "The 'distinction' that my title attributes to fiction Vol. 25 (2001): 160 ??? COHPAnATIST is to be understood in two senses of the word: uniqueness and differentiation." Thus, she "aims to show that fictional narrative is unique in its potential for crafting a self-enclosed universe ruled by formal patterns that are ruled out in all other orders ofdiscourse" (vii). But fictionality's "uniqueness," no less than its "self-enclosedness ," has been under attack since the 1 970s. In her new book, Cohn takes up the gauntlet thrown down by such assaults. Her reaction touches, directly or indirectly , on the other two volumes presented here. Thus 7Vze Distinction ofFiction reacts explicitly to Hayden White's "literariness of historical writing" (Figurai Realism ix). Or, in an implicit comment on John Johnston's cultural reading of postmodernism in Information Multiplicity, Cohn declares that "one ofmy purposes in undertaking this study is to show that [the division between fiction and history] remains with us even (and perhaps especially) in the face of certain postmodern practices that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0887
Print ISSN
0195-7678
Pages
pp. 160-164
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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