- G-3 Themes and Movements
Barnstone, Aliki, Michael Tomase Manson, and Carol Singley, eds. THE CALVINIST ROOTS OF THE MODERN ERA. University Press of New England, 1997. xxx + 317 pp. $50.00 cloth, $25.00 paper.
This book attempts to link the old hated bogeymen of the past, the Puritans, with the new hated bogeymen of the twentieth century, the New Critics. Clearly an ideologically motivated work, this dreadful book defies all common sense and rejects all overriding contradictions. This reviewer does not want to seem dismissive or too demanding of this book, but its purpose and execution are so poorly conceived and absurd that the book fails before it starts. Although the authors admit to the unapparent focus of their essays (protesting too much, I would say), this in no way excuses the begging of the question that follows. If anything was essential in Puritan/Calvinism, it must be those aspects that made Calvinism split from Catholicism and later made Americans reject Calvinism, which would outweigh any other aspect that may be linked to Anglo-Catholicist thought. Gone are the days when Perry Miller celebrated the insightful readings of Puritan antinomianism and “inner light” by democratic theorists in the nineteenth century, as well as by the Puritans’ descendants, the Unitarians. Gone too are the social and educational policies of Lionel Trilling. Scholars today, it would seem, are willing to say anything that demonizes the opposing side. SSS
Boone, Joseph Allen. LIBIDINAL CURRENTS: SEXUALITY AND THE SHAPING OF MODERNISM. University of Chicago Press, 1998. ix + 497 pp. No price listed.
Brenner, Rachel Feldhay. WRITING AS RESISTANCE: FOUR WOMEN CONFRONTING THE HOLOCAUST: EDITH STEIN, SIMONE WEIL, ANNE FRANK, ETTY HILLESUM. Penn State University Press, 1997. 216 pp. $26.50. [End Page 422]
Carlston, Erin G. THINKING FASCISM: SAPPHIC MODERNISM AND FASCIST MODERNITY. Stanford University Press, 1998. 209 pp. No price listed.
Chow, Rey. ETHICS AFTER IDEALISM: THEORY-CULTURE-ETHNICITY-READING. Indiana University Press, 1998. 233 pp. $29.95 cloth, $14.95 paper.
In defining “ethics” as the act of making choices, Chow has opened wide the field of ethics and cultural politics. Seeing ethics as a reading practice ready to take risks and destroy safe conclusions, she studies cultural forms from poetry to film through perspectives from fascism to fantasy, always working to show others in their full complexity. Her arguments draw from theorists as diverse as Frantz Fanon, Immanuel Kant, Louis Althusser, and Hazel Carby; the cultural texts that she engages range from The Joy Luck Club to the films of Leni Riefenstahl and the Hong Kong sagas of Luo Dayou. In short, the breathtaking reach of this book creates too large a frame and too complex an argument for a short book review. It adds to literary, postcolonial, cultural, Asian, and Asian American studies.
The piece which I found most exemplary is “The Fascist Longings in Our Midst.” Here Chow shows that fascism is not simply disguised ideology (Althusser, Barthes), but rather that it indicates a technological “production and consumption of surface image.” The positive images are intricate to fascism’s functioning, and it occurs precisely where people suspend disbelief in fraudulence and come to identify with the surface image. In the chapter’s final pages, Chow critiques academic liberalism’s emphasis on the experience of and narrative by the other. She shows how the contemporary intellectual myth that white consciousness is captured by otherness echoes fascism’s longing for a transparent, idealized image and a submission to that image. In offering such a critique, she warns of fascist longings in our midst. Arabella Lyon, Temple University
Cousineau, Diane. LETTERS AND LABYRINTHS: WOMEN WRITING/CULTURAL CODES. University of Delaware Press, 1997. 231 pp. $36.50.
Daly, Brenda. AUTHORING A LIFE: A WOMAN’S SURVIVAL IN AND THROUGH LITERARY STUDIES. State University of New York Press, 1998. xiii + 251 pp. No price listed
Den Tandt, Christophe. THE URBAN SUBLIME IN AMERICAN LITERARY NATURALISM. University of Illinois Press, 1998. xv + 289 pp. $18.95 paper, $49.95 cloth.
Farrell, Kirby. POST-TRAUMATIC CULTURE: INJURY AND INTERPRETATION IN THE NINETIES. John Hopkins University Press, 1998. xv + 420 pp. $49.00, cloth. $17.95, paper. [End Page 423]
Franklin, Cynthia G...