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154 LETTERS IN CANADA 1991 oversimplifies these.related but distinct theories in a way that Jonson's own adult (and traditional) tropes of 'mirror' and 'face' in no way reconcile; and, though her observation that in The Forrest Jonson 'invests women with particular importance as vessels of morality and virtue' is a salutary corrective to Jonson's reputation for misogyny, her claim that his religious faith depended on 'the child's separation from a loving mother' is reductive to a bizarre extent. Theory here has lost touch with text. Finally, as bonne bouche, Jennifer Brady shows how Jonson had the misfortune to outlive his 1616 self-definition, and was hounded by his selfproclaimed literary 'sons,' who turned against him the very recognitions of physical and mental limitation that he sought to explore in Underwoods as a development beyond the Folio's prematurely confident closure. The only limitation of this elegant, compassionate essay is that it confines itself to nondramatic writing and therefore paints too black a picture. Another aspect of Jonson's development in those final years was a Shakespeare-like return to the 'na'ive,' nonclassical dramatic forms of his youth; and the most important text he left unfinished is the exquisite and high-spirited Sad Shepherd, in which neoclassical pastoral is merged with the indigenous myths of Robin Hood and Puck in a structure derived from morris-dance. Brady's depressedJonson could not have written such a work. All in all, then: an uneven but lively group of essays, many of them excellent, more intellectually coherent than most such collections because new theoretical approaches are grounded in the text itself and all the essays refer to a common approach - which the reader is advised to enter through the work of the late Richard Newton, ii miglior fabbro. (BRIAN PARKER) Vincent Arthur De Luca. Words of Eternity: Blake and the Poetics of the Sublime Princeton University Press. xiv, 238. us $32.50 In a critical survey to which he contributed ten years ago, W.J.T. Mitchell expressed a mixture of satisfaction and impatience with the evolution of Blake studies. On the one hand, Northrop Frye's Fearful Symmetry had justly obliged critics to emphasize the coherent, systematic character of Blake's genius; on the other hand, in fashioning the magisterial Blake, readers and spectators had tended to underestimate or ignore altogether the significance of the unresolved contradictions, not to say the 'alien' and even alienating face of the artist's work. What the interpretive community needed to do, Mitchell suggested, was to 'rediscover the dangerous Blake' ('Inside the Blake Industry,' Studies in Romanticism 21 [1982]). HUMANITIES 155 Vincent De Luca's elegantly written and powerfully argued book decisively answers that challenge, not to unravel Blake's coherence but to demonstrate how another, riskier clarity is won out of the manifold hazards that his work poses for the interpreter. Blake is 'dangerous' because he is difficult to read and difficult to understand, notwithstanding the sometimes palliative aims of the critical industry that has sprung up around him. How to respond adequately to the totality and purposiveness of the artist's vision while at the same time addressing the small details that crowd the texts and overwhelm the eye? For De Luca these problems are not simply obstacles to be overcome through ever more inclusive mythic and thematic analyses, but a crucial part of what it is to experience looking at and reading Blake. Ideally, this charged and precarious encounter induces what De Luca describes as the 'textual sublime .' De Luca demonstrates that Blake's work is the site of a fiercely dialectical struggle between two conceptions of sublimity. As readers familiar with the foreboding mental landscapes of Jerusalem and Milton can attest, Blake is undoubtedly attracted to the catastrophic sublime of terror and excess. But he is also repulsed by an aesthetic that makes a virtue of obscurity and negativity. Adapting the models articulated by Burke and Kant, among others, to his fundamentally humanistic ends, Blake relocates the sublime experience to the 'space of the poem.' As De Luca argues, the visual and verbal text itself becomes 'the site of sublime wonder,' at once familiarly human and capable of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 154-156
Launched on MUSE
2017-05-25
Open Access
No
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