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George Moore and the Autogenous Self: The Autobiography and the Fiction by Elizabeth Grubgeld, pp. 308, Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1994, $49.50 Like wits in a Restoration comedy, the friends of George Moore honored his person with a rodomontade of abusive epithets: Moore was a codWsh crossed by a satyr, the gray mullet, a boiled ghost, an overripe gooseberry, the white slug, a large distinguished carp, an aborted egg, a very prosperous Mellon’s Food baby, and a cat-mummy from the Egyptian Department of the British Museum. In her important new book on Moore, Elizabeth Grubgeld collates these insults, but characteristically she takes them quite seriously as the starting point for a penetrating analysis of the Edwardian social climate of caricature out of which they come, with its competitive display of wit and what Beerbohm called its lust for bedeviling the unfortunate human body. Previously, there has sometimes been a certain ad hominem strain in Moore criticism, not surprising among his contemporaries, who were often trying to give as good as they’d gotten, but peculiar when found among contemporary scholars, What this book by Grubgeld oVers instead is a learned, theoretically astute, comprehensive, and sympathetic look at the writings of George Moore. The author of a study like George Moore and the Autogenous Self has clearly set aside a signiWcant part of her lifetime for its preparation. To put the study of George Moore on a serious footing, and to show others the peculiar appropriateness of Moore’s work to the questions that animate literary criticism today, Grubgeld has at least mentioned, and often analyzed, thirty-eight diVerent publications by Moore. And her scholarly habits are impeccable: she keeps in mind the chronology of Moore’s life, the changes over time in his conception of Wction, the diVerences between one edition and the next, the letters of Moore to others, the letters others exchanged about Moore, and the history of discussion about each book she herself treats. That is just to list the general categories of Mooriana. In addition , she has some ongoing theoretical interests, which lead her to engage with recent research in genre studies in general, autobiography in particular, letters in one quite original chapter, and, to a smaller extent, gender studies. Her special slant is to treat the characters in novels as their own autobiographers, and the narrator of the autobiographies as if he were a character in a novel, and thus a function of plot, scene, chronology, and narrative voice. What is left out of account? She is not much interested in the history of reception, or, with the exception of her chapter on Parnell and His Island, in most of the matters that excite cultural materialists. This is not, obviously, a criticism of her book, which entertains a startling variety of theoretical claims without losing its way or giving up its independence of judgment. BOOK REVIEWS 186 Grubgeld’s abiding interest is in what Michel Foucault called “the author function .” For some time before this article, literary scholars had been repeating Roland Barthes’s argument about the “death of the author”: once a writer entered into making a text, the language he inscribed took on a life of its own, most distinctly a life not the author’s, and many meanings of its own, none of them the author’s. Foucault put the question in an entirely new light: what are the uses, he asked, to which we put the concept of the author? What is its function especially in ancient literature, where we shelve and publish things under the name of Callimachus or Diodorus? These names mean to us no more than certain grammatical features, genre tendencies, periods and places of activity; about the men, we know nothing. In short, the “author function” becomes a way of naming our conception of the way a group of writings happens to cohere. What Grubgeld lights upon is the fact that GM, as friends called him, did not just write individual consumption commodities, one novel after another, good or bad, to be ascribed to “George Moore,” the name on the title page. He studiously elaborated a complex and developing identity for public consumption...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1550-5162
Print ISSN
0013-2683
Pages
pp. 186-189
Launched on MUSE
2017-08-31
Open Access
No
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