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HUMANITIES 125 judgments are sensible and sound enough, if not exciting or strikingly original. The third element in the book is theoretical, as in his fifth chapter, which is subtitled 'Steps towards a Poetics.' This ambitious undertaking is necessarily even less conclusive than his historical survey or his critical analyses of specific works, but he does raise a number of valuable points (for example, his identification of three biographical narrative voices - the dramatidexpressive, the objective/academic, and the interpretive/analytic). The book has been handsomely produced byStMartin's Press but is not especially well written. Nadel always makes his meaning clear, and his prose is generally serviceableif never graceful, but he allows himselfsome remarkable errors of clumsy or ungrammatical phrasing, especially for a professorof English. These are minor flaws: taken as a whole the book is a valuable contribution to an interesting and much neglected field of study. (PETER ALLEN) Alice A. Jardine. Gynesis: Configurations of Woman and Modernity Cornell University Press. 218, $29.95 'Arefeminism and modernityoxymoronicin their terms and terminology? If so, how and why? If not, what new ruse of reason has made them appear - especially in France - to be so?' This is the author's own summation of the questions that inspired her study. Preparing the reader to weigh those questions, the book looks at the place given to the concept of Woman, to 'feminine' qualities, approaches, 'spaces,' in the works of post-modem theorists, from Lacan's trealrnentofFreud to the assertion of Deleuze and Guattari that in the next phase of our civilization all of humanity must 'become woman.' Central to the study are the works of Derrida, with whom Jardine clearly feels the greatest affinity; indeed, she begins her chapter on the subject with a dazzling passage in the style of the philosopher himself at his most (word-)playful. These expository chapters, grouped under the heading 'Intertexts,' are framed by two introductory sections ('Intersections' and 'Interfacings') and a concluding look at some 'Interferences.' The former contain a most useful discussion of the problems posed by recent trends in French thought for feminist theory in the United States. The latter offers some comparative analYSis, based on what has preceded it, of American and French fictional texts - a section not to be missed by the reader whose bias is literary. Gynesis is a book likely to prove both 'important' and 'controversial.' Jardine anticipates, and meets convincingly, the objections of those who will wonder why female critics such as Irigaray and Cixous are here so much subordinated to male and oftenanti-feministtheorists. Readers may be amused or dismayed to follow in detail the latest intellectual processes by which some of these theorists reinforce age-old stereotypes of the masculine and the feminine. One of the book's most interesting suggestions is that not only do we find the debate over Woman recurring at each crucial 'epistemological break' in Western history, but that the feminist impulse may be what provides'the internal coherence of history itself (p 97). As I hope this summary has hinted, the author has a virtuoso command of a broad and faScinating range of material, and her presentation of it is cogent and engaging, at least in the chapters which offer chiefly her own reflections. Jardine's study is not meantsimply to serve as a primer. Itis intended to break down the barriers of incomprehension which have grown up between the American critics and creators for whom she writes and the post-modern analysts. It must, however, be doubted that the chapters focusing on these analysts will prove as accessible as they need to be for all of the intended audience. The title of chapter 6 reminds us that we are in the realm of 'Thinking the Unrepresentable: a looking-glass world where functions are performed byelements defined as non-existent (seep 188 on 'the trace') and statements are equally valid with or without their negative qualifier. Jardine has assumed the formidable task of communicating (to readers who, as she points out, lack the philosophical base more common in France) material inherently resistant both to translation and to paraphrase. Her very grasp of and fidelity to her sources makes for linguistic obstacles. There are...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 125-126
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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