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144 the minnesota review of politics. Determined to prove that Derrick's project is not ''unprecedentedin the history of philosophy" (26), Dews is too eager to saddle him with the "vapidity of Ursprungspnilosophie" (40), an idealistic resistance to "concrete experience" (41) and a failure "to question the transcendental and speculative interpretations of experience which he inherits from Husserl and Hegel" (41). Ironically, much of Derrida's philosophical work in the last twenty-five years could comfortably be described as a fundamental questioning of the transcendental interpretations of experience—a project which requires, of course, a rigorous interrogation of the notion of concrete experience itself. In principle, deconstruction as practiced by Derrida is no more (or less) hostile to materialism than it is to idealism. None of these objections to Dews' reading of Derrida necessarily undermines his convincing case for the incompatibility of post-structuralism and politics. In the introduction he notes: "The fundamental issue here, ofcourse, is the sense in which a philosophical position which assumes the foundations of the classical forms of political critique to be necessarily and oppressively identitarian can itself continue to perform a critical function" (xvi). One might object that Derrida, Lacan, Lyotard and Foucault were never interested in pursuing "classical" forms ofcritique—political or otherwise. In other words, the question excluded from Dews' characterization of the fundamental issue is the one raised (on a more sympathetic reading) by the post-structuralist authors themselves: Can we (or should we or must we) imagine and articulate non- or a-classical forms of (political) critique? The ongoing debate—which properly must concern the nature of post-structuralism, of the political and of their relationship—is extremely well served by Logics ofDisintegration. Dews provides much of the material necessary for an informed dialogue, and he stakes out a provocative and solid position of his own. One hopes that future contributions will maintain this level of rigor and scholarship. TIM WALTERS The Failure of Modernism: Symptoms ofAmerican Poetry by Andrew Ross. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986. pp. xviii + 248. $25.00 (cloth). "The Failure ofModernism is the result of a confusion between subjectivism and subjectivity " (xv). Andrew Ross' polemical theory of modernism insists on the distinction between subjectivism, that ancient and ongoing philosophical debate about the existence and stability of truth, and subjectivity, the account of the formation of the subject through language in the t ^capifl" view to which Ross subscribes. Modernism, as Ross sees it, "equates a philosophical (or theoretical) attack on the epistemologkal and metaphysical tradition of subjectivism with a literary (or practical) attempt to dispossess or to purge poetic discourse of subjectivity" (xv). In other words, modernists sought to dispel subjectivism and reach truth, and they waged their campaign through an attempt to "eliminate subjectivity from poetic form and language" (xv)—crudely, to keep their "selves" out of their (objective) language. Working within both philosophical and psychological discourses, Ross questions the assumed "continuity between the philosophical rebuttal of subjectivism and attempt to pursue similar theoretical ends within poetic discourse itself (xv). His book demonstrates that "language, as a medium, resists these theoretical advances, and reaffirms its irreducible share of subjectivity" (xv-xvi). The "failure of modernism," then, is precisely the confusion between the philosophical rebuttal of subjectivism and the attempt to purge poetic discourse of subjectivity, a continuity that Ross worries "still plagues our own critical accounts of this period" (xv). The book's subtitle, "Symptoms of American Poetry," refers to the three writers, T.S. Eliot, Charles Olson, and John Ashbery, whom Ross calls three "symptoms" in his study of modernism. "Symptoms" is Ross' attempt to deny an unproblematic developmental narrative for modernism; each writer, as symptom, "resists being read as a simple reflection of different stages of a developing history. Symptoms are neither causes nor effects, but Reviews 145 share some ofthe trappings ofboth" (216). Thus Ross studies the "iUness" of failed modernism (in its assumed continuity between subjectivism and subjectivity) in each of his "symptoms ." What is at stake in Ross* polemical reformulation of "modernism?" What underlies Ross* choice of "symptoms," making bedfeUows ofthe traditional hegemonic high modernist Eliot and the supposed postmodems Olson and Ashbery? What purpose is served when Ross...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 144-147
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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