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Review

Author(s): Forest Pyle


Review by: Forest Pyle
Source: Studies in Romanticism, Vol. 34, No. 2 (Summer, 1995), pp. 293-302
Published by: Boston University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25601117
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Reviews

Book

Carol Jacobs. Uncontainable Romanticism: Shelley, Bront?, Kleist. Baltimore:


Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989. Pp. 240. $34.50.
-.

Time:

Telling

Levi-Strauss,

Ford,

271.

Pp.

de Man,

Benjamin,

Lessing,

Wordsworth, Rilke. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins

University Press, 1993.

$37-50.

publication of two books by as gifted a critic as Carol Jacobs is


unquestionably, as J. Hillis Miller says in his dust-cover comments to the

The

earlier

volume,

of

"something

an

event."

But

in the present

state

volatile

of romantic studies, it ismuch more difficult to gauge just exactly what


kind of event it is.When Jacobs' firstfine book, The Dissimulating Angel,
was published in 1978, it appeared in an earlywave of deconstruction that,
radically new and unsettling, posed a fundamental challenge to inherited
models

of

the

on

practitioners

because

on

insists

insistence

best

and

interpretation

deconstruction

conventions

nothing

more
we

which

"reading,"
of deconstruction,

of
than

was

both

the disruptions it produced were


to

attention

the

rhetorical

sense,

activity
reading.
to associate
with
and

disruptive

But
the

compelling

the effect of such scrupulous

at work

operations

one

of

come

have

In

evaluation.
the

in

the

text.

And

when

achieved by such a brilliant and discerning a reader as Carol Jacobs, the


were

results

Times
placed

as

as

exhilarating

have

of

changed,
at
romanticism

the

they

were

course,

and

vanguard

of

disturbing.
the mode
literary

of

studies

that

deconstruction
doesn't

possess

the

same aura it did ten or fifteen years ago. The reasons for the
fading of
deconstruction's luster are both complicated and banal, but theymay be
traced in part to its unlikely institutional success, itself the result in part of
powerful work done by a relatively small but highly influential and cen
tralized

group

struction

must

but with
of

of very
now

themore

romantic

studies.

critics.

fine
vie

not

only

No
with

a new
longer
a traditional

development,
romantic

decon
scholarship

or less new historicisms that


arguably govern the state
But

the

appearance

of

Jacobs'

most

recent

books

reminds us that what has been lost in much of the recent


historicizing
(whether in the direction of social and political context or of "material"
culture) is the practice of rhetorical reading, a practice which in her hands
SiR,

34 (Summer

1995)

293

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294
not

BOOK
only

local

important

produces

REVIEWS
us of

but warns

discoveries,

the peculiar

aUure of historicism as it identifies the various traps that beset the histo
ricizing impulse. This is not to imply that the disciplinary turn to histori
cism is a primary or even secondary topic of these writings. Indeed, Paul
de Man's

mains

characterization

of

to

labors"?continues

of one

"virtue"

principal

"admirably discreet about

the wider

to her more

apply

of Jacobs?that

re

she

implications of her analytic

recent

work:

with

the

exception

long footnote in Telling Time, Jacobs simply takes no notice of

historicism's
depending
to
disciplinary

ascendance.
on

The

perspective,
and to many
debates
an

such

of historicizing

two

in these

essays

one's

either

blissfully
of the scholars
strain

important

of

briUiant

or

wiU

books

romantic

seem,

inattentive

maddeningly
that have made

a manner
none

One

studies.

theless discerns beneath Jacobs' apparent inattention to disciplinary debates


or to social context a serious grappling with the foundations of historical

understanding, with the historicities of texts, and with the limits of spatial
contextualization.
temporal
a very
and
order;
high

Both
both

are deconstructive

books

books

represent

of

performances

sort of

the

"obstinate

ques

tioning" that should make those of us interested in the intersections


between literature and social history reconsider just what it iswe are doing.
It is tempting to divide these two books along the spatial and temporal
axis

suggested

and

cultural

their

by
space

designated

textual

transgressions
to read it as a
study
some
widely
disparate

ofthat

us

Romanticism

titles. Uncontainable

of

the

by
space.

