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Book Reviews81 Knies seems to draw on the excellent example of Jack Kolb's edition of The Letters ofArthur Henry Hallam (Ohio State Univ. Press, 1981) in his thorough articulation of editorial principles. Knies' wise while witty introduction covers many awkward lacunae in the diarist's portrait of Tennyson as well. But unlike KoIb, Knies must work with a considerably less eminent Victorian (his 23 articles on rhododendrons notwithstanding), who has no insights of his own about Tennyson to share. Despite the uncomfortable sense that our diarist is a predator of celebrities, Mangles' diary, enriched by Knies' careful glosses and insights, does provide a unique if limited perspective on Tennyson, one that may humanize the Laureate for students and draw some fresh connections for more experienced Tennyson readers and critics. PATRICE CALDWELL Eastern New Mexico University RICHARD A. LANHAM. Literacy and the Survival ofHumanism . New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983. 178 p. Each ofthese essays, which Lanham admits were not written to be published together, attempts to view anew the humanities curriculum, especially literature and composition, through the epistemological assumptions derived from a Post-Darwinian explanation of human motives. According to Lanham, the present fragmentation in language studies originates in their dependency on Aristotle's concept of the self, society, and language as purposive. The prevailing view that each of us has a central self "somewhere in the middle of his head" (15) leads to a belief in external realities we are impelled to discover through language substitutes. Purpose, Lanham proposes, may be illusive. Legal realities exist only as they emerge from the struggle or contest between contending ideas: purpose in this instance depends upon ritual play. Similarly, many of Chaucer's characters like Troilus, the Pardoner, or hende Nicholas strike us as larger than life because they are prepared to play roles at the drop of a hat. Play and game become purpose. Lanham's major points coalesce in an essay piquantly titled "Should English Departments Take an Interest in Teaching Composition?" Citing the gulf between "a powerfully mature discipline and its career-game" and "an enormous social need for instruction in language" (109) as representative of other gulfs in the discipline, between the aggressive practicality of technical writing and the autonomous aestheticism of critical theory, for example, Lanham proposes a new paradigm of language use which permits "teaching literature and teaching composition [to] form different parts of the same activity" (112). To construct this paradigm, Lanham substitutes for Aristotle's purposiveness , the sociobiological concept of a human biogrammar, genetically programmed patterns of behavior. To the sociobiologist, humans, like computers, are in a state of readiness to receive certain kinds of information and to respond with behavior. One of these responses is to seek status. Thus, Lanham argues, human nature is a battle between play, game, and purpose in which posturing and role playing are important. From this concept, as from the legal struggle, meaning emerges. 82Rocky Mountain Review In this paradigm style represents human play and game, for it is the expression of our need to rehearse roles and to reassure each other. Accordingly , Lanham thinks of pure life and pure literature as points on a continuum of role playing: social roles and literary fantasy are variants of the same impulse. If life and literature are motivated by the need to create roles (style), neither style nor information alone is the goal of communication. Thus, literature and composition can be seen as manifestations of the same motive with different emphases. Lanham is passionate in his desire to stimulate the profession to a revaluation of its legitimating premise. (He carries a similar message on the lecture circuit.) Practically, there are compelling reasons to do so — many departments have already become departments of composition, enrollments in literature courses have fallen, we are inheriting a new multi-cultural clientele for whom the old curriculum is increasingly inappropriate, etc. Theoretically, his redefinition of motive has parallels in other disciplines. Anthropologist Clifford Geertz proposes that human culture is a series of communal responses and that learning to participate in a culture means learning the modes of response appropriate to one's status at that time and place. Michael Oakeshott, a political scientist and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-2833
Print ISSN
1948-2825
Pages
pp. 81-82
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-06
Open Access
No
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