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167 of a rising commercial society. After broader accounts of the role of print and orality and the debate over pastoral in Gay’s work, Ms. Dugaw examines his major texts in light of the popular and higher genres that they parody. The results are refreshing and revealing. By combining feminist , Marxist, and queer theory, Ms. Dugaw sensitively alerts us to missed genres and contexts. I wonder how I could have understood The What-d’Ye-Call-It without the benefit of her knowledge of Christmas mumming plays. Her reading of Polly gives a play often rendered invisible by the brilliance of The Beggar’s Opera a light of its own, as she shows how Gay uses dance to embody a triple analogy of purchaser/slave, husband/wife, and king/courtier. Her salutary attention to the multiple political resonances of the songs in The Beggar’s Opera newly illuminates what she sees as Gay’s distinctly unheroic but redeemably humane modernity. The deep, subversive play uncovered by these readings amply confirms why Gay was, as this study documents, deprecated by critics from Samuel Johnson to the nineteenth century and why he has proven so fruitful for modern authors such as Brecht and Havel. There are times, however, when I wanted a sharper presentation of the book’s critical stance rather than another exegesis, however learned and interesting, of Gay’s contexts. Perhaps out of an admirable generosity, Ms. Dugaw does not distinguish her claims from those of Empson’s important reading of The Beggar’s Opera in Some Versions of Pastoral or from John Brewer’s in his already influential The Pleasures of the Imagination . Indeed, she implicitly offers a corrective to both: the political allegorizing by Empson needs to be complicated by the mediating force of culture as such in Gay. And yet the continuing political relevance of the play calls into questionBrewer’smodel of commercial culture as universal solvent that devours The Beggar’s Opera despite Gay’s attempt to parody it, part of a general turn in eighteeenth-century studies toward the baggy monster known as ‘‘consumption.’’ The only interpretation I do not find persuasive is that Blake’s 1793 engravings of Fables are ‘‘brilliant, if willfully distorting ,’’ which aligns him with others who miss or reject Gay’s ‘‘moral vision of an ironic or paradoxical immanence.’’ While Blake may be more inclined toward transcendence than Gay, his work, the engravings included, surely evidences its own ‘‘paradoxes of immanence.’’ However, this chapter, like the others, is rich with insight. This learned and groundbreaking book makes good on its argument that this slipperiest and most allusive of authors can teach us unheroic moderns that ‘‘we are humans; we are equals.’’ Steve Newman Temple University THOMAS KEYMER. Sterne, The Moderns, and the Novel. Oxford: Oxford, 2002. Pp. 222. $70. Mr. Keymer promises to chart a middle course between ‘‘[t]wocompetingtraditions’’ that ‘‘dominate’’ Sterne scholarship, the first characterized by reading Sterne ‘‘as generically a novelist and temperamentally an honorary modern’’ or postmodern, the second by reading him as ‘‘[a] belated exponent’’ of ‘‘learned-wit satire that reaches 168 back to Erasmus and finds its final flourish in Swift and Pope,’’ a position associated with the criticism of D. W. Jefferson, Melvyn New, J. T. Parnell, and myself. Arguing that both traditions make Sterne ‘‘an anachronism,’’ Mr. Keymer situates Sterne in the literary and commercial culture of the 1750s–1760s, so that Tristram Shandy may be seen ‘‘not only as satiric and novelistic in an integrated sense but also as profoundly of its time.’’ However, instead of pursuing such a promising course, the study mostly recycles postmodern readings while obviating the problem of anachronism by discovering postmodernism in the culture of the 1750s–1760s. Mr. Keymer’s Sterne is absorbed into our time by virtue of his immersion, for the sake of fame and fortune, in the marketeering strategies and cultural fads of his own. While assuming Tristram Shandy’s importance, this study offers little account of it. Mr. Keymer presents Tristram as playing the same role as Swift’s hack writer from A Tale of a Tub: ‘‘The technical incompetence and preening egotism of Swift’s hack feed directly(thoughinagentlermode...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2165-0624
Print ISSN
0190-731X
Pages
pp. 167-169
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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