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This review is taken from PN Review 65, Volume 15 Number 3, January - February 1989.

ONLY CONNECTING Malcolm Bowie, Freud, Proust and Lacan: theory as fiction (Cambridge University Press) £25.00

Richard Rorty has written of 'a kind of writing... which is neither the evaluation of the relative merits of intellectual productions, nor intellectual history, nor moral philosophy, nor social prophecy, but all these mingled together in a new genre'. This is called 'theory'. In certain quarters it is seen as the natural successor to literary theory which in turn has displaced literary criticism. 'Theory' is not to everyone's taste; for some, it seems to be composed of theories meta-theorized to the point where you cannot remember where they came from and can no longer see or care whether they are true. Theorists mock readers who, after a few pages of 'theory', thirst for first order discourse, for facts and reports on experiences, for perceptions and ideas. They are amused by the naïvety of those who do not wish merely to situate ideas but also to work with them, to try to understand them, to test them, to develop and extend them. For 'theory' is all about knowing all about theories without engaging with them on their own terms; it is about being able to 'place', for example, the General Theory of Relativity without having to know how to derive its fundamental equations.

Malcolm Bowie's book is not completely given over to 'theory', although he appears to wish to advance a meta-theory of his own. The meta-theory announced in his sub-title disappears from view for long periods. It is that theory and fiction are not such disparate modes ...


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