the

texts

term

Time,

Telling

representations
their
confront

of

on
time,

temporal

the critical

addresses
and

romanticism

chronicles

the other
of

the
invites

hand,

in which

the ways

how

conditions,

they

teU time and how time performs its textual telling.But readers familiarwith
Jacobs' earlier work as weU as the work of her primary critical influences
(Benjamin, de Man, Derrida) wiU be aware that the presumed stability of
an

such

opposition,

as

that between

space

and

time,

is often

of

casualty

her readings. Indeed, the thesis of Telling Time could be characterized as


the perpetual

entanglements

of

time

and

its teUings,

the

of

consequences

leave us with what Jacobs, following Rilke, describes as the trou


"interstices
of time" (TT 191). Telling Time demonstrates how the
bling

which
acts

of

even

teUing,

when

they

to

attempt

time,

represent

interrupt

the

ostensible conceptual stability of the temporality they narrate or describe.


The essays coUected in both volumes tell the tales of such destab?izations;
they

attempt

to

title

suggests,

revisit

and,

to

importantly,

reenact

the

that

"undoings"

in and by a variety of texts. The question of "containability" is the


subject of many of the essays contained in Uncontainable Romanticism; and,

occur
as

the

ticism's

inherently

is both contained

courts

the book
subversive

character.

and broken

the

always
But
the

of

roman

of containab?ity

as

suspect
issue

in these essays is more

notion

productively ap

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it

BOOK

REVIEWS

295

proached by way of the Benjamin essay that Jacobs reads in Telling Time.
In this light, a "totality," the frame that would contain romanticism?
whether that is construed as a period in cultural history or the social or
context?is
from
broken
the start, much
like
political
always
incomplete,
to
the vessel
of language
the act of translation
which,
according
Benjamin,
to
to reveal
breaks
that it was
broken
"Romanticism"
with.
begin
only

thus becomes the proper name for the uncontrollable improprieties of the
text and the displaced name for the critical predicament in its encounter
with the non-totalizability, the non-containability of the textual perfor
mance. The agent of this "breaking" or cutting which criticism performs
only in a mode of repetition of the performance that constitutes the text
in the firstplace is language's rhetoricity,what Kleist's Penthisilea names the
of language."
Uncontainable

"dagger
What

does

Romanticism

to

manage

if not

gather

are

contain

eight splendid readings of the damage done by the "daggers of language"


in Percy Bysshe Shelley, Emily Bront?, and Heinrich von Kleist. There is

no

countered

and

to the volume,

sequence

chronological

that of de Man's

Allegories ofReading:
are

readings

Kleist

and

its organization

calls

to mind

in both books, problems are reen

reenacted

without

the

claim

of

progression.

is the focus of five of Jacobs' eight chapters, and the essays on


Penthisilea, Prince Friedrich vonHomburg, Michael Kolhaas, "The Duel," and
"Improbable Veracities" are lucid and penetrating. In each and every case
Jacobs locates what she calls "pivotal moments of disorientation" (UR 125)
that,much
standing"
narrative

like Jacobs' Kolhaas, disclose serious "ruptures in [our] under


(UR 155). In each and every case any putative stability?of
of

voice,

of

identity,

Jacobs in "The Style of Kleist"


"illumination,"

issuing

as

of

the

presumably

it does

"Improbable

text to close the wound"


"dagger

of

189)?it

remains

from

language"?and

"the

by what

deflections"

unexpected

nature"
"history

182). But

(UR
in

undone

of

"deflections" persist despite the interven

"irreproachable
for instance:

Veracities,"

authority?is

calls the "bolt of lightning" that offers no

language itself (UR 181). These


tion

of

closure,

this

instance

as
history,
at
the
end
appears
of

like all wounds


made

by

"the

in Kleist's
of Kleist's

made

by the

invasion

of

foreign to itself, a Keilschraft ('cuneiform language')"

language made

(UR

unclosable.

