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HUMANlTIES 345 Munro. Discussions of 'The Love of a Good Woman' and the travel piece 'What Do You Want to Know For' (from the PEN anthology Writing Away) are also included with the critical overview in the last chapter, disrupting its coherence. Perhaps Howells parallels the problems of closure she identifies in Munro in this last chapter, which ends, 'News of the forthcoming publication of The Love of A Good Woman arrived in the final proof stages of this study. With Munro, there is always a supplement.' Howells's greatest strength, however, is her very appreciation of the Derridian supplement, its challenge to closure and its opening up of space for interpretation. Rather than lamenting its challenge to the critic's project of fixing meaning, she celebrates its potential, thus opening up her own text in a welcoming engagement with her reader. (NATHALIE FOY) R. Bruce Elder. The Films ofStan Braklwge in the American Tradition of Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and Charles Olson Wilfrid Laurier University Press. xii, 572 . $58.95 Bruce Elder's defence of experimental filmmaking goes back to his essay of 1985, 'The Cinema We Need.' Since then, he has continued that defence in much more elaborate terms through a series of books focused on the practitioners of modernist poetry and experimental film. The current volume extends his recurring concern with the'crisis of meaning' and the response ofphilosophers and artists to that crisis, while placing Stan Brakhage's film work within the'American Tradition' of modernism that has attempted to subvert that crisis. A dense preface provides the pre-twentieth-century philosophical context to Elder's argument. Drawing on Kant, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche, Elder shows the emergence of the realization that human consciousness cannot escape the qualities and limitations of its own representations, that a noumenal reality is not reachable. As Schopenhauer mused, thought operates upon representations, and these are formed not by thought but by a preconscious volition. Therefore, in opposition to classical philosophies, Schopenhauer asserted that the highest form of knowledge is to be found in awareness of the body. Elder argues that the current obsession with the body, in both pornography and postmodern theory, is a reaction to this earlier realization that Nature is devoid ofan inherentspiritual meaning. Faced with the quandary of solipsism, we have latched onto the body as the last refuge of an undeniable meaning. But the body and the meanings which it is capable of sustaining have been largely subsumed by pornographic imagery, which, Elder implies, is engulfing our entire culture. 346 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 In his prefacefElder also outlines the main lines he hopes to follow in the course of examining the'American Tradition': correcting postmodernity's misunderstanding that artworks illustrate concepts; developing 'critical practices that are open to unauthorized modes of experience'; meditating on how our sexuality can be dealt with 'honestly and fully in words and pictures'; discovering some means of access to 'primordiality'; delineating the 'higher form of awareness' that can pierce the 'veil of illusion'; and finally, in connection with film and with Brakhage's work specificallYf examining the 'interrelations among the three bodies - the human body viewed as an object like other objects in the world, the personal body given in our internal awareness, and the film's own body.' While these are the larger argwnents of the book, Elder's focus is more often on the details of poetics and philosophies. He begins his first chapter with Pound's insistence on the need to break the pentameter. As the dominant English poetic line from the Renaissance on, the pentameter, Elder argues, was crucial to the formation of the modem notion of self and to the comprehension of language as representational. His analysis of the opposition between tetrameter and pentameterforms burgeons into a much larger opposition between parataxisfjuxtapositionf and proprioception on the one hand and hypotaxis, narrative, andlogocentrism on the other. Elder insists that the former practices will revive meaning by putting us back in contact with the human body and the veracity of its sensations. To support this claim, Elder discusses the work of Bergson, Hulme, Spinoza, Alfred North Whitehead, Pound, William Carlos Williams, Gertrude Stein, Charles Olson, Michael McClure, and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 345-346
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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