At War with the Word: Literary Theory and Liberal Education Hardcover – June 30, 1999
The Amazon Book Review
Book recommendations, author interviews, editors' picks, and more. Read it now
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Customers who bought this item also bought
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
But first a word about the preceding �editorial review� because it is misleading. Don�t let the anonymous talking head from Reed Business Information, Inc. dissuade you from reading the book by his parade of tangential political remarks. It is true: Young�s style is bold and unapologetical, just like the style of the Deconstructionist movement which he critiques. The reviewer is myopic to chastise Young for fighting fire with fire. I am sure Derrida would expect no less. Like the practitioners of Deconstruction themselves, Young is unafraid to make broad-ranging connections between literary theory, politics, pedagogy, morality and death of God in the West. Those who defend the usual alliance of Deconstructionist theory and left-wing politics should extend Young�s critique the same toleration they insist for themselves when they criticize sacred literature or the works of the canon. Lastly, the author of the preceding review quotes Young out of context to make him seem �rhetorically overheated.� For example, Young�s remark about Derrida �killing the Logos� (p. 58) comes in response to Derrida�s own endorsement of the �decapitation of the Word,� which Young quotes and discusses shortly before, on p. 45. Thus Derrida has described himself as the Logos-decapitator; Young merely uses this image to make an allusion to Flannery O�Connor. Now, on to the book!
Initially written as six separate essays, At War with the Word begins with a brief examination of the political, cultural and hermeneutical trends when have led to the stigmatization of the New Critics, whose school of though has been supplanted by Deconstruction and New Historicism in English departments throughout the country. The opening chapter gives the reader no more than what he already expects: a critique of relativism, Marxism, and the identity-politics which are so often at work in these movements. Young also observes the self-indulgent elevation of the interpreter�s ideological prerogatives which is latent in both methods.
The second chapter is rich. It readily convinces the reader there is real hermeneutical depth underlying the force of Young�s rhetoric. The twenty-eight page �Derrida or Deity?� begins with a brief genealogy of the Deconstructionist movement, concentrating more on de Saussure and the structuralists than Heidegger. Young then compares Derrida�s answers to key hermeneutical questions with classical and modern alternatives. Young addresses topics such as semantic stability, temporal dispersion of the subject in time, and ontologies of presence and absence (e.g., differance versus the Logos of Medieval philosophers). His sources range from Augustine to Nietzsche, from E. Michael Jones to Frank Lentricchia. Young�s discussion of the Eucharist as the ultimate �Transcendental Signified� anticipates fascinating themes discovered independently and discussed at greater length by Catherine Pickstock in After Writing. One wishes Young had devoted the entire monograph to the themes of this single, tantalizing chapter. Perhaps some day he will.
To cover the rest of the book more briefly, I�ll summarize. Chapter three examines the Nietzschean roots of modern criticism and comments on the interpretative styles of Paul de Man, Harold Bloom and Jacques Lacan. The latter half of this essay is somewhat cursory, and a defense of Young�s assertions would be better suited by a larger work. The fourth and longest chapter examines New Historicism and its view of literature as a manifestation of the will to power. Chapter five is perhaps the broadest-ranging commentary, wherein Young discusses the interrelation between contemporary political history, constitutional interpretation, and literary theory. The final chapter is written from Young�s perspective as a educator. �Distinct Models: Why We Teach What We Teach� is a defense of the use of canonical texts and classic methods of interpretation as essential tools for forming the soul of the college-educated man.