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218Rocky Mountain Review truth, like Plato's Good, underlies and redeems Celan's Holocaust vision. Samuels is on surer ground when she argues that Celan, like the other Rumanian surrealists, develops themes of disaster in order to destroy illusions and force construction of more authentic "utopian" values. Yet the direct evidence for Celan's own utopian instinct is scant. Samuels's key explanation that the "dialectical principle of surrealism" grounds a thematic reversal from abomination to Utopian ideal is insufficiently developed. A brief invocation of Freud's belief that every dream, including a nightmare, fulfills an unconscious wish does not clarify the shocking suggestion that Celan's nightmare images remain in some perverse way desirable (122). The revision of a Rutger's dissertation, Holocaust Visions is a thoughtprovoking study. But the book gets tangled up in the intricacies of its own reasoning. The author would have it that an extraordinary historical episode, the Holocaust, symbolizes the universal human condition of absurdity . This is a difficult case to make, and in the final analysis, one feels that the book does not do justice to the primacy and uniqueness of Celan's Holocaust visions. SUSAN VON ROHR SCAFF The Pennsylvania State University BRIAN SHAFFER. The Blinding Torch: Modern British Fiction and the Discourse of Civilization. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993. 208 p. Defining as amorphously vague a term as "civilization" would be an intimidatingly ambitious project for any writer. Brian Shaffer, whose book, The Blinding Torch, investigates the meaning of "civilization" in British modernist literature, admits "I will not advance the claim that 'civilization' is ultimately definable or, still less, that it is a stable concept over time" (17). He intends, rather, to elucidate the concept through a series of readings about civilization by pairing fiction with contemporary non-fiction. Shaffer's thesis, which he lays out clearly in the introduction, is that fictions about civilization undermine themselves even as they simultaneously promote themselves. Thus the title, The Blinding Torch, refers to Shaffer's deconstructive view of civilization as "the paradoxical image of blindness and insight . . . [that emerges as] each of these fictions depicts civilization to be shedding light while obscuring vision, captivating the eye while deadening perception" (2). This well written and thoroughly readable book takes a deliberately cross disciplinary, theoretically based, approach to the texts, primarily using the work of Bakhtin, Eagleton, and Geertz as its theoretical underpinnings. Considering his title, though, I had expected Shaffer to reference Paul de Mann. In order to rein in this enormous task, Shaffer tends to categorize the different writers a little too neatly according to how they viewed civilization: Book Reviews219 Woolf writes "highly charged debates on the nature and function of civilization , particularly as it affects the women who are in such a tenuous relation to it" (12), while Joyce's "sense of civilization's duplicity hinges on AngloIrish tensions" (13). Lawrence is both deeply suspicious and intrigued with the idea of civilization (8), and Conrad sees it as "a duplicitous force" (6). Shaffer chose to write about works by Conrad, Lawrence, Joyce, Woolf, and Lowry, although it isn't clear to this reader why he selected those five rather than, say, E.M. Forster or George Orwell, both of whom wrote fiction and non-fiction about civilization. Each chapter sets up an interaction of two sets of texts dealing specifically with civilization, one fictional, the other non-fictional. One of the strengths of this book is the choice of non-fiction, often under-read texts, which Shaffer then plays off fairly familiar literary texts. For example, he pairs biologist Herbert Spencer with Joseph Conrad, or historical theorist Oswald Spengler with D.H. Lawrence. Shaffer's interpretations raised some interesting questions for me which can best be illustrated by looking at one particular chapter. Shaffer sets Woolfs novels, To The Lighthouse and Airs. Dalloway, against Clive Bell's On British Freedom and Civilization, both non-fiction works that interrogate the meaning of civilization in the Britain of the 1920s. Shaffer makes the argument that Bell's books provide the "extratextual context" through which we can understand Woolfs representation of civilization in her two novels. As Shaffer points out, Bell was not...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-2833
Print ISSN
1948-2825
Pages
pp. 218-220
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-06
Open Access
No
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