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BOOK REVIEWS 365 Oser contrasted Arnold and Pater to launch his argument. Their differences serve well to end these remarks. He finds in Arnold's criticism the ideas about human nature and commonly shared ethical values that are, in his view, needed to qualify the Victorian as an eminent Aristotelian. He finds in Pater a retreat to solitary aesthetic consciousness that set an anti-Aristotelian paradigm for modernist writers. But that scheme does not play out so neatly in the collected works of either writer. In the Preface to his 1853 collection, Arnold, at his most Aristotelian, explained why he omitted Ernpedocles on Etna, the long title poem of an earlier volume: it failed to deliver on his own philosophical demands. Indeed, in his poetry Arnold keeps returning the theme of his age's, and his own, inability to articulate precisely the socially shared values that Oser seeks. Where imaginative literature is concerned, I think we are more likely to find them most closely approximated in Pater-not in The Renaissance (1873), arguably the founding text of the Aesthetic Movement, but in Marius the Epicurean (1885). Dismissed by Oser as one of Pater's "Imaginary Portraits;' Marius is better viewed as a novel of development whose protagonist, rather than abandoning his aesthetic sense, integrates it into a maturing moral consciousness. The body plays a key role: Marius parts company with the Stoic Aurelius in that "the philosophic emperor was a despiser of the body" (Ch. XVIII); Marius, "the humbler follower of the bodily eye" (Ch. XIV), strives "to live in the concrete" (Ch X). The entire novel traces Marius's quest for a community where moral ideals can be found in a form accessible to the eye. He successively discards the "unseen celestial city" of Aurelius and his tutor the rhetorician Pronto, the ideal republic ofPlato, or the neo- Platonist Apuleiuss "fantastic visions" (Ch. XX) of a vague intermediary realm. Though he does not formally become a member, Marius is able to see his ideals realized among the Christians who gather at Cecilia's house, where beauty and morality are concretely embodied in community life. At last, despite himself, Marius performs a supremely moral act of self-sacrifice to save the life of his friend Cornelius. In Pater's novel-and in varying degrees among the modernist masters-relations between ethics and aesthetic are charged with paradox and complexity. Its clear and distinct conceptualizations notwithstanding, Oser's book leaves our questions about them far from closed. Joseph Sendry Catholic University The Return ofChristian Humanism: Chesterton, Eliot, Tolkien, and the Romance ofHistory: By Lee Oser. University of Missouri Press, 2007. ISBN 9780-8262-17752 . Pp. xi + 190. $37.50. The clash between dogmatic relativism in the modern tradition and a reviving Christianhumanismisthe broadfocus ofthisstudy, embracing"critics, philosophers, 366 CHRISTIANITY AND LITERATURE and theologians;' and presented "to compare the fruits of Christian humanism with those of its rivals, both secular and religious" (publisher's notice). This sounds like a very large enterprise-it is. Lee Oser offers a survey of materials drawn from no less than 199 titles in his Works Cited list, to play out in about 155 pages of text. Oser, Associate Professor of English at the College of Holy Cross, and author of T. S. Eliot and American Poetry and The Ethics of Modernism: Moral Ideas in Yeats, Eliot, Joyce, Woolf, and Beckett, assumes his readership can tap, as he apparently does, a vast recall knowledge of an immense field of scholarship. One appreciates the implicit compliment, but the task of bridging idea to idea in this impressive book is sometimes daunting. Oser is adept at intercrossing several concepts at once to weave a complex tapestry, but the process can sometimes produce loose ends, sudden transitions, and too-rapid turns of thought. Oser's study invites, as George H. Ford said of reading Carlyle, "a mixture of admiration and exasperation:' There is much here to admire-the book is thoughtful and full of credible (if not always argued) assertions; most often, it offers exhortation instead of argument. Its intended readership is clearly the Christian scholar, the basic readership of Christianity and Literature. Oser's straightforward Catholic allegiances are presented...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2056-5666
Print ISSN
0148-3331
Pages
pp. 365-369
Launched on MUSE
2020-02-14
Open Access
No
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