REVIEW: A rthur E fron. EXPERIENCING TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES: A DEWEYAN ACCOUNT. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005 [Book Review]

Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 41 (4):870-872 (2005)
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Abstract

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:^ be clear and sometimes ambiguous. For example, Del Castillo warns readers ^ that Dewey will be ambivalent about when and where the actions of the KH state or of the free market are needed to deal with social problems. The ^* ambivalence is, in part, Del Castillo argues, because Dewey's view of the / complexities of social life prevented him from adopting simplistic political stands (p. 33). Del Castillo's argument is correct, but a more straightforward explanation is that Dewey was a contextualist and that, therefore, the theoretical task of trying to set the proper limits of the state is ideological and non-intelligent. This is how one can stand on the ideal of democracy without the need to decide between laissez-faire liberalism and socialism for all times and places. Del Castillo warns the reader not to expect from The Public and its Problems the precision and systematic character of recent works on political theory, but that it has an energetic and provocative character missing in much contemporary works in this area of inquiry. Del Castillo is correct and part of the reason is the book's continued relevance to present conditions in the U.S. If things in the U.S. had gone in the direction that Dewey pointed toward, there would be no need today to read or to translate The Public and its Problems. As Del Castillo says in his final sentences, "abundance ended up replacing the civic citizen by the consumer", "American democracy does not look at all like what Dewey envisioned" (p. 54). Does this means that Lippman was right after all? Does it mean that we have not even tried, or tried hard enough, to implement what Dewey proposed? Del CastiUo, does not address these questions, but there is no reason why he should. It is enough that Del Castillo has made available to a larger audience a text and an insightful introduction that helps us have a thoughtful discussion about these important issues. Gregory Fernando Pappas Texas A&M Univeristy, [email protected] Arthur Efron Experiencing Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Deweyan Account Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005. xiii+248 pp. $ 72.00 cloth. In Experiencing Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Arthur Efron has accomplished a rather extraordinary task. The book consists primarily of an extended reading of Thomas Hardy's novel using some of John Dewey's main philosophical ideas and concepts, most notably those present in Art as Experience, as a guide. As such, Efron's text amplifies and enriches our understanding of Hardy, Dewey, and their work. I am not using the word "enrich" casually. Through Efron's emotionally charged reading of Tess, Experiencing Tess, becomes an ongoing effort to reclaim what Dewey, in Art as Experience calls oje) "human experience." In that text, Dewey contrasts "human experience" to stagnant and encrusted modes of criticism that fail to "cope with the emer- 7° gence of new modes of life," and this matters because, to use Dewey's own words again, "the very meaning of an important new movement in any art κ-1 is that it expresses something new in human experience, some new form of. interaction of the live creature with his surroundings, and hence the release, of powers previously cramped or inert." Efron 's book is enriching in that sense, in offering readers an "experience," a completely novel way of doing criticism, of reading, and of "feeling" together with a text. I do not think I exaggerate when I say that I do not know of any other work of recent literary criticism that accomplishes this. Experiencing Tess focuses most particularly on what we might call the vicissitudes of Tess's character and humanity. Yet, as is noted recurrently throughout the text, these ideas can never be entirely separated from Tess's interaction with the various characters that populate Hardy's text, especially of course Angel and Alec. Because Tess's fortunes (or, rather, misfortunes) throughout the novel are, in this richly textured book, carefully digested and interpreted in light of Dewey's understanding of experience, Efron invites us, further, to consider our own relationships with authority and with often unreflective critical practices. Let me specify. It is all too easy to...

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