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Reviews 129 textual. McGann does not go on to explore the significance of the text-production in a larger social context. In talking about Don Juan in chapter six, he says that "we must see .. . that works Uke Don Juan have reference to—make use of and assume an interest in—some more or less comprehensive aspects ofthe past, thepresent and the future as well. Because critical activity shares in that work, it too operates with its own various, and more or less explicit, sociohistorical interests" (125). Unlike Plato's (and to some degree Jameson's) dialectical criticism, McGann's doesn't take the second step back to look at how his own ideological interpeUation functions in his assessment of literary objects. We know, after reading this book, how literature functions as literature for a critic named Jerome McGann. What we don't know—even after we're told repeatedly in McGann's final chapter (especiaUy 222-23) that language is social—is how the text and McGann's assessment of it are social, and how these function in a larger social (or even institutional) context. The work McGann promises in Social Values andPoetic Acts would be important. Moreover, the analyses he provides here go a long way towards a valuable social and ideological criticism. The critical project which he has given us, nevertheless, does not fulfiU the promise to resituate Uterature as a social act in a social world. What it does suggest is that a Marxist analysis ofsocial dynamics of production and reproduction—the work ofFredric Jameson, Terry Eagleton, and Pierre Macherey, to mention only three—is up to the present a more promising route to follow. Notes 'De Man discusses this at length in "The Task of the Translator," in Resistance to Theory (MinneapoUs: U Minnesota P, 1986), pp. 73-105. 'Jameson discusses how a Marxist dialectic seems to be based upon a kind of social formalism in Marxism and Form (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1978). In The Political Unconscious (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1982), he seems to come closest to establishing a Marxist hermeneutic ofthe kind advocated by McGann. McGann's intervention is thus by now rather old news. MICHAEL BERNARD-DONALS The Origins ofthe English Novel 1600-1740 by Michael McKeon. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1987. pp. xi + 529. $29.95 (cloth). That The Origins of the English Novel is routinely being compared to Ian Watt's The Rise of the Novel is one sign of Michael McKeon's achievement. Watt's book has stood firmly as the benchmark in the field for an extraordinarily long time. Whether it's now being displaced remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that it is facing its most serious challenger since appearing in 1957. Notably, both books are Marxian in their orientation— McKeon even expUcitly bases his historical method on Marx. So striking is the concurrent rise of the novel and capitalism that it evidently has proved impossible to keep Marxism from securing a firm position in the inquiry into this episodein Uterary history. Notwithstanding shortcomings in McKeon's adaptation of Marx, Origins marks a significant advance in this inquiry. The book's first chapter, "Dialectical Method in Literary History," resumes McKeon's earlier discussions of dialectic—in "Marxist Criticism and Marriage a Ia Mode" (The Eighteenth Century 24 [1983]: 141-62) and "The 'Marxism' of Claude Levi- Strauss" (DialecticalAnthropology 6.2 [1981]: 123-50)—but the resumption turns out to be an abridgement rather than the expansion one might expect. McKeon also offers a few parting reflections in the closing paragraphs of the book: it may have occurred more than once to readers that there is something rather "too" dialectical about this method, that ... its indulgent flexibility allows aU apparent exceptions to be reconciled, with only a sUght adjustment of focus, to its explanatory 130 the minnesota review mechanism. Any plausible protest—for example, "That sounds more like conservative than progressive ideology'—can always be met (it may be objected) by the plausible retort, "But progressive ideology has an inherent tendency toward the conservative." ...[T]he only reply that can be made is that the problem lies not with the method but with the subject matter...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 129-132
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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