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HUMANITIES 241 contemporary objections of many First Nations people who do not want their cultural objects on display in nontraditional venues. Visiting curator Peter Macnair's essay, 'Power of the Shining Heavens/ is a startling change back to a more art-historical epistemology. The essay is organized by dividing the masks artificially into categories of 'the Human Face Divine,' 'the Sky World,' 'the Mortal World,' 'the Undersea World,' and 'the Spirit World.' This is ostensibly a more etlmographic division than cOIUloisseurship's tendency to divide by national art style or formalist categories,but Macnair recognizes the problems in fitting specific First Nations Northwest Coast spiritual traditions into comprehensive holistic categories. Within the limits of the categories, he reverts to his arthistorical strength, which is nationaland individual style attribution. However , when he immediately includes 'JennaCass' masks made by Haida artists for Euro-American traders in the 1820s, he subverts traditional art history, which refuses to grant equal status to art objects made for sale. He makes the important point that 'market challenges' have always motivated Northwest Coast artists. I was disappointed that more was not written about the process of consultation withFirst Nations whenmask selectionwas negotiated for this exhibition. Many First Nations people have argued that the decision to display a mask to the public is one which can only be made by its rightful First Nations owner(s). Conflicting definitions of ownership should be discussed within the confines of a text that is claiming to be sensitive to First Nations social meaning. A notable absence was the Coast Salish Sxwaixwe masks. This absence speaks loudly and should have been discussed more readily than in a mere footnote in the exhibition catalogue. As important as, or even more important than, learning the Native context for these masks is learning that certain meaning is not for our ears or eyes. I am left with the guilty feeling that a celebration is not in order. Have these masks really 'come home' to British Columbia as the text implies, or have they merely been recontextualized? As the cover of this catalogue illustrates, depicting a Nuxalk Sun mask so large its diameter cannot be contained within the cover's parameters, these masks will never be fully represented within one epistemology or one confining definition. For this reason, the catalogue is successful in refUSing to make one meaning sufficient. (JENNIFER KRAMER) Kerry McSweeney. The Language ofthe Senses: Sensory-Perceptual Dynamics in Wordsworth, Coleridge, Thoreau, Whitman, and Dickinson McGill-Queen's University Press. xiv, 208. $60.00 In The Language of the Senses, Kerry McSweeney develops a 'sensory typology' of the five writers under analysis. Explicitly presented as an 242 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 alternative to poststructuralist and New Historicist ways of reading, this book focuses mainly upon 'the referential capacities of language,' arguing that sensory-perceptual experience is 'a source or enabling condition of imaginative power.' McSweeney's approach is informed by recent findings in the physiology and psychology of perception, and it offers fascinating close readings of several crucial poems in the Anglo-American Romantic tradition. McSweeney's reading of William Wordsworth is especially fresh and insightful. He examines several of Wordsworth's 'spots of time' with particular attention to the dynamic interactionbetween visual and auditory imagery. Wordsworth was concerned with the dominance that sight could exercise over the other senses, and he frequently shifts the emphasis from sight to sound at crucial turning-points in his poetry. Such a displacement of one sense by another occurs in several of the 'spots of time,' and McSweeney examines the cognitive basis of such perceptual displacements in Wordsworth's poetry. These perceptual displacements generally occur at moments of great thematic intensity, such as the ascent of Mount Snowdon that concludes The Prelude, in which a moonlit tableau of mountain scenery is suddenly displaced by 'the roar of waters, torrents, streams / Innumerable.' McSweeney resists the transcendentalizing tendency ofmany previous commentators on this passage, arguing that its sublimity is 'rooted not in the invisible world but in intense perceptual experiences of childhood.' Such a careful unravelling of perceptual dynamics is also apparent in McSweeney's reading of Coleridge. In 'This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison,' for example, Coleridge indiscriminately...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 241-243
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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