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Book Reviews265 destination by locating a text's meaning in its genesis rather than in its final aesthetic realization. One may likewise wonder whether Robertson's selfavowed attempt to recast Kafka in terms of nineteenth-century models of narrative fiction, his ultimate recourse to authorial intention, and his ardent desire to unravel Kafkan paradox and contradiction, might have, in the final analysis, precluded a fuller appreciation for Kafka's quintessentially modern exploration into the post-Nietzschean problematic of a decentered existence of proliferating interpretations. Lafayette CollegeERIC WILLIAMS FORREST G. ROBINSON. In Bad Faith: The Dynamics ofDeception in Mark Twain's America, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986. 255 p. I agreed to reviewthis book ingoodfaith, butthat may really have beendone in bad faith for as I went along I found I had little heart for doing it, maybe never had much heart for doing things like it, sustained a lifetime of doing such by occasionally revealing the follies — call it bad faith — of others still undeceived as to the worth ofwhat they were doing. On the other hand, I may just be tired, or maybe vexed with current literary criticism's paranoid stance: that unknown to me serious and sinister things are going on in books that must be revealed for my own good, or maybe I'djust rather re-read Huckleberry Finn than read about it. But before trying to explain my own bad faith, let me give the thesis ofthis book and its use of bad faith. As the author puts it, his concern is with "bad faith as it manifests itself in two novels by Mark Twain — how it works, how it connects with race — slavery, how it figures in the telling of the stories, and how it has worked to shape the popular reception of those most familiar American 'classics' " (13). "Bad faith" is explicitly defined early in the book "as the reciprocal deception of self and other in the denial ofdepartures from public ideals of the true and just" (2). Later that definition shifts to "a frequently benign cultural phenomenon involving the acquiescence in manifest departures from law and custom. Bad faith features the deception of self and other in the denial that such departures have occurred .... Mark Twain's failure to recognize in himself and in Tom what he angrily condemns as hypocrisy in the citizens of St. Petersburg is evidence ofhis entanglement in the dimensions ofbad faith that he deplores" (211-12). There is a confusion here which needs facing. Public ideals of the true and just are not the same as law and custom. As regards racism and slavery in Mark Twain's St. Petersburg, both were supported by law and custom, whereas what Professor Robinson has in mind are departures from and hypocrisy about public ideals of the true and just. The piling up of evidence of Tom Sawyer's bad faith is convincing; how could it not be, since a large part of it — more to my mind than Professor Robinson allows — was by Mark Twain's design. As to Mark Twain's bad faith, that seems to me a greatly worked over topic ofwhich Van Wyck Brooks' TAe Ordeal ofMark Twain is the most conspicuous example. This clarification helps explain my own feelings ofbad faith in writing this review. That is, I am in the act ofdoing it denying to myselfthat I am departing from public ideals ofthe true and just by engaging in literary criticism. I am not departing from the laws and customs ofmy academic St. Petersburg, though 266Rocky Mountain Review my doing it is indeed submerged in the larger consensus — namely that I and everyone else in English departments should be doing it. Within the literary culture which surrounds me I think there is a fair amount of bad faith of this kind. But there is another kind ofbad faith. That stems from the current literary criticism, of which this book is an example, which leans heavily on sociology, Marxist thought, deconstruction, all aimed at unmasking the deceptions that authors — that texts, for authors and literature are suspect terms in this criticism — practice on a public. In such criticism one kind ofbad faith arises from ostensibly departing...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-2833
Print ISSN
1948-2825
Pages
pp. 265-266
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-06
Open Access
No
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