The readings of Kleist follow a fine essay on the issue of interpretive


thresholds and limits inWutheringHeights, a boldly revisionary study of the
"unbinding"

force

of words

and

their

consequences

for

the

rhetoric

of

Utopian desire in Shelley's Prometheus Unbound, and a stunning and un


precedented

reflection

upon?or

more

precisely?"look"

at a much

over

looked poem by Shelley, "On theMedusa


of Leonardo da Vinci in the
"
Florentine Gallery. Though the ungrounding of interpretive authority is

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296
a

BOOK

REVIEWS

concern

are "about"
of these
the
essays,
they
to recover
event
work
the
of
they
reading
texts. Nowhere
with
these
is this more
important

recurring

reading;
encounters

of

experience
in

and

own

their

at

issue

than

in Jacobs' remarkable reading of SheUey's "Medusa," an essay that first


appeared in a special issue of Yale French Studies devoted to thework of de
an essay that since its publication in 1985 has had the effect of
Man,
renewing serious critical interest in this rarely anthologized or discussed
poem.

"On Looking
qualities

at SheUey's Medusa"

a poem

of

seems

that

begins by discussing the ekphrastic

at first

to

"simply

glance

the

reproduce

lineaments of the painting it describes" (UR 5). This prompts a series of


the
questions posed by the poem: what does itmean to look atMedusa,
as
as
or
at
the
is
weU
Does
he
it,
painting
goddess?
SheUey gaze
protected,
shielded,

by

Leonardo's

danger

of

poem's

meaning

we

Are

representation?
or "is
gaze

the Medusa's

it the

as readers

to the
exposed
. . .
art that

of

representation

distances us from the effects of theMedusa?"


(UR 7). What
transpires is
an engagement with the poem that does not so much try to clarify the
The

glements."

as
essay

to

reenact

and

reproduce

"traces"

the poem's

the poem's
and

involutions

various

"entan
the

demonstrates

osciUations that occur which make it difficult, even impossible, to distin


guish between a beholding subject and the object that is beheld. These
involutions

extend,

as

Jacobs

herself included, and make


in order

scene"

to

to

demonstrates,

all

of

readers

the

poem,

it impossible to "extricate our gaze from this


its critical

"contemplate

implications"

are

8). We

(UR

thus delivered by thismost radical strain in SheUey's poetics and by Jacobs'


uncompromising
of

performance

reading
a radical

it to

of

of

"conception

figurai

of the language that attempts to represent it" (UR 11).What


strictly speaking,
legible?if
ing of the painting's
performance
the Medusa
"What
contemplates"

enough
gazing
(UR
nate

to rob one of one's

into

a mirror

formed

of

the

Jacobs makes

own
the poem's
element
transgressive
canvas

in Leonardo's

the

the beholder,
radical

sensible?is

not,

as

the Medusa

itself, of

transformation?of

of

"and

read

figuration:
it is indeed

senses, is the ever-shifting image of herself

of

a vapor

that

arises

a consequence,
the poem
"mocks
14). As
an
and
located
elsewhere"
realm
objective

from

her

own

the pr?tention
"more
cruciaUy

mouth"

to denomi
mocks

the

concept of a subject identical to itself" (UR 15). The poem's meaning is not
clarified by Jacobs' analysis: we are delivered instead into a state of "inex
tricable

error"

by

the

text's

performance.

But

what

is made

clear

and

compeUing by Jacobs' account is precisely how the category of meaning


itself functions as the aegis that would shield readers from the force of
to
figuration unleashed by the poem. There is, Jacobs declares, "no way
fix a frame that limits figurality" (UR 16), and as if to demonstrate that

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REVIEWS

BOOK

297

declaration, in her closing paragraphs Jacobs turns away from the frame of
that poem to address the reverberations of that notion of figurality for
Sheiley's

"A Defence

political,

interpretive,

of Poetry."

Itmay be the case that "figurai language is no hero" (UR 10), but time
and again Jacobs reveals figurai language to be the agent of undoing or
unbinding, a force thatdestabilizes each and every form of authority?legal,
conventional?that

to

appears

contain

it.

