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B ook R ev ie w s of distancing rather than co-presence. The result is not parody, however, but an ironic com ­ m entary on the writing enterprise with Valéry as his own target, Kao turns next to Valéry’s first great undertaking, the Vinci texts, to explore in what sense their writing is a m is en évidence o f the role o f figuration for m eaning-production generally and for Valéry’s critical enterprise in particular—the modes o f being, indepen­ dent of reference, which thought takes in words. 1 found this section m ore difficult to follow, perhaps because Kao uses the Vinci texts m ore for reference to figuration than for a dem onstration o f its practice. Part III, “ La Nécessité Poétique” and “ La Poésie en A cte,” on the other hand, is Kao at her best, a tour de fo rce o f the critical reading Valéry him self was asking for. In her reading of only six lines: Qui pleure là, sinon le vent simple, à cette heure Seule, avec diam ants extrêm es?... Mais qui pleure, Si proche de moi-m êm e au m om ent de pleurer? and Quel cœ ur pourrait souffrir longuem ent votre charm e Sans trouver dans l’extase une profonde larm e Ou rom pre d ’un grand cri ce silence fatal? Kao unlocks three knots of textual indeterm inacy—one phonetic, one syntactic, and one im aginistic—to dem onstrate the dynam ics o f reading the Valeryan text. The figures of L ’O uroboras traced phonetically through repetition and placem ent, the twice-repeated question, “ Qui pleure,” followed by the am biguous “ sinon,” and the flood of referential possibilities for “ larm e” or “ cri” or “ diam ant” are shown to produce a radically “ intran­ sitive” writing which dem onstrates the force of a conscious use of the arbitrary as it chal­ lenges the limits o f convention. K ao’s reading o f these few lines convinces one o f the cen­ trality of poetry to Valéry’s lifelong critical enterprise and serves as a model for reading him generally, not to find a coherence, but to find the field o f the possible. She makes clear his fundam ental difference from M allarm é’s cratylitic ideal and his relevance for contem ­ porary concepts of text production. Valéry’s scholars and readers interested in the poetics of the lyric will feel rewarded by every page of this adm irable study. S u z a n n e N a s h Princeton University Sharon Willis. M a r g u e r i t e D u r a s : W r it in g o n t h e B o d y . U rbana: University o f Illinois Press, 1987. Pp. 191. $19.95. Willis reads D uras’ work as an articulation o f the following problem atic o r paradox: som ehow a (gendered) subject /«scribes itself within language while at the same time sub­ scribing to the discursive operations which define language, and so define it. P ut simply, the (female) body enters language through the (m asculine) law o f the sym bolic. The texts of D uras thus raise fam iliar questions: “ W hat is a w om an?” “ C an there be a feminist iden­ tity?” “ W hat is the relation between writing and the body?” W illis’ replies are m ultiple: body and language may be said to approach each other asym ptotically, or in term s of m etonym y and m etaphor, or through psychoanalytic figures such as hysteria and anaclisis Vo l. X X VIII, N o. 1 109 L ’E sp r it C r é a t e u r or propping ("fig u re” as rhetorical term being subtended by figure as corporeal form ). Now, contem porary psychoanalytic theory has extensively discussed the problem atic in question, and this leads Willis to begin her study with a detailed, sometimes confusing, discussion of com peting form ulations of the articulation. W hat emerges, however, is the im portance of...


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