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Book Reviews261 as a protest against Christian asceticism or courtly idealism. The same naturalness inspires the often vulgar terminology used to designate sexual organs and intercourse. There is no deliberate prurience. It is simply a matter of employing in literature the words commonly used in real life when people talk about such things. When circumlocutions are substituted, they are not intended as euphemisms so much as opportunities for the author to show off his or her versatility at creating ingenious metaphors. In the matter of style, Muscatine also indicates the relative lack of importance accorded to plot in these narrative poems. The author's interest is more often directed to some feature upon which he seeks to focus the reader/listener's attention — for example, an exciting verbal exchange, a vivid image, a significant detail, or an unusual personality trait. The poet is more concerned with evoking the colorful texture of contemporary life than with merely recounting a story. Muscatine's book is as enjoyable to read as it is impressive, a result of his open-minded scholarship. His analysis ofthe fabliaux is set within the broader context ofthirteenth-century French society and literature, and he has many noteworthy things to say about the latter subjects. He gives due credit to those ofhis predecessors, particularly Edmond Faral and Roy Pearcy, who anticipated some of his own ideas about the fabliau genre. Moreover, his interpretations of the key aspects of these works are generously illustrated with quoted passages from them as well as plot summaries. He thereby succeeds in immersing the reader in a fictional universe which seems, surprisingly, to have much in common with the twentieth century. JAMES P. GILROY University of Denver LINDA H. PETERSON. Victorian Autobiography: The Tradition of Self-Interpretation. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986. 228 p. lhis volume describes a rebellion by a number of English Victorian autobiographers against the tradition ofspiritual autobiography inherited from Bunyan and other writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Peterson argues that spiritual autobiography's generic conventions — which entail following the Exodus pattern overall, making frequent Biblical allusions, and overtly interpreting individual episodes according to the Biblical precedents — reflect a system ofhermeneutics which Victorians see as invalid for interpreting their own lives. Her work traces, in a series of chapters on individual writers, the various modifications and substitutions which Victorian autobiographers make in traditional Biblical hermeneutics and typology and maintains that these are self-conscious variations — that the works' subject, at least in part, is how one can interpret one's own life validly. The book treats five Victorians in depth, besides discussing Bunyan as a paradigm and mentioning other writers. Thomas Carlyle, Peterson argues, aware of the new German scholarship which traces multiple human authors of the Bible, includes patterns besides the Exodus sequence in Book Second of Sartor Resartus. He draws on Genesis, Sufferings of Young Werther, and Bunyan himselfas models for interpretation and includes explicit discussions of the various patterns that might be imposed on experience. John Ruskin, who consciously rejects Biblical hermeneutics, "deconstructs" the traditional generic pattern. He avoids extensive interpretion and focuses, like his model 262Rocky Mountain Review Byron, on the external and historical; his Praeterita is frequently discontinuous because he rejects interpretation, and his overall message is, as with CarIyIe, a relativist one: the selfis the source ofrevelation, the Bible is open to various interpretations. John Henry Newman, Victorian Autobiography argues, is also aware ofthe tradition ofProtestant spiritual autobiography in England, but, as a Catholic, must discard its hermeneutics to be true to his own beliefs. To do so, he does not use Exodus as an organizing metaphor, borrowing his primary metaphor, the deathbed, from Augustine, and he employs "ecclesiastical hermeneutics" (analogies and precedents from church history) instead of "Biblical hermeneutics." Harriet Martineau's discontent with traditional spiritual autobiography comes from another source: women were excluded from Biblical hermeneutics in the nineteenth century. Martineau subscribes in her autobiography, instead, to "a Necessarian mode of interpretation and a Comtian pattern ofdevelopment" (143), explicitly imposing the Comtian stages of racial development on her own life. She chooses an objective point of view, stressing the cause-effect of her development rather than lacerating herself for failures...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-2833
Print ISSN
1948-2825
Pages
pp. 261-263
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-06
Open Access
No
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