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This review is taken from PN Review 76, Volume 17 Number 2, November - December 1990.

RHETORIC, AESTHETICS, POETICS Stanley Fish, Doing What Comes Naturally: Change, Rhetoric, and the Practice of Theory in Literary and Legal Studies (OUP) £35, £14.95 pb
Terry Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic (Blackwell) £35, £10.95 pb
Terry Eagleton, The Significance of Theory (Blackwell) £19.95, £7.95 pb
David Lodge, After Bakhtin: Essays on Fiction and Criticism (Routledge) £30, £8.99 pb

'This man is a Jewish swindler, he wants to use me from behind and shit on my head'. According to his own later report, this was what the Wolf-Man thought of Freud, shortly after first meeting him. Stanley Fish thinks the Wolf-Man got it right. In the essay that concludes this substantial collection, Fish analyses how Freud, in that celebrated case-study, structures his release of information - in particular as to the manner in which the Wolf-Man, as an infant, supposedly interrupted his parents' lovemaking - in order to engage and disarm the reader. But the point of this exposé is not to prove that Freud distorted the 'truth'. For Fish, there is no 'truth' outside rhetoric - which is not to say that there is no truth. His difference with Freud is that, while psychoanalysis holds 'that one cannot get to the side of the unconscious', Fish holds 'that one cannot get to the side of rhetoric'. His primal scene is 'the scene of persuasion'. His attack on Freud is, in fact, energized by his admiration, perhaps his envy, for the Professor's persuasive abilities. Indeed, we may - and the essay's position at the end of the book strengthens the impression - see more than a little resemblance between Fish and Freud. For Fish too is a formidable rhetorician, if in a different, distinctly American mode; hard-hitting, provocative, engaging. Even the sternest post-structuralist, ready to repress reference the moment it starts to poke through the skeins of signification, ...


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