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Reviews227 its own rules for establishing the metaphysical meaning of what it has borrowed from the history of thought" (p. 12). I do not share his indifference, if indifference it is. Can the student of meaning and truth afford a plurality of realities? Is not ontological bankruptcy sure to ensue when epistemology knows no limits? Of course, the fictive artist may make a fictively valid use of a "wrong" idea. The house of meaning as we know by dwelling in it has room for deceptive vistas and blind corridors. But somebody sometime should have some sense of the uses of truth in the structuring of a work of literary art, or else we look in the direction of believing in no meaning whatever except in verbal structure as structured. In the long run, I think, and probably in the not very long run, the concept of meaning cannot do without the concept of truth. As I read Finnegans Wake, it is so crammed with meaning that it oozes meaning at every pore. It leers meaning, it insinuates meaning, it stumbles and staggers meaning, it plays meaning, it claims meaning, it fumbles meaning, it often blunderingly reaches down into the depths of human meaningfulness, its author knowing that the simple and the true thing is the child of the deeply obscure and the intricately complex. I have no quarrel with people who love the books I love — and a few who don't. Professor White loves the Wake. Whitman CollegeThomas D. Howells Meaning and Myth in the Study of Lives: A Sartrean Perspective, by Stuart L. Charme; vii & 190 pp. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984, $25.00. Stuart Charme links Eliade's notion of myth with Sartre's search for the "fundamental project"— as it is effected in every person's life and as it is revealed in Sartre's autobiography (The Words) and in his biographical studies of Baudelaire, Genet, and Flaubert. In this context, he does not hesitate to call these Sartrean works "religious" — in intention and in effect. Charmé shares with Eliade the belief that a myth, which is essentially cogmogonic, offers a unique vision of reality with its fundamental structures. The account of a mythic event is a "true story" insofar as it represents "what is truly real and significant for those who believe it" (p. 153). Through myth humanity imposes a pattern of meaningful repetition upon the irreversible flow of time. Charme claims that in our secular society the sphere of myth is within us. 228Philosophy and Literature The evolving self might best be compared, Charme believes, to the story one tells oneself as he retrospectively orders the events of his past and establishes meaningful relations among them. Obviously more than one line of plot and interpretation would be possible whether in biography or autobiography. The method is in any case hermeneutic. "In some ways," Charme says, "interpreting a person's life may fruitfully be compared with the process of creating and interpreting texts" (p. 3). A distinctive characteristic of Sartre's study of lives is its paradigmatic function , and this, too, Charmé links with religious hagiography. This is not to say that Sartre holds up his subjects, still less himself, as models to be imitated. But his purpose includes more than the discovery of what makes a given individual tick. In The Family Idiot Sartre seeks to show through Flaubert how everyone is a "singular universal," reflecting his familial and social conditioning and in turn putting his own stamp on his period. Sartre's own struggle to create a self, in Charmé's view, embodied the problems and tensions peculiar to our age. The result is not a pattern for us to follow but a gift to aid us in our own selfclarification . In this connection Charmé compares Sartre's works with Erik Erikson's "religious biographies" of Luther and Gandhi. Indeed, there is a running commentary on resemblances between Sartre's existentialism and Erikson's psychology which have been too little noted and deserve further exploration. Occasionally Charmé's attempt to find compatibility in writers usually thought of as offering opposing views (e.g., Sartre and Freud) leads him to blur distinctions. He goes...


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pp. 227-228
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