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

Reviews311 is subject, to a law that is only nameable in one figure or another; and for Benjamin both die text and its translation are mistranslations of an original which can never be retrieved. Contradictions and paradoxes abound. The ediical moment of reading obeys the law of the ethics of reading but can never confront it direcdy. It manifests itself in the necessary reading of what is necessarily unreadable. Miller does more than provide ingenious accounts of interesting texts and a suggestive exploration ofthe link between reading and moral law. For instance, he argues that ethics and storytelling are inseparable; he describes narrative as the deferral of a confrontation with the very law which narrative is supposed to exemplify; he shows the dependence ofrealism on catachresis; and he relates Trollope's obsessive writing of fiction to the novelist's attempt to produce a novel satisfying "his need for a written ascertained moral law" (p. 98). For all its virtues, Miller's enterprise is not quite successful. This is pardy due to his belief that he too must indefinitely postpone a direct meeting with the law of the ethics of reading. But there are other reasons for die partial failure. Thus, Miller claims that the stakes in getting the ethics of reading right are large; yet he does not make the stakes explicit. More importandy, perhaps, Miller is unable or unwilling to specify whether there are differences between the ethical import of an act like reading and the ethical import of other acts. Still, The Ethics ofReading undeniably fulfills at least one of Miller's avowed goals: its blend of intelligence, subdety, and knowledge constitutes an excellent defense and illustration of the rhetorical—deconstructive—study of texts. University of PennsylvaniaGerald Prince Literary Theory I Renaissance Texts, edited by Patricia Parker and David Quint; vii & 399 pp. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986, $30.00 cloth, $12.95 paper. The editors ofthis book have brought together a collection offirst-rate essays diat display the range and fecundity of contemporary theory. Versions of virtually all recent critical tendencies can be found: the new historicism in Louis Montrose on Queen Elizabedi, Richard Halpern on Skelton, and Ullrich Langer on the invention of gunpowder in Ronsard; feminism in Diana Wilson on Cervantes's Persiles and Mary Nyquist on Milton; semiotics and deconstruction in Eugenio Donato on Ariosto, Terence Cave on Rabelais, Patricia Parker on Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Jonson, Derek Attridge on Puttenham, and Victoria Kahn on humanism and the resistance to theory; Girardian theory in 312Philosophy and Literature René Girard on Hamlet and revenge; psychoanalysis in Stephen Greenblatt on Martin Guerre. Most of the essays, let it be said, do not fit easily into the categories mentioned, and two of die best in die collection—John Freccerò on Petrarch and Thomas Greene on Machiavelli—are interestingly unclassifiable. However, as David Quint argues in his helpful introduction, "die interest of this volume . . . consists in diejuxtaposition ofworks in which humanist concepts of the text, writer and reader were first formulated with a literary theory that has called those concepts into question" (p. 6). However, die collection is marked by a number of problems and shortcomings . The contributors time and again begin with respectful gestures in the direction of theory but very soon make those gestures seem empty: they sketch their own peculiar version of what is theoretically important and their essays are elevated accordingly; diey apply theoretical ideas in a mechanical way, ending up widi familiar sorts of thematic readings; they are conveniendy ignorant of aspects of contemporary theory (aspects which they sometimes start by invoking) that might put their work into question. In the first case, for instance, Terence Cave tells us diat "die focal issue is whedier the fictions of Rabelais can be made to yield a coherent, univocal meaning" (p. 78). But how has he decided diat that issue is "focal"; is it "focal" for contemporary criticism generally or only for certain Rabelaisians? In the second case, Patricia Parker begins widi references to Derrida's différance as dilation, next offers a huge number of examples, and finally returns to a consideration of the implications—a consideration which is all too brief, the result being...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 311-313
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.