Volume 31 Number 1

Richard Fleming and Michael Payne (Eds.)

Criticism, History, and Intertextuality

1988
182 pages
ISBN 0838751180
Bucknell Review

Criticism, History, and Intertextuality is a series of essays that explore the dynamics of intertextuality - the recognition that a given text uncannily refuses to obey the principle of organic form by assuming the shape of a unified whole, however fissured by irony, tension, and paradox. From this beginning, intertextuality extends through the recognition of dialogic voices of other texts echoing within every text. Much recent work in literary criticism and historiography has argued that, once the defining circumference of the text previously thought of as a work collapses, the world and the text interpenetrate each other in a vision of all-encompassing textuality. In this volume, Michael Clark presents the origins of the idea of the poem as an autonomous and coherent object in American New Criticism and the relationship of that idea to the rhetoric of Brook's Kantian sense of history. In "The Inevitability of Professing Literature" James L. Battersby offers a wry but ultimately optimistic critique of the apparent swerve of recent criticism away from professing literature. Adelaide M. Russo turns directly to the intriguing expression of intertextuality, bringing together a poet, a painter, and a philosopher in order to demonstrate the reverberative patterns of intertextuality. R. J. Schoeck achieves a similar end by the surprising means of tracing the traditional history of the rhetoric canon. Two related modes of intertextuality in William Blake's work are considered by Edward J. Rose as he examines the relationship between text and design and between the Bible and Blake's composite art. Steven R. Cerf analyzes the transformation of Thomas Mann's text of Death in Venice into Benjamin Britten's stream-of-consciousness opera. In "The Melancholy Serpent," Bruce Clarke's examination of the body and landscape in the work of William Carlos Williams and D. H. Lawrence considers the relations not only between poetic texts, but also between those texts and each poet's perception of the elemental cycles of the earth. Finally, Albert Cook's essay dealing with historiography elegantly reexamines the ironic tendency of the event to escape from the narrative net designed to capture it. Few critics now seem to believe that criticism has a stable object, much less the common purpose "to see the object as in itself it really is." The intellectual movements in nineteenth-century France and Germany destabilized the literary, historical, religious, and philosophical text. Every text was seen to require interpretive readers for whom the rarest and highest function of the text may be to open up the possibility of a kind of experience, a war of life and of meaning, the reader had not foreseen. Not only does the reader subjectify the text by interpreting it, the text itself may be thought of as a consciousness ready to be assimilated. It is not surprising that Hayden White has called this "the absurdist movement" in the history of criticism, for now, "The privileged reader looks everywhere and finds only texts, and within the texts only himself."

Contributors: Michael Clark, James L. Battersby, Adelaide M. Russo, R. J. Schoeck, Edward J. Rose, Steven R. Cerf, Bruce Clarke, and Albert Cook.

About the editors:

Richard Fleming is the John Howard Harris Professor of Philosophy (distinguished chair) at Bucknell University. He has taught philosophy and humanities course at Bucknell since 1983 and has received numerous teaching excellence awards. His Bucknell University Press publications include Sound and Light: La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela (edited with William Duckworth, Bucknell Review 40:1, [1997]), and The State of Philosophy, 1993.

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