AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
By Seth Lerer. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991. Pp. xii+ 268. $35.
The anxieties that characterize the postmodern age in academia are reflected in the title of Seth Lerer's new book. "Literacy" and "power" have become problematic terms. It would not have occurred to our "robust-minded" or "blinkered" (depending on one's point of view) predecessors to question the good of the one or the necessity of the other, or, for that matter, the intimate connection between them. But we are no longer sure of our attitude toward power and hence of its handmaiden literacy. Lerer sees fit to quote Levi-Strauss's assertion that "|the primary function of writing, as a means of communication, is to facilitate the enslavement of other human beings"' (p. 13). Apparently Lerer does not entirely share this apocalyptic judgment, but perhaps he is more troubled by it than he lets on. So, at any rate, I would conclude from his decision to title his book, not Literacy and Power in Anglo-Saxon England, but Literacy and Power in Anglo-Saxon Literature--a title which artfully declines to reveal whether its subject is literacy, power, and the power of literacy or (a very different thing) the mimesis of literacy and power in literature.
At the heart of Literacy and Power is a close investigation of passages in five Anglo-Latin and Old English …