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Reviews167 conceptual and argumentative content of those parts of his work that deal in concepts and arguments; on the other, to indicate the ways in which reading Barthes can mean more than simply absorbing a set of theories or positions which are to be set up against other theories or positions as if in some kind of theoretical tournament" (p. 11). Moriarty is at his best in thejoust, his summaries and expositions nicely marking changes and repeated figures in Barthes's corpus , even though the joust is less with the details of other "concepts and arguments " than with the positions from which they are constructed. However, because one cannot, finally, give an argument for taking one position rather than another, Moriarty faUs to do more than to identify different positions. His engagement with Barthes does not go beyond "simply absorbing a set of theories " in order to "indicate the ways in which reading Barthes can mean more than" absorbing theories. It is time to engage Barthes and to test him, but Moriarty does not deliver on his invitation to do so because he does not show us how reading Barthes is more than grasping a content and, therefore, does not show us how to negotiate the different positions in play. Making Barthes's work clear is notwhatis needed. What needs to be made clear, however, is how to read Barthes. To read him is to witness a performance, and what we must know in order to decide if what we witness is true is how to bear witness. To attest to what happens in Barthes's work is, I submit, to do (for) oneself a Barthesian reading of "certain old and lovely things" whose signifieds are abstract and out of date, to carry on in the Barthesian way, a way that Moriarty does some to illuminate. City University of New YorkMary Bittner Wiseman A Pact with Silence: Art and Thought in the Fables ofJean de La Fontaine, by David Lee Rubin; xvi & 132 pp. Columbus : Ohio State University Press, 1991, $39.50. In this well-conceived, persuasively argued study, David Lee Rubin addresses these fundamental questions: What are fables, and how did La Fontaine enrich the genre? To what extent are his Fables informed by the thinking ofthe Roman philosopher Lucretius? How is a representative grouping of fables structured? Is La Fontaine's poetic accomplishment a remarkable but isolated phenomenon, or are there connections between his art and the lyrical expression of his age? After an introduction in which he concisely reviews several trends in modern Lafontainian scholarship, Rubin finds that "La Fontaine's fables are both sum- 168Philosophy and Literature mative and innovative: they recapitulate the main features of their double [Aesopic and Indie] heritage, whUe also striking off in bold new directions" (p. 19). Sounding a dieme that wiU generate a series of patient, lucid readings of important poems throughout the book, Rubin states that "the sense of a given fable by La Fontaine is never to be taken for granted" (p. 50)—an essential point often disregarded by readers of the Fables. Chapter 2 is a detaUed account, based on concepts of "theme and thesis," of the complex relationship between the Fables and De Rerum Natura. Although La Fontaine called himself"Disciple de Lucrèce" (in the "Poème du Quinquina"), Rubin makes clear that the French poet's Epicureanism has original elements. The critic argues, for instance, that while "Lucretius is almost always assertional, even homiletic, La Fontaine is frequendy problematic." Moreover, as Rubin points out, "La Fontaine reverses the proportions of De Rerum Natura, giving precedence to ethics—or, more precisely, eudemonie—at the expense ofphysics and epistemology." According to Rubin, "virtuallyevery idea [La Fontaine] draws from Lucretius is mostoften elaborated and refined, or . . . refuted and replaced" (p. 52). Bolstering his analysis with references to many fables, Rubin discusses a numberofkey topics (e.g., social contracts, death, happiness, sex and marriage, friendship). After noting that the fabulist "replaced the folk wisdom of Aesopic and Indie fable-writing with his personal adaptation of philosophical principles derived from a literary model," Rubin concludes that "with La Fontaine, the fable passed from sagesse to system" (p. 77). Chapter 3...


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pp. 167-169
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