Most helpful positive review
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Stylish, elegant, sometimes difficult
on 29 August 2013
As a lover of the a.v.s.i. series of books I've come to realise that they don't have a huge amount in common in terms of their prose style. Sometimes you get crisply written, dull expositions, and other times self-indulgent, wince inducing material from someone a tad too in love with their subject to see through the fog. This effort from Catherine Belsey straddles the gap without ending up far towards either side to fall in. Whilst she introduces her material concisely and incisively, there are occasionally flourishes where her obvious passion really brings the material to life. She makes frequent use of relevant examples from literature and art to provide examples of poststructuralist modes of thought in action, so to speak. On the academic side of the coin, the intellectual heavyweights most closely associated with the structuralist and poststructuralist movements are introduced, described and rounded off with a short biography which provides some historical, sociological and psychological context to their work and life.
Occasionally the narrative goes a little off piste but it's forgivable considering the nature of the beast; the ideas are often not for the faint of heart and this will take some level of commitment on the part of the reader. Many of the big thinkers involved were showing how language contorts and is contorted by the human subject. Their work embraces the ambiguity of our systems of language and often revels in its own obscurity as if to make this point. If you're completely new to formal philosophical thinking then there could be a few areas of struggle ahead. However, Belsey manages to stop things drifting off into the stratosphere with a particularly wonderful exposition of Shakespeare's 'Sonnet 18' showing how this ambiguity can serve to delight as much as frustrate.
In my view this is a commendable attempt to compress and present a lot of often difficult and disparate ideas cogently, with insights compounded from fields such as sociology, anthropology, literary theory and psychoanalysis. The latter being my particular area of study, I found the material on Lacan particularly useful and well-written. All in all, a to-the-point introduction to an often obscure subject, expressed stylishly in an idiosyncratic and often creative manner. Well done!