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HUMANITIES 137 identification of a recurring tension (but not, it appears, antithesis) in the minds of those studied between the natural and man's modifications of nature: 'the ideal for them, at bottom, lay in a marriage of nature and culture ... for all their innovative desires, they remained in favour of compromise' (pp 214-15). Such a conclusion might seem slightly clisappointing or anticlimactic, yet Charlton's book is very successful in showing the reader the genuinely'new images' which evolved in the later eighteenth century and the'questioning of hitherto largely-assumed and generally-accepted evaluations of both the world around us and the natural ... within us' (p 216). A final chapter ('Unfinished Business') pOints to a number of areas that might usefully be examined to complement the account which Charlton has provided. In addition, he succinctly relates the questions raised in his study to later developments both during the Romantic period and in the present day. A series of dense bibliographical essays rounds off this valuable work. (LAWRENCE KERSLAKE) Christie V. McDonald. The Dialogue of Writing: Essays in Eighteenth-Century Literature Library of the Canadian Review ofComparative Literature 7ยท Wilfrid Laurier University Press 1984. xviii, "09. $12.95 This book consists mainly of a series of articles published over the last decade. They are united by the critical approach and by the dialogue structure common to the texts studied. The approach is derived from linguistic, structuralist, and deconstructionist theories that call into question the status of language as a reliable vehicle of communication and as a medium for discovering truth. McDonald's aim is to show that, far from providing a basis for rational discourse and exchange of ideas, dialogue is largely self-reflective and self-referential. All this is argued persuasively and with admirable clarity in part I. Parts II and IU are devoted to a demonstration of the approach as applied to certain texts of Rousseau and Diderot, who were both aware of the limits of language as a means of adequately and accurately expressing feelings, and who were both attracted to the dialogue form. Rousseau's aim in the Dialogues is to portray the truth about himself by incorporating the reader (the Frenchman) and the writer (Rousseau's alter ego) into the text. The ostensible subjectand object of the Dialogues are the writer and his work as seen by Rousseau and the Frenchman, but the real issue is the act of reading and writing, and the problem is how to reconstitute the fragmented writer and his work through the dialectical process. Rousseau's failure to achieve his aim becomes essentiallya failure of language. This same question of the relationship of the writer to his text is posed in Rousseau's Pygmalion, where the statue is the text and the 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...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 137-138
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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