In

"Un

for instance, Jacobs argues that it is not Prometheus or


binding Words,"
Asia who perform that play's great revolution but language itselfwhich
a

out

carries
restore

if

"perpetual

proper

unpredictable
in a
redemptive

authority

revolution"
or

as

gesture

Utopian

so much

not

that does

it

out

spells

the endless "disruption of temporal and spatial stasis" (UR 57). But figurai
language
a human

is no

hero

try as itmight,
figurai
can
it comfortably
however,

because,

Nor,

subject.

cannot

language
an

"be"

"be"

instrument:

in Penthisilea, for instance, the "dagger of language" is unsheathed only to


become the heroine's undoing. According to Jacobs, Kleist's play is itself
the undoing of oppositions, such as that between Greek and Trojan as well
as subject and object; it is a play that "questions the principal concepts on
which Homer's text and rational thought are based" (UR 86). A violation
of "natural law," Penthisilea is "the third term, the 'Drittes,'" (UR 92), the
"unnamable

...

embodiment

of metaphor

and

and

literality";

the

play

itselfbecomes the "dramatic reflection on this juncture" (UR 101). Pen


thisilea is disturbing not because of its heroine's dramatic suicide on the
stage, but, as Jacobs brilliantly argues, because she "kills herself with a

literalized simile, dug from the depths of her own feeling, forged in the
workshop of language" (UR 114). The scene is exemplary enough for
Jacobs that she conjures it in her preface, describing it there as "the
trick

conjuring

that

creates

substance

from

slip

of

the

tongue,

slip

between apparently simple denomination and rhetorical figure, and this is


said to destroy substance in turn" (UR xiii).
It may

well

true

be

that

conclusions

as

such

not

this do

the

provoke

same disturbance they once did, and that farfrom appearing as something
"shocking" (UR 189), we have grown accustomed to hearing the lessons
taught by themode of rhetorical reading practiced by Jacobs. But this does

not mean

that we

have

in

succeeded

taking

these

lessons

to heart,

incor

porating or sublating them in some dialectical leap of our critical thinking.


For

after

it mean

take

from Jacobs
wounding,

such
to

or,

of Penthisilea's

reading
these

ifwe

lessons

conceive

better

yet,

as

to heart?

final

scene
we

Perhaps

on

are

stage, what
learning

would

something

of the critical act as a kind of necessary


the

reopening

of

old

wounds.

In

this

light,

the stability promised by criticism's turn to the socio-historical context is

spurious

one,

turn which

claims

to heal

only

in order

to

ignore

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the

298

BOOK

wound.

does

History

REVIEWS

in Uncontainable

appear

most

Romanticism,

in

overtly

the book's final chapter on Kleist's "Improbable Veracities." But if the last
of Uncontainable

pages

Romanticism

our

draw

to

attention

time

and

tempo

rality, it is not in the form of a stab?izing context: forJacobs, "no Geschichte


can escape its own disruptive repetition from history to story" (UR 191),
and the appearance of time and temporaUty in this book has its own
disruptive effect,as if itwere not containable within a book on romanticism
status

The

proper.

time

of

to

its relation

and

is, however,

language

consistent feature of Jacobs' writings: indeed, ifJacobs' books are "some


thing

of

an

something
or
produces
understood
if not

an

caUed
an

"event"
or

event

these

essays

is, how

us

ask

a text not

to consider
represents

only

what

that

but

performs
is something
best

occurrence.

For Jacobs,
this
can render
of reading
that only
the practice
to the
return
of
the earlier
spatial metaphors
or control
to
the
of meaning
the aegis
by
appeal

as a confrontation
or?to

understand

book?"contain"
the

it is because

event,"

under
of

container

social

context.

One might expect that Telling Time would take up where Uncontainable
Romanticism leaves off, by addressing in detail the problems of time and
history and, in the process, engaging the historicist turn in recent literary
studies. But Jacobs quickly makes it clear that this is not the case, insisting
that Telling Time is not to be read as "a book about time" (TT 3). If it is
not a book about time as such, it is in ways we might expect from her
earlier work a book about the rhetorics of temporality, to invoke the title
of the de Man essay which Jacobs considers at some length. The book is
a

gathering

of

essays

that

the

address

and

fundamental

dis

fundamentaUy

orienting relationship between time and its teUing in a widely disparate


group of texts.Readings ofWordsworth, Ford, and Rilke are joined with
of

discussions

Lessing,

and

Levi-Strauss,

Benjamin,

treats the issue of time as one which

which

de Man

in

study

confronts the anthropologist

to
or novelist.
as it does
as much
the poet
the ph?osopher
According
an encounter
that
texts share
the temporality
with
of these
each
Jacobs,
an encounter
strains
serves as the condition
that inevitably
of their teUing,
or

the relationship between time and its teUing to the point of "rupture."
Jacobs opens her studywith an uncharacteristicaUy lengthy discussion of

Levi-Strauss's
"
turalism'

Tristes
is haunted

Tropiques:
by

she

there

the very

reveals

temporality

how
that

a "founder

serves

as

of'struc

the

condition

for the anthropological enterprise. Anthropology comes to resemble less


the science of the human or the study of the otherness of the other than
a record of an "epistemological crumbling" (TT 27) internal to the eth
nographic

undertaking.

