REAL PRESENCES: Is There Anything in What We Say? by George Steiner

REAL PRESENCES: Is There Anything in What We Say?

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Another genuflect (… la Bloom, et al.) toward cultural preservation, but incomparably higher than most in quality of thought, distinction, and sensitivity to the tough philosgphical problems of our time. Eminent critic and writer Steiner (English/Univ. of Geneva; Martin Heidegger. 1979; On Difficulty, 1978, etc.) is simply brilliant in this measured rebuttal to the long tradition of skepticism orginating in Nietzschean proclamations on the ""death of God"" and extending forward to those Steiner sees as doomsday inheritors--the deconstructionist philosophers. His title really says it all: ""real presence"" for Steiner derives from true faith in a kind of chain of philosophical being extending from God (or some belief in deity) to human intelligence, to the ""meaning"" of language itself, all of which he sees as discarded by easy nihilisms of the 20th century. Much of the book spends time naming villains and heroes in this battle: on the nay-saying side go Mallarm‚, Rimbaud, Wittgenstein, Derrida, all of whom pull the rug out flora under God and language; on the other (and shorter) side go Kafka and Beckett. Academics, journalists, and high-techies also get bashed for creating a society of trivial grammar and lame ideas, while Steiner returns over and over to the ""exceptional artist or thinker"" who ""reads being anew"" as a model for what man should and can be in troubled times. Unfortunately, he can't find many people around today who fit that bill. A dreamy, complex, moving act of intellectual faith worth a close look by anyone interested in contemporary thought.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago Press