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Blanchot and Literary Criticism by Mark Hewson (review)
Barnaby Norman
Modernism/modernity, Volume 20, Number 1, January 2013, pp. 163-164(Article)
Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press
DOI: 10.1353/mod.2013.0006 
For additional information about this article
 Accessed 7 May 2014 23:02 GMT GMT
 book reviews
rendered an oddly static poet, and her 1965 poetry is read without any nuanced or discernible difference from her 1976 work despite the fact that Knickerbocker had earlier correctly identi-fied “the process of change and flux” that is central to Bishop’s “The Monument” from
 North & South
 (1946). Plath’s use of sound is rightly identified a strength in a number of her poems, but here again a trick is missed: the same tendency clearly informs Dickinson’s poetry (for instance, “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain” or “This World is not Conclusion”). Had Knickerbocker joined the poetic dots to form a wider and more intricate critical graph, his book would have yielded fuller, more substantial, and more provocative arguments.
1. Robert Frost, letter to John Bartlett, July 4, 1913, in
Selected Letters of Robert Frost
, ed. Law-rence Thompson (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1964), 79.
Blanchot and Literary Criticism
. Mark Hewson. London: Continuum, 2011. Pp. xx + 150. $90.00 (cloth); $27.95 (paper).Reviewed by Barnaby Norman, King’s College London
Blanchot and Literary Criticism
 is a series of studies that offers erudite analyses of several texts in which Maurice Blanchot approaches works by “modern” writers. Hewson focuses primarily on Blanchot’s writings published in the collections
Faux pas
 La Part du feu
The Work of Fire
, 1949),
 L’Espace littéraire
The Space of Literature
, 1955), and
 Le Livre à venir 
The Book to Come
, 1959), and in so doing he isolates the work that is most recognizably critical in its approach. During the period covered by Hewson, Blanchot was also writing “fictions,” and from the following collection of essays onwards (
 L’Entretien infini
The Infinite Conversation
, 1969), it is even more difficult to categorize Blanchot’s writing as it integrates sections of dialogue and becomes increasingly concerned with its own fragmentation. After an initial chapter looking at Blanchot’s understanding of modern literature, the second and third chapters analyze his read-ings of Hölderlin and Mallarmé respectively, and the fourth and fifth chapters for the most part provide an account of Blanchot’s thought as a counterpoint to Martin Heidegger’s. Taken individually, Hewson’s studies are models of good scholarship and often bring great insight, albeit to quite familiar terrain. The individual studies of Blanchot’s work on Hölderlin and Mallarmé are extremely welcome additions to the field and provide an excellent resource for scholars seeking to orient themselves in these complex areas. The fourth chapter is perhaps the high point of the work; Hewson ranges over a constellation of texts to present a supple analysis of what Blanchot saw as the fundamental ambiguity of the negating power of language. In this and the next chapter, Heidegger’s text is set beside Blanchot’s so that the two bodies of work illuminate each other, yet neither is reduced to the other. Despite many good reasons to read this book, however, there are still a couple of areas that I found problematic. My major concern is the overall purpose of the book and the way its thesis is framed; it constantly risks slipping into incoherence. The book’s title certainly announces an enormous question: what relation does Blanchot’s work maintain with literary criticism? This is not, how-ever, quite the question that Hewson’s pieces ask, and he somewhat sidesteps it by pursuing a derivative issue, asking why Blanchot’s work has not been more consistently taken up in “literary studies” (see introduction). In the introduction, which joins the conclusion as one of the least satisfying parts of the book, there is no indication of why he uses the term “literary criticism” in

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