Prompted

by

Levi-Strauss's

startling

and

poetic reflections on the setting sun as the grounds of knowledge,


argues that his anthropology becomes the failed "counteractant

weirdly

Jacobs
to the

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BOOK

REVIEWS

(TT

35), one

instability of the moment"


between
and

and

past

(TT

object"
that

phe"

29).

than

Ford

Maddox

not

but

and

debris."

Ford

to put

included,

"spatial
tensions

between

gaze

a "catastro

generate

him with
leaving
the
pursues
decomposi

Jacobs

in time's telling through her readings

that take place

itself an authorless agent thatmanages

narrator,

the temporal gap


chasm

overcome,

a certain

that gain
Ford,
readings
discussions
of Levi-Strauss

to her

proximity

record

"particles

tions of knowledge

of

insurmountable

can

Levi-Strauss

more

nothing

These

in which

as a

is "reprojected"

present

299

and

resonance

Lessing.

their

from

In Ford,

is

"talk"

to disintegrate the ability of any

events

or

in order

to lend

a sense

them

of

significance. Jacobs' chapter on the "fictional histories" of Lessing's Laoco?n


demonstrates how the performance of the text colludes with thatwhich
its author would banish: "Lessing's disfigurative mode of reading," Jacobs
tells us, "is totally at odds with the principles he wishes to draw from the
text" (TT 103). The effect of this is something Uncontainable Romanticism
us

prepares

the

for:

lesson

of

Laoco?n

reading

is

the

impossibility to control figuration, an impossibility which


for

corrosively

the

aesthetic

project

we

to

attribute

of

story

its own

should resonate

Lessing.

There is a detectable shift in tone if not method in the chapters Jacobs


devotes to Benjamin and de Man, for here the discoveries of reading do
not

seem

to come

reiteration

rather

much
essay

own,
ours"

along
remains

the

cost

them.

of
The

the

authors'

first of

essay on Benjamin's

with

de Man's

the best

stated

(TT

129).

since it was

Jacobs'
in Benjamin

methodological

treatment
has

lost

first published;

on

Lecture
of

are
and

same

the

"dislocation"

that

an

piece
charac

"For

translation
Benjamin,
one we may
call our
we
to be
believe
language
"the monstrosity
she calls
of

of what
none

but
older

"the Task of the Translator,"

Messenger
to the sense

guide

undertakings
is an
chapters

these

of translation:
Benjamin's
understanding
not
an
transform
original
foreign
language
but rather,
renders
that
radically
foreign

translation"

jamin's
"denies

of

photocopied
that

perhaps
terizes
does

at

of

into

in

its power

the

twenty

years

and it raises important implications for the


relationships between the literary and the political in Ben

thought.
According
the linear
law of nature

to

Jacobs,
in order

Benjamin's
to
practice

notion

of

translation

the rule

of

textuality"

(TT 130), and thus produces a dislocation of time that, anticipating the
late "Theses on the Philosophy of History," "blasts" the text "out of the
continuum of history." It is in this regard that translation for Benjamin
entails the necessity of a violence to the text, though it is the violence that
reveals

an

originary

breaking.

