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HUMANITIES 457 Linda Hutcheon. Formalism and the Freudian Aesthetic: The Example of Charles Mauron Cambridge University Press. xv, 249ยท $29.95 For its scholarship, its familiarity with the basic issues raised by psychoanalytic criticism, and its lucidity of expression, this is an impressive book. Nor is it merely another tedious'explication' of another 'theorist,' for Hutcheon often levels damaging and fundamental criticism against Charles Mauron's effort to forge a psychoanalytic criticism that was not naive in matters of form. Indeed, so effective is her criticism that one wonders howimportantMauron'sworkreallyis. Despite somerecent evidence to the contrary (noted by Hutcheon), Mauron's psychocritique never had much influence in the English-speaking world. Moreover, during most of his life in an insular and Cartesian France, Mauron, blind and living in the provinces, never knew the celebrity that has lately attached itself to the work of French literary critics. And when, thanks to the Delphian prose-pose of Dr Lacan, psychoanalysis began to 'catch on' in France, Mauron's brand of psychoanalytic criticism suddenly seemed old-fashioned. He is not a critic who can afford damaging criticism. However, Hutcheon brings to Mauron's story a first-rate historical senseand an appreciation ofthe drama thatmarkedMauron'slifefrom the time when, young, poor, and in ill-health, he was befriended by Roger Fry, to the increasing sophistication of his deployment ofFreudian ideas. Hutcheon wants to lay bare the logic - and the il-Iogic - inherent in Mauron's notion'that the formal networks of related images structuring an author's reuvre had their roots deep in the creating psyche ...' (p 41). Fry's formalism was an earlyinfluence on that enterprise, and Hutcheon's account of their relationship is very fine indeed. But eventually one has had enough of Roger Fry, whose place in the history of I Freudian aesthetics' or Freudian anything is not significant. This is to deplore, not to deny, Fry's personal influence, apparent in this 1927 note of Mauron's: 'music has been for long the purest art ... But literature remains encumbered with accessories, philosophical, psychological , social demonstration, with sentimentalities and opinions. A great step would be made if we could savour, appreciate, and discuss pure literary qualities' (pp 74-5). All of this century's sullen resentment of representation and its quest (recalling nothing so much as Clifford Chatterley's vision ofa humanityfreed from its body) for anetiolated artis here. And it bears comparison to Fry's naive vision of some future psychoanalysis that would not be concerned with'infantile and primitive psychic' phenomena butwith'those things which constitute our spiritual life' (p 88). Inter urinam et faeces nascimur, as Freud used to say. Hutcheon tells the story of the theoretical difficulties of reconciling 458 LETTERS IN CANADA 1984 psychoanalysis and formalism well, but she makes no convincing case for the importance of Mauron. Moreover, she forgets that because Mauron is so little known outside France she must tell the reader more about what his method actually was. She argues that others have done this and that she is trying to engage a large theoretical issue 'inherent to the literary critical enterprise today, as it has developed over the century' (p 147): the contradiction between Mauron's desire to found a 'scientific' (or ,objective') criticism and his all-too-impressionistic and'circular' practice. Frankly, this larger issue never takes shape. Mauron is too light a figure to bear its weight. Occasional references to Kuhn (beloved of literary intellectuals) and to David ('subjective paradigm') Bleich don't do the job. Mauron's contribution to psychoanalytic criticism is less significant than that of such unglamorous figures as Simon Lesser and Norman Holland. Nor is one convinced by Hutcheon's argument that the example of Mauron, the would-be scientific critic who always finds what he expects to find, somehow helps us resist the appeal to either of the two poles - 'objective' or 'subjective' - of the modern critical experience. If one keeps score, it is clear that Hutcheon much prefers undermining Mauron's (or Freud's!) claim to 'objectivity' to trying to extract from it what measure of truth it might contain. Freud, she tells us, found what he wanted to find, and Mauron...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 457-458
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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