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254Rocky Mountain Review For example, she shows how the often misunderstood "Pen, Pencil, and Poison" — generally seen as an argument for the amoral nature of art — is, instead, a criticism ofthe specialization and separation that had been forced upon the art world by bourgeois art criticism. Her treatment of Dorian Gray is particularly interesting. Her impressive knowledge ofFrench aestheticism allows her to clear up the mistaken notions many people still hold about Wilde's debt to the French. Rather than talk only about literary influence, Gagnier demonstrates that the concepts of dandy and gentleman stood in a controversial and well publicized relationship to one another within the journalism, advertising, and writings about the public schools of the time. Dorian Gray, an exploration of the life of a gentleman turned dandy, is thus seen as an ideological battleground on which two views of how men are to behave is fought out. When we understand the subversive nature of the dandy within this first true "consumer" society, we can understand the harsh response that this book — which seems quite moral by twentieth-century standards — received from the press. And we can also understand the partisan nature ofthe positive and negative responses to this text: as Wilde alienated one audience he actively cultivated and helped to form another. One could cite many other examples of how Gagnier's method pays off in new insights into Wilde's work and its relationship to the general culture which it addressed and attempted to form. For example, Gagnier's convincing treatment of Wilde's comedies shows how they can be both popular and subversive, both glittering surface and in-depth criticism of the consumer society that delighted in them. Her method even allows us to see that two seemingly different kinds oftheater — Wilde's comedies and Artaud's theater of cruelty — have surprisingly similar rhetorical and social goals. Equally provocative is Gagnier's discussion of De Profundis. Critics in the past have tended to see this work as an isolated expression of Wilde's late career and to explain its peculiarities in exclusively biographical terms. Gagnier, on the other hand, demonstrates that the full social import of the work can be understood only when it is placed within the context of other prison writings of the time. Gagnier's book, then, is important for two reasons. First of all, it is an impressively researched and very readable part ofthe critical movement that works to reject the popular image ofWilde as a second-rate, precious aesthete and to recognize him as the challenging artist and critic that he is. Gagnier's book adds to this critical material most significantly as it allows us to understand Wilde within the context of the discourses of early consumerism. Second, the book is a model of how a "new" literary historian can operate. Gagnier argues for this method most convincingly, but not in a theoretical or abstract manner. Instead, she offers an eloquent and direct argument by showing her readers the rich results this approach can yield. JOHN L. KIJINSKI Idaho State University TERENCE HAWKES. That Shakespeherian Rag: Essays on a Critical Process. London: Methuen, 1986. 131 p. Amid a proliferation ofnew approaches to Shakespeare, the essays ofTerence Hawkes are among the sprightliest. Editor ofMethuen's New Accents series, Book Reviews255 Hawkes favors accents redolent of Barthes yet archetypically American: "Responding to, improvising on, 'playing' with, re-creating, synthesizing and interpreting 'given' structures of all kinds, political, social, aesthetic ..." (118). For Hawkes as for Geoffrey Hartman, the American art form that best serves as paradigm of a productive author-critic relationship isjazz. The author is analogous to the composer who provides the melody, the critic to the performer who spontaneously improvises upon it. This symbiotic egalitarian arrangement is not exclusive; many performers can variously render the same melody, each performance being unique. Difference and plurality are inherent in jazz. Not so in ragtime. Like the classics, rags are written music. Since every performer must play the same notes, every performer's scope of interpretation is limited. A would-be European mode, ragtime foregoes the improvisational, the oral, in order to be "so elegant, so intelligent" — so insistent on a single authoritative...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-2833
Print ISSN
1948-2825
Pages
pp. 254-256
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-06
Open Access
No
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