Few

texts

are

as

crucial

to

the

practice

of

rhetorical reading; and Jacobs spells out themoves thatmake it so. "One
is tempted to read 'translation' as a metaphor for criticism" (TT 138), says
Jacobs, who takes up this temptation if only to read Benjamin closer yet

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BOOK

300
and

"

in

to

the process

her

ironize

REVIEWS
own

declaration

that

demonstrating

by

'translatab?ity, which we might also caU the critical text within, is a


potential of thework itself" (TT 138).
In spite of the fact that it is the sixth of eight chapters, it is difficult not
to read Jacobs' muminating treatment of de Man's Allegories ofReading and
"The Rhetoric of TemporaUty" as both preface and conclusion to Telling

does time play its role


Time, for the question she asks of de Man?"how
in the performance of de Man's narrative?" (TT 144)?is both the question
that de Man asked time and again of every text he read and the question
that

informs

own

Jacobs'

to

"answer"

The

undertaking.

that

question

comes quickly?"Time
is thatwhich marks the realization of the impos
of
self-definition"
(TT 144)?but the real force of Jacobs' discussion
sib?ity
resides not so much in her analysis of what de Man means by this but in
how he does it. She astutely captures the deceptively unsettling experience
de Man,
reading
lation
that entangle

of

our

undo

and

between

in his work

tensions

the
us

and

assertion
"in

understanding:

vac?

de Man

reading

one iswoven into the texture of the narrative to the point of making his
text and ours into the dramatization of their own confusions" (TT 145).
The book's closing chapters address the "unimaginable touch of time"
inWordsworth
and the "interstices of time" generated by the "endless
of
Rilke's
poetry. Both are superb, particularly the revisiting of
mirroring"
two Wordsworth

tality"?that
should

we

and

Abbey"

poems?"Tintern
to

return

these

shrines,

poetic

this question
at the

premise
Wordsworth.

to

Wordsworth's

notion

in the very

resides
of

heart

the
the

"vanishings"
is made
reading

study
Jacobs'

impulse,

moralizing

of

the

given

particularly

themselves;

poems

Immor

one might weU

critical responses they have already prompted? Jacobs'


rests

of

"Intimations

have been visited often enough. Why,

"revisiting"
she
and

ask,

impressive

implicit answer to

or
"returning"
from
proceeds
recollection
by

that

its attention

to

engendered
more
by
persuasive
to make
his
tendency

the

this
in

"obstinate

"
into emblems of
questioning" and radical self-vanishing of remembrance
immortal truths" (TT 168). "The voice of moral glory" that is an unmis
takable signature ofWordsworthian
pathos "obscures the disorientations"
disregarding the
brought about by the poems' performances. Without
recovers
the
rhetorical force ofthat poetic voice, Jacobs
"disturbing logic

of the actual phrasing" which is less the vehicle of any "moral glory" than
it is the perpetual undoing of the stab?ity of the present or the past. This
and
prompts the book's only overt engagement with the methodologies
on
Levin
an
footnote
extended
results of theNew Historicism,
Marjorie
son's

influential

study

of

"Tintern

Abbey."

Jacobs'

a formidable representative of theNew Historicism


and,

to this reader,

convincing.

Jacobs

contends

engagement

with

such

is refreshing, important,

that Levinson's

investment

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BOOK
in the

an

of

stability

301

REVIEWS

extratextual

reality

commits

to see Wordsworth's

her

"primary poetic act as the suppression of the social" (TT 236) and thus
prevents Levinson's historicism, despite its "great intelligence," from rec
is an ally in Levinson's own efforts "to refuse
ognizing thatWordsworth
romantic
drifts

transcendence"
as

about
"One

permit:

to

close
could

here

From

237).

(TT
an

as

intervention
.

ponder

. whether

poses

Jacobs

ascetic

Jacobs'
radical

that

question
restraint

will

questioning

political

should be bound to a constrictive requirement of mimesis of the factual,


too often the oppressive anchor that poses as progress" (TT 237). And yet
I don't expect anyone attracted to the form of historicism practiced by
Levinson and others will be much persuaded by Jacobs' comments. The
antinomies

very

of

seem

would

nature

to
of

are
criticism
such
that overcoming
them
contemporary
an as yet unnamable
even
when
the
intervention,
require
are
as
as
antinomies
those
being
challenged
rigorously
they

are by Jacobs' own work. In this light,Jacobs' stringent refusal to enter the
fray seems the best available strategy, for the powerful austerity of her
critical practice brings those antinomies into bold relief. Indeed, few readers
are rigorous enough to live by, as does Jacobs, the admonition of Kleist's
Emperor

in "The

Duel":

. . .who

is the mortal

"Where

can

the word

read

of God in any such struggle of warring claims to the figure of truth?" (UR
161). One can only attend to the "apparently triflingscratch in the smooth
surface of theword" (UR 162), though such attention is likely to result in
a "general crisis of authority" (UR 165) that infects the pronouncements

of history

as well

as

the

to

claims

understanding.

