Summer 2000 • Vol. XXII No. 3/4 Book ReviewsJuly 1, 2000 |

The Powers and Pleasures of This Language

Review The Rise and Fall of English: Reconstructing English as a Discipline by Robert Scholes. New Haven: Yale UP, 1998. 203 pages. $20.00, hardbound. What is literature? What is its value? Why is it written? Why is it read? This list of questions and a host of other concerns that this series implies may seem like a latter-day academic equivalent of "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" This series may appear to consist of questions impossible to answer and irrelevant or at least tangential even if answered accurately. Yet even scholastic questions about dancing angels have a kind of staying power. And the same can readily be said for questions concerning the status of literary works of art, their producers, and their consumers. Trying to assign a value to things literary has proven difficult, since we seem hard-pressed to assign value generally. Yet even if Barbara Herrnstein Smith is correct about the contingency of value relative to a literary work of art, plen

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