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subtext of its title text. Or, as Barbara Johnson might say, these constitute the text's'difference within,' infinitely deferring the possibility of adding up the sum of its parts. (N.N. FELTES) John Fraser. The Name of Action: Critical Essays Cambridge University Press. xi, 260. 1984. £25.00, £8.95 paper Has anyone noticed that for a quarter of a century, at Dalhousie UniverSity, a serious critic - critic in the Arnoldian sense - has been working among us? These essays were written between 1956 and 1973, were published in a variety of English and American (but not Canadian) journals, and led to two major studies of the relation of the arts to society and of large-scale cultural patterns, Violence and the Arts (1974) and America and the Patterns of Chivalry (1982). The collection contains challenging, often subversive examinations of fictional and Shakespearean texts, treatments of critical issues (including a celebration of Yvor Winters as critic, poet, academic, and man, and an expose of Northrop Frye's complacentirresponsibility as a critic), and reflections on non-literary topics. In the last group he brings to bear a morally engaged mind (which is the point of the book's title) on such matters as Atget's photographic portraits of Paris, the Hammonds' classic The Village Labourer 1760-1832- 'the book stands with George Sturt's Change in the Village (1912) and Lawrence's Sons and Lovers (1913) as the culmination of an important pre-1914 trend, and while Lawrence's book is the more valuable for adolescents, the Hammonds' seems to me decidedly the greater and more moving' - and the concept of the organic community - 'there is nothing sentimental or politically quiescent about being concerned with psychological enrichment and impoverishment.' Fraser's seriousness can be sampled in the opening sentences of 'Rereading Traven's The Death Ship': '''Every great novelist who has not had his due," F.R. Leavis observes ofD.H. Lawrence, "is a power for life wasted." I don't know whether B. Traven is a great novelist, but he is an extremely interesting one and unquestionably he is a power for life.' He notes that in their concern to prove at all costs the complexity and coherence of structure in their favoured texts the New Critics were prone to overlook the living substance and its power to change our modes of being and doing. This explains why he can point to mixed intentions - in, for example, Huckleberry Finn - without feeling the need to tidy them up or berate the author. In this instance, without being a hard-line formalist one might protest that Fraser does not let us know whether Twain shows an integrated ambivalence or mere uncertainty and confusion. Literature for this critic is an important part, but only a part, of his total experience. A rarity among academic critics, he has thought and felt for HUMANITIES 123 himself about life as weIl as about texts, and he has had the honesty and mental tenacity to make his criticism a dialogue between his sense of things-as-they-are and the literary work. Lawrence's portrait of the critic is weIl known: 'He must have the courage to admit what he feels, as weIl as the flexibility to know what he feels.' By such standards, as Fraser demonstrates irrefutably, Frye fails and Winters supremely succeeds; and when, for example, Frasergives his reasons for preferring 'They Flee from Me' to 'Twicknam Garden,' he too has, in Leslie Stephen's words, 'the rare courage of admitting [his] own feelings.' The major premise of his critical faith is that'the private lives of inteIIigent and sensitive readers [can] be profoundly and lastingly altered by what they read'; for this reason only, literature and criticism and the life of the academy matter. The reader tests, but is also tested by, what he reads. Ifit is true, as Fraser contends, that in Frye'there is no sign, either, that he has ever felt that great literature is a matter not of a "total structure" but of human utterances, utterances by otherindividual human beings who may weIl be his superiors in many ways, who may have experienced and comprehended more things than he has...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 122-123
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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