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This review is taken from PN Review 134, Volume 26 Number 6, July - August 2000.

HARROWING HOLES J. HILLIS MILLER, Black Holes
MANUEL ASENSI, J. Hillis Miller; or, Boustrophedonic Reading, trans. Mabel Richart (Stanford University Press) £40, £11.95 pb.

Bous, the ancient Greek word for 'ox', has a significant place in a key text of early Modernism: it is one of the names which his fellow-students mockingly bestow on Stephen Dedalus in Joyce's Portrait (1916). As the twentieth century turns into the twenty-first, it is doubtless appropriate that the word reappears in Manuel Asensi's text in a compound form that incorporates the idea of turning - as the Preface of this book tells us, 'boustrophedonic', combining bous and strophe, 'turn', means 'turning back and forth, as an ox ploughs a field' (p. ix). It is also perhaps a sign of the times that this term is not applied, as in Joyce, to a would-be artist, but to a well-established critic with whom PN Review has had one or two skirmishes: J. Hillis Miller (see PNR32, 33, 81). This book offers, in part, an exploration by Asensi, a Spanish academic, of Miller's criticism: but it also offers a text by Miller himself, and for much of the book these two texts are printed on facing pages, Asensi's on the left, Miller's on the right: in this respect, the book itself is boustrophedonic, if in a rather complicated way - as if two oxen were responsible for ploughing alternate furrows. This also complicates the position of the reader, who is faced with the question of how the book should be read: in practice, one suspects, most readers will treat this almost as if it were two separate books, reading one ...


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