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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 topics addressed, from Kant and painting to psychoanalysis, Judaism, and film. Benjamin’s selections illustrate the range and the substance of individual issues that Lyotard raises in The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (trans. Brian Massumi and Geoffrey Bennington [Min­ neapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984]), in more theoretical terms related to epistemology. The Lyotard Reader also shows convincingly that what is philosophically grounded in Lyotard’s writing practice is supplemented by a tone that evokes autobiography, fictional récit, and essay, whose models might well be Borges and Tom Wolfe. “ The Dream-Work Does Not Think” —from Discours, Figure—is equally dense and constructed out of various discourses and genres. O f special interest is the problematic of justice, dispute (différend), and history delineated over the final five selections via discussions ranging from Lévinas, Kant, and Marx to the implications of A dorno’s reference to “ After Auschwitz.” The last among these five, “ The Sign of History,” offers a particularly relevant reminder that the theoretical stakes in the postmodern—as defined by Lyotard and by Fredric Jameson— stage concerns with practices and institutions grounded in history. Benjamin’s collection is a welcome contribution. Alongside the studies by David Carroll and Geoff Bennington, it is one of the best ways to engage Lyotard’s writings from the out­ side. My only reservation—a rappel amical—is admittedly a minor one. Just whose Lyotard is being invented here? Mention of Lyotard’s first book—a 1954 essay, La Phénoménologie, in the “ Que Sais-je?” series—would have helped to chart the full trajec­ tory of the postmodern Lyotard Benjamin has presented. This would have helped to remind us that the term and concept of the postmodern are constructed on the articulation of prefix and a central noun. The postmodern remains very much of a periodic—that is, a temporal and historical—designation, despite Lyotard’s claims to the contrary. A full sense of Lyotard’s stake in this articulation needs at least a reminder of its origins. S t e v e n U n g a r The University o f Iowa Geoffrey Bennington. L y o t a r d — W r it in g t h e E v e n t . New York: Columbia University Press, 1988. Pp. 189. Bennington shows himself a discerning and sympathetic reader of Lyotard and he pro­ vides a careful, sometimes elaborately detailed resumé of certain key strands of his thought. Given the range and diversity of the œuvre, Bennington has wisely decided to limit himself to three major phases, each centered around one book: Economie libidinale, Discours, figure, and Le Différend. This reflects the order of treatment, and not, as will be noticed, the order of appearance of the books. The reason for this tactic is, Bennington remarks, to present the works in an order “ of difficulty of exposition.” I’m not persuaded that the early section on Economie libidinale is more readily accessible than much of what follows. A more genetic approach, focusing on the phenomenological, Marxian, and Freudian con­ texts of Lyotard’s earlier work, might have been more useful. Bennington candidly raises some doubts regarding the kind of “ pedagogical” and VOL. XXXI, NO. 1 169 L ’E spr it C r éa te u r “ introductory” discourse that a book like this must adopt: “ It would be foolish to expect to make such problems go away by simple prefatory remarks: this book will not avoid nar­ rative and representation, pedagogy and stupidity, time-saving and post-modernity. But . . . Lyotard would certainly want to argue that it is the duty of thought to resist” (p. 4). So the standard that Bennington himself invokes is an exigent one, and we...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 169-171
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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