Choice reviews Jameson's The Hegel Variations

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An new review from Choice offers a useful summary of Fredric Jameson's The Hegel Variations: on the Phenomenology of Spirit:

Although best known as a Marxist theoretician, Jameson (Duke Univ.) long has declared his debt to Hegel's Phenomenology. Yet Jameson's distance is evident in the title's musical allusion, in turn owing something to Adorno's advocacy of variation form—development that keeps its options open. Mediating the poles of formalism and hermeneutics, structure and narrative (or history), his approach, he says, "might helpfully defamiliarize readings of Hegel's texts as a whole, recasting each moment as a determinate variation on subject/object ratios." Not everyone will admire Jameson's heavy dialectical machinery. But once in gear it yields a series of audacious reading of a "non-teleological" Hegel, throwing a distinctive light on such themes as master-slave dialectic, linguistic subjectivity, expressive production ("the animal kingdom of spirit"), normative division in the Antigone (inaugurating chapter 6, "Spirit"), and the French Revolution. Jameson then projects a history that extends modernism into contemporary globalism, and finally sketches out a reading of Hegel on religious picture-thinking (Vorstellung) interpreted in turn as allegory. It is material enough for several books. Recommended.

[M. Donougho, University of South Carolina—Columbia]

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