In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviews185 fiction cannot be wholly dissociated from the temporality of ordinary experience . The way in which a fictional work is able to "open onto a world, like a 'window' that cuts out a fleeting perspective of a landscape beyond" (p. 100) is the argument of the long fourth chapter. Here, Ricoeur presents his argument through analyses of Woolfs Mrs. DaUoway, Mann's Der Zauberberg, and Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu. The (quite different) experiences of time in these novels are offered as paradigms of fictive experience generally, "a virtual manner of living in the world projected by the literary work as a result of its capacity for self-transcendence" (p. 159). For all its passages of cogent insight, the structure of the book does not appear adequate to the issues it addresses. Though one knows it is a continental habit, to approach each major question through criticism of the (often tangential) work of others is wearying and finally irritating. Why use the insufficiency of certain theories about fictional tenses as scaffolding for arguing the very central question of the relation of fictionality to the world of lived experience? Though one knows that linguists, grammarians, and discourse analysts often seem overly preoccupied with the intriguing example, to eschew examples through the first three chapters not only taxes readers' tolerance but leaves the meaning of certain key terms in doubt. What precisely is the "traditionality " of narrative that semiotics cannot ignore or the "configuration" that produces "concordant discordance"? The third volume of Time and Narrative will treat "the power of narrative, taken in its indivisible wholeness, to refigure time" (p. vii), and in doing so, apparently, examine the process of the reader's "refiguration" which complements authorial "configuration." One hopes that Volume II will prove to have been but the pedestrian preparation for a stimulating and substantive statement of the powers that give successful narrative value and interest beyond serving as the raw material for critical castle-building. Pennsylvania State UniversityWendell V. Harris The Dialectics ofRepresentation, by Susan Wells; ? & 195 pp. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985, $19.50. One notices that though the author gives histories of the two conceptual categories "typicality" and "indeterminzicy," i.e., of the dialectical antinomy which supposedly grounds our reading of literature, the two key words of the 186Philosophy and Literature title receive no detailed examination. A look at "representation," a word which resonates in the fields of literature, law, politics, economics, and philosophy, would certainly support Wells's Marxist approach. As for "dialectics," not only does this key term remain undefined; but the explanation of the title and project of the book is anodyne: "By dialectics ofrepresentation . . .1 mean to imply both a connection between social life and literature and a way of understanding or reading that connection" (p. ix). Later Wells explains that she wishes to explore the ways in which a text's historical references (the "typical") and its self-references or ambiguities (the "indeterminate") ' condition and depend upon each other, to observe history being short-circuited into literary process while indeterminacy attains intersubjective force. Such a dialectical argument is possible, interesting, and would constitute a useful contribution to the most important conflict in current theory, between those who believe with Jameson that literature can say meaningful things about the world, and those who believe with Paul de Man that literature presents only "allegories of reading." Yet though the work of these theorists is destabilized by the very dialectic at issue here, Wells recuperates them as typical representatives of reference and of reading, respectively. For the most part her analyses — of Shakespeare, ofJohn Webster, of Jacobean City Comedy , and of the Bildungsroman — also are based in typicality. In The Duchess of Malfi, for example, the Duchess typifies the typical (because of her happy marriage), her brothers the indeterminate (because they exploit people), and Bosola is the swing case, moving from the indeterminate to the typical register . Reasonable, but hardly dialectical. This is standard literary analysis, in which conflicts between characters represent conflicts between ideas. And here such representation is made ineluctable by the heterogeneity of the ideas. Thus, "the typical register takes as its domain the relations between individuals and groups...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 185-187
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.