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L ’E spr it C r éa teu r ing many of its critical diagnoses without subscribing to its claim to universality and utopian revolutionary programs—whence the differend with his estimable arch-Marxist friend, Souyri. The three lecture-chapters (“ Clouds,” “ Touches,” “ Gaps” ) describe this sensitivity to singularity in thought, art, and history by way of ruminations on (ethical) law, (artistic) form, and (historical) event. Though never a monk or painter, Lyotard subscribes to an almost monastic responsibility as a philosopher to respond to the call of thought-“ clouds” without prior criteria, just as Cezanne’s “ touches” respond to singular color-events outside the traditional subordination of color to form in the paintings of Montagne SainteVictoire . In the terms of Kant’s Third Critique to which Lyotard is thoroughly committed (the lectures are contemporaneous with Lyotard’s major work on Kant, L ’Enthousiasme: La Critique Kantienne de I’histoire), philosophy and art (though not necessarily ethics and aesthetics) both involve “ reflective judgment” —the “ synthesis . . . of random data without the help of preestablished rules of linkage” (8). From his conflicted experience of the war of liberation as a young militant teaching in Algeria, Lyotard will conclude that probity in politics, too, requires responding to every single case without preconceived criteria. Having suggested linkages among ethics, art, and politics, the third lecture-chapter insists on the “ gaps” separating and distinguishing these domains, in order to “ do away with the delu­ sion of consistency and [become] receptive again to more intricate events” (28). Foremost among these is the substitution undertaken in contemporary art of a historical sublime for the natural sublime of romanticism. Like The Postmodern Condition, the lectures end with a call to defend an increasingly complex and fragile heterogeneity from the forces of homogenization. With the afterword on Marxism (and a useful bibliography), they are an excellent point of entry into Lyotard’s later thought. E u g e n e W . H o l l a n d The Ohio State University Andrew Benjamin, ed. T h e L y o t a r d R e a d e r . Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell, 1989. Pp. xviii + 425. $16.95 paper. The “ reader” format of texts organized by author or topic is a risky venture, often motivated more by commercial interests than by intellectual concerns. It also runs the risk of diluting its ostensible subject, in a variation of the “ greatest hits” formula that is almost always unsatisfying. Happily, Andrew Benjamin has avoided these pitfalls by making informed choices among the options of text, variety, and order available to him. Benjamin offers no less than twenty texts from the mid-1970s to the present, with emphasis on writ­ ings of the past decade. Because the ordering of selections is not strictly chronological, it precludes the sense of deadness (reification) associated with the trajectory of an oeuvre or career. Lyotard’s remarks at the start of the collection support this avoidance of testamen­ tary effects by emphasizing the extent to which translation and the necessary rereading it always entails extend the circulation of words, texts, and meanings beyond what the author may have intended to say. Benjamin delivers what he promises: the simple presentation of shreds of a work (xvi) with a minimum of intervention and extraneous fuss. Such critical caution on his part is not from modesty. It responds to a demand authorized by Lyotard, as in the following passage cited by Benjamin in his introduction: “ Our role as thinkers is to deepen our understanding of what goes on in language to critique the vapid idea of information, to reveal an irremediable opacity at the very core of language” (xv). W hat, then, takes place in terms of 168 S p r in g 1991 B ook R ev iew s language and meaning in The Lyotard Reader? W hat might this occurrence tell us about Lyotard and about his writings? What and who, in other words, are invented by this reader? The Lyotard who emerges from this textual invention embodies the period and the agenda of recent inquiries associated with the postmodern. The various claims to doctrine and polemic that converge in rival postmodernisms are visible in the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 168-169
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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