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REVIEWS 101 world. In other words, the study ofreality as a process of perception and coding makes the study of art more epistemologically sound; ifreality is the result of a fiction-making process, then the study of the fiction-making process is a study of reality in itself. Although this approach may indeed be the most valuable one for making criticism the sound scientific study ofreality that critics yearn for, Fokkema and Kunne-Ibsch do not pursue the path broadly enough. The more complex theories of Alfred Schutz, mentor to Berger and Luckmann need to be considered. Erving Goffman's work, especially in FrameAnalysis, aleo would be helpful, as would the work of cognitive psychologists Jean Piaget and Jerome Bruner. If there is to be any possibility of linking the theories of the semioticians with the hope for empiricalvalidity of the reception critics, a broaderinterdisciplinary base mustbe explored than that suggested by Fokkema and Kunne-Ibsch. Charles May Towards a New AmericanPoetics: Essays A Interviews, ed. Ekbert Faas. Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow, 1978. 296pp. $14 ($6 paper). The "New American Poetics" is neither new nor American. It is, instead, new to America. Though, since some of its antecedents include Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman, even that isn't quite true. What is new is the attempt to see this esthetics as, or to make it, American. In other words, to a certain extent Faas' book is polemical, though to a greater extent it is descriptive. As I understand this new poetics, it is a particular intensificationof selected interests and assumptions that grow out of Romanticism. As these interests have developed, they have acquired authority and backing from esthetic, religious, and anthropological ideas from eastern and primitive cultures. Faas condenses it to three manageable concepts: "The new art and aesthetics may be said to reflect a non-antbropocentric, a-teleological and frequently monistic understanding of life." By monistic he means what some critics now call "holistic," the notion that life is global or that no one part ofexistence—the conscious mind, say, or some "higher" species—is more important than another or is to be explained without reference to the rest. Mankind is no longer thought tobe at the center or pinnacle of life. Life is no longer supposed to be the drama of human progress toward a more civilized, if by "civilized" is meant a more rationally ordered, existence. The chiefimpetus for this lies in the Romantic attack on the rationalism of the Enlightenment and in the Romantic defense of individual feelings. Blake, Wordsworth , and other early Romantics helped replace standards of moderation, taste, and learning in literature with an assertion of the centrality of the imagination. The movement was enormously liberating. It helped take letters away from a moneyed and educated establishment. But, in encouraging the exercise of individual imagination or the developement of the "egotistical sublime," Romanticism also encouraged people to feel that they were at the center of earthly life, as well as encouraging a kind of blindness toward everything else. In that sense, Romantic theories of the imagination reinforced the idea—crucial to 102 THEMINNESOTA review eighteenth century rationalism—that human beings were the highest order of life on earth. It is no coincidence that esthetic theories based on the importance of the imagination occurred at the same time as political theories defending individual rights. "The Declaration of Independence" and LyricalBallads can both be traced back, in part, to Locke's revolutionary redefinition ofwhat we now call consciousness . However, much Blake and Coleridge seem to be at odds with the rationalism of the Enlightment, they are its children. The Romantic attack on the Age of Reason is to some extent the attack of a child on its parent. As such, it was only a partial break from the future-oriented, anthropocentric rationalism characteristic of the eighteenth century. This is why a new generation of writers in America, heavily influenced by Romanticism, can find such fault with certain remnants of Romanticism in the twentieth century. Just as the nineteenth century clung to the political idea of human progress rationally achieved, so it clung to the idea of beauty achieved by wringing order out of chaos. The principal thing...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 101-104
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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