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102 UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY Essays in Criticism. By E. JORDAN. With an Introduction and Synopses by ROBERT D. MACK. Chicago: University of Cbicago Press [Toronto: W. J. Gage & Co. Ltd.]. 1952. Pp. vii, 384. $7.00. Despite Professor Mack's help, this garrulous and inconsequential work cannot be understood without reference to Professor Jordan's The Aesthetic Object (1937), where he writes (p. 246): "At its best, at its nearest approach to beauty, life remains sordid, vulgar, brutal, and obscene." By "life" he means all that is personal-personal feelings, personal interests, personal contacts--to which he attributes all that he hates. Thus in ethics he dreams of a "good life" so rigidly institutionalized that no human relationship need depend on a personal attitude, and in aesthetics of a theory in which neither artist nor spectator need be mentioned. The present work tries to found upon such an aesthetic a method of criticism whereby one could deal with a tragedy without mentioning the attitudes or feelings of any of the characters: "His [Lear'sJ sufferings are not mental pains or psychic miseries, but writhings and contortions of the Great Fault that runs through the structure of all Being" (p. 85). The attempt proceeds on the following lines. Every object helongs to two worlds, that of existence (composed of matter, or space-time) and that of value (composed of feeling, or colour40ne). The "cosmic split between existence and value" (p. 105) is the Great Fault just mentioned, the stuff of tragedy which is "the ground of literary art" (p. 222; cf. 247. This means that the lyric, called the basic poetic form on page 50, is not art at all-a fundamental contradiction which is nowhere resolved). As member of the world of value, the sunset, for example, is already a work of art: "It asserts itself in a poem or plays itself on a violin; you are silent while it speaks" (p. 93). This eliminates the artist, the "more or less passive instrument .. . in the hand of the genius of culture" (p. 311 ). Since "every relation ... isreally a relation of identity" (Aesthetic Object, p. 62), and one cannot make valid distinctions between colour and tone or quality and relation, sunset and poem and melody are somehow identical (cf. p. 48); clearly, Jordan's "identity" is the sunset in which all cats are pink. Furthermore , by "the principle of analogical identity" a word's meaning lies in its relation to the other words in a poem, not to any ohject or any person's state of mind; and if a poem deals with "life" or "experience" it does so not by referring to them but by forming an integral part of a cultural whole into which it is fused. This eliminates poet and reader alike. The attempt, though ingenious, fails. Jordan, by emphasizing the artist's disinterestedness and passivity, focuses attention on those very SHORTER NOTICES 103 states of mind which he seeks to ignore. His insistence on the "unreality " of the mind and its experiences does nothing to explain the illusion of their reality; one cannot see how or why, on his system, poems need poets. Nor does he attempt to suggest how literary criticism in terms of colour-tone is possible, or what it would be like: the examples he gives are in terms of the Cosmic Split, and few would allow them the objectivity which he claims. He grants that his method "puts criticism out of reach of the critics" (p. 136), yet admits that his ignorance of critical techniques puts it beyond his own (pp. 221-2). But it is, after all, idle to suppose that the reduction of all relations to identity can afford a basis for critical distinctions. F. E. SPARSHOTT Ten Great Economists: From Marx to Keynes. By JOSEPH A. SCHUMPETER . New York: Oxford University Press, 1951. Pp. xiv, 305. $5.50. While waiting impatiently for the posthumous publication of the late Professor Schumpeter's History of Economic Analysis it is good to have this collection of his essays on some of the great economists. The essays were written over a period of forty years, mostly on the death of an economist, or to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 102-103
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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