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issue is that of the fusion of artist and creation, passion and expression, writer and reader, across the barrier of language. As in the Dialogues the identity of the selfis called into question through the process of dialogue. McDonald argues that Diderot's Supplement to Bougainville's Voyage is only superficially about the opposing values of two cultures. Its real subject is the interpretation of language. In this series of disconnected dialogues no attempt is made to exchange ideas or resolve problems. Nor is there any effort to integrate the conversation of A and B with the text they are studying. What is at stake here is the relationship between language and society, between origins and ideals. Writing, being a product of civilization, is seen as imperfect expression that constitutes an obstacle to rather than a vehicle for communication. Diderot's article 'Encyclopedia' (a dialogue according to McDonald's definition) has to do with the relationship between the different articles and planches in the Encyclopedia and the secondary sources employed in this vast compilation. The article reflects on the work in which it is itself inscribed, and Diderot, the author/editor, must absent himself in order to present, objectively, all truth from the beginning to the present. The problem is to discover a language equal to such an ideal. McDonald's study of the renvois reveals how their interconnections and interdependence are used simultaneously to confirm and subvert the text, and shows how the real dialogue takes place among the different, fragmented articles each of which constitutes a fraction of the Truth. In Rameau's Nephew the problem of communication is posed in terms of the composer, his music and its interpretation or reception. Again there is no meeting of minds, not because ofa conflict of ideas but because there is no one topic to provide a basis for accord. Moreover, there is no IIThou relationship normally presupposed in all discourse. Instead we have an objective T in disjunction with a fragmentary 'He,' so that the usual rules for dialogue cannot apply. The task is to find, through the language of these disparate voices, some possible meaning or interpretation. This is an excellent book that forces us to look at old texts in a new and profitable way. Traditional dix-huitiemistes should not be deterred by the theoretical introduction, for they will be amply enlightened by the richness of the interpretations that follow. My only question is, if language is so untrustworthy, if communication is so difficult, if all writing is merely about writing, how is it that ideas are exchanged, evolve, and have a history? (AUBREY ROSENBERG) English Showaller el a!. Correspondanee de Madame de Graffigny, lome I (17]6- 39) Voltaire Foundation - Taylor Institution, Oxford. xliv, 592. £50/$75.00 It is to another distinguished edition of eighteenth-century French correspondence now emerging from the University of Toronto - that of HUMANITIES "39 Helvetius and his wife - that we owe the inspiration to begin publication of the letters of Madame de Graffigny. D.W. Smith and fellow editors of the Helvetius letters discovered in 1975 that contained within the voluminous collection of Graffigny papers at Yale's Beineke Library was an enfue volume of letters by the future Madame Helvetius to Mme de Graffigny; they found as well that the Yale Graffigny letters, when supplemented by others held at New York's Morgan Library, constituted one of the most important such collections of the period. Taken together, the corpus of the correspondence includes 2,500 letters written by Mme de Graffigny and another 2,000 written to her. The present volume, appearing ten years after the initial decision to bring these invaluable documents forth in a letterpress form, contains the first "44 of Mme de Graffigny's letters. Professor English Showalter, who first called modern 'scholars' attention to the existence of these papers, is its principal editor. J.A. Dainard and eight other dix-huitiemistes collaborated with him on vol I, and Dainard serves as Directeur of the enfue edition. Mme de Graffigny is of course best known to us as a first-hand witness to the lives of Voltaire and Mme du Chiitelet at Cirey and as the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 138-140
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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