But the question that finallyhaunts these books is less that of the social
and political contexts thatmight be the objection of historicists than the
perhaps more old-fashioned question of literaryvalue: traces of valuations
are,

of course,

everywhere

in these

legible

books

and

no

degree

austerity can entirely banish them. In this regard, Jacobs' work


the most

that befalls

the predicament
demonstrates

she

of critical

is faced with

deconstructions.
rigorous
that Shelley's
for
"Medusa,"

persuasively

For
instance,

just
disal

as

lows the valorization of language's disfigurations, she inevitably does so by


persuading
to be
is not

us

of

of

the value

construed

the

as a mistake

text's
that

deconstructive
could

be

performance.

corrected,

though

This
itmay

be evidence of what Shelley calls the "inextricable error" brought into


existence by language. But ifJacobs never explicitly celebrates the disman
tling
away

of
with

conservative
the

sense

values,
that

one

these

cannot
texts

are

read

her work

themselves

worth

without
reading

coming
because

of the damage they inflictupon our most valued assumptions regarding the
enlightening and redemptive role of culture. Nor is it any accident that in
order to learn these lessons Jacobs would have us read Shelley, Bront?,
Wordsworth, Benjamin, Kleist, and de Man. Though itwould be mislead

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302

BOOK
to say

ing

that

these

authors

REVIEWS
a tradition

constitute

in any

sense

accepted

of

the term, they do form a kind of Benjaminian "consteUation" whose value


can best be measured by way of a radicaUy conceived
"negative capability."
But to inaugurate any such revisiting of the question of cultural value
requires thatwe first acquire the negative capab?ity thatwould aUow us
to read and learn from the indispensable work of Carol Jacobs.
Forest Pyle
University of Oregon

Gary KeUy. Women, Writing and Revolution,


1993.

Press,

University

vii+328.

Pp.

iygo?i82y. Oxford:

to be troubled by the

studies and feminist criticism continue

Romantic
strands

of

feminism

should

those

romantic

tangled
set
be

strands
or

ideology

at

they

of British

Romanticism:1

very
a counter-tradition

as

apart

should

roots

the

be

to

as

understood

the

accomplishments
response,

three women

the

tangling

issue

of

writers,

puts

romanticism

own

his

and

dominant

constitutive

of the romantic landscape? Gary KeUy, in this recent book


of

Oxford

$49.95.

elements

surveying the
on

twist

even

feminism

the

latter

more.

He

argues that the cultural revolution underway in this period depended upon
"a

certain

to

in order

of'woman'"

figure

secure

notions

of

subjectivity,

nature, domesticity and national identity all associated with a "professional


middle-class" culture (4?5). Though limited and problematic, the figure of
"domestic

woman"

vative

women

woman

in

to

According
avoid
using

could
efforts

"to

otherwise

enunciated

by

to

clout

invite

exploitation
by
nor conser
radical

neither

KeUy,

this newly
available
construction
of
access
to the
and profes
gain
public,
political
. . . unfeminine"
or
considered
unsuitable
(7).

"domestic
woman"
the ubiquitous
such as Mary WoUstonecraft

between

relationship

feminism

cultural

enough

writers.

their

domains

sional
The

carried

of women

a range

and
or

women

the early

Mary

Hays

is outlined here in sweeping strokes; what remains unexamined is the


relationship between romantic concepts of the feminine and contemporary
feminism, particularly feminist literary scholarship.
Relying

on

cultural

documents,

primary

and

KeUy's

social
study

historians
aims

to

and

on

extensive
not

"chaUenge"

in

research

just

our

under

standing of the period, but more pointedly, "the history and definition of

women's

writing

1. See
Takes One
SiR,

and

feminism

themselves"

(304).

Yet

Susan Gubar, "Feminist Misogyny: Mary WoUstonecraft


To Know One,'"
Feminist Studies 20, 3 (1994).

34 (Summer

even

and

as he maps

the Paradox

1995)

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of 'It