Vol. 14 No. 13 · 9 July 1992

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Multiple Personality

Ian Hacking disparages what he takes to be my account of Multiple Personality Disorder in his review of Stephen Braude’ s book on the subject (LRB, 11 June), but from what he says about it, I suspect that he has been misled by the book under review into confusing two different theories of mine: the Multiple Drafts Model of normal consciousness, which I developed with Marcel Kinsbourne, and the account of Multiple Personality Disorder that I developed with Nicholas Humphrey (Humphrey and Dennett, ‘Speaking for Our Selves’, Raritan 9, No 1, Summer 1989). The latter is given a brief summary in my book, Consciousness Explained – too brief, I am now inclined to think, in the light of this understandable confusion. I claim that the Multiple Drafts Model can provide the basis for all varieties of human consciousness, normal and pathological, and hence it must be capable of explaining the phenomena underlying Multiple Personality Disorder: but the peculiarities of MPD require a theory over and above the Multiple Drafts Model, and I think Humphrey and I have given such an account. It has nothing to do with ‘cognitive modules’: as an unflagging critic of Fodor’s concept of modules, I must protest Braude’s misnomer and Hacking’s adoption of it. The Humphrey-Dennett model of MPD has been praised by many of the professionals in psychotherapy whose opinion counts highest with me (and, I expect, with Hacking), precisely for its balanced attention to just the sort of details Hacking chides me for overlooking: ‘the square pegs of cognitive modules simply don’t fit into the round holes of multiple experience’ – I couldn’t agree more. I wish Hacking, whose historical perspective on MPD is nonpareil, had contrasted Braude’s account with the Humphrey-Dennett account, and not with Braude’s unsympathetic version of my account.

Daniel C. Dennett
Center for Cognitive Studies,

Thinking Persons

Three letters (Letters, 11 June, Letters, 25 June) reply to my review (LRB, 14 May) of five books on literary theory. Bernard Harrison complains that I quote him ‘out of context’. I said that Harrison showed ignorance of well-known New Critical dogmas (the heresy of paraphrase, the importance of ambiguity, the meaning of a poem is these words in this order) when he said that they dealt in interpretative paraphrase, looked for a single and final elucidation of a text, and even sought extra-textual meaning. Only the fuller contexts will show whether Harrison really did say these things. Here are two of them: Derrida is ‘a valuable counterbalance to the New Critical insistence on the scholarly pursuit of a single, privileged, final elucidation of the text’; and ‘New Criticism does not, that is, believe in the possibility of illuminating the text through extra-textual access to the opinions, life and character of its author; on the contrary, it treats knowledge of the author’s intentions as something to be sought primarily through interpretative paraphrase of his text’. Clearly, Harrison was not misquoted.

On the third point (these words in this order) Harrison’s book does not say what he now says it says. He quotes from his text but then continues with ‘the words of the text ranged in order’, claiming to supply a fuller context omitted by me. But those words do not occur in his text: he supplies a context that is not there. His book actually says things such as ‘never very far from the surface of [Wimsatt’s] argument is [a thesis] that the experience of what I have been calling the absolute meaning of a work of literature goes beyond language’ – just as I said. Harrison, in effect, admits that he said it, but claims also to have mentioned the principle that contradicts him, as if it didn’t. But it does.

As to Derrida: Harrison tries to avoid my real criticism of him by pretending that the issue is one of my being against and his being for Derrida. But my point was that he seemed to know almost nothing of the extensive literature for and against deconstructionist criticism. For example, even the most standard of all expository books (by Jonathan Culler) would have made it clear to him that his ‘new’ approach (rejecting the notion of free-play) was not new, and there are also published criticisms of it that he overlooks. It was on the basis of these large gaps in his knowledge about both the New Critics and deconstructionist criticism (and much else besides) that I judged him out of his depth in a field not his own, and it was in this sense that I said that his book suffered from the divorce of theory and practice ‘in a different way’ – a phrase which showed that I was not charging Bernard Harrison with failing to talk about literary texts. (This is a real case of quotation out of context.)

Mark Turner complains that I believe his ‘Reading Minds is MIT linguistics when in fact it challenges MIT linguistics.’ He is a careless reader. What I actually said was that ‘cognitive linguistics’ (not his book) was ‘a dissident splinter group within MIT linguistics’. Unless I am mistaken, the word ‘dissident’ means one who challenges the mainstream. The list of topics he covers would indeed be inconsistent with the assertion that his book ‘is MIT linguistics’, but not with my actual statement that it used cognitive linguistics.

Beyond these mistakes there remains only the question of the origin of this group: does it emerge from the generativist community or from elsewhere? The facts are clear. Ronald Langacker, correctly called by Turner ‘a founder of the field of cognitive linguistics’, was formerly an orthodox Chomskyite, and is the author of a well-known generativist textbook. Even now, the terms, assumptions and limitations of his Foundations of Cognitive Grammar make its origins unmistakable, however hostile it may be to the ruling orthodoxy. Another central figure is George Lakoff, the quintessential dissenter within the MIT tradition. Does it matter where they come from? Yes, because the shared sense that a ‘revolution’ had taken place in 1957 led Chomsky’s followers to treat previous thought in linguistics as an irrelevance; that in turn meant that when some of them worked their way back to a saner (but outside MIT, commonplace) view of semantics, the journey seemed like another great achievement and mini-revolution from within. This is why the naive grandiosity of Turner’s announcing ‘the great adventure of modern cognitive science, the discovery of the human mind’, struck me as vintage MIT, dissident or not.

In response to my saying that Leonard Jackson had grossly misunderstood Saussure’s semantics, Jackson claims that my own version has no textual support in Saussure. We shall see. Here is Jackson’s criticism of Saussure: ‘if our discourse is composed of meaningless signifiers, whose sole signification is their difference from other signifiers, it is logically impossible that the play of differences will ever throw up the meaning of the word “aunt".’ I said that he was wrong since for Saussure ‘signs contrast because their uses contrast.’ Now here is Saussure: ‘Analysis is impossible if only the phonic side of the linguistic phenomenon is considered. But when we know the meaning and function that must be attributed to each part of the chain, we see the parts detach themselves from each other …’ And: ‘The linguistic entity exists only through the associating of the signifier with the signified. Whenever only one element is retained, the entity vanishes.’ And that should suffice.

Jackson wants to contrast the weaknesses of Saussure’s semantics with the ‘powerful and delicate models of modern linguistics’, but his extraordinary misconceptions about Saussure, on the one hand, and his generativist allegiance, on the other, give us reason for doubt. Since the disastrous beginning of Chomsky’s semantics of 1957, a never-ending search has been going on for a semantic model that will work for natural languages. New models are usually withdrawn for repair as soon as they are introduced. Jackson must be dreaming if he thinks the search has produced something that has finally convinced everyone that it is ‘powerful and delicate’. Finally, I wonder why he thinks he needs to tell me that Derrida misinterpreted Saussure.

John Ellis
University of California, Santa Cruz

Their Witness

In dismissing my view of the Hughes/Csokits versions of Janos Pilinszky (Letters, 11 June), Daniel Weissbort appears to identify it with what he describes as ‘mimetic translation in which the reproduction of the original metre and rhyme pattern is taken to be a sine qua non of responsible translation’. As Weissbort must be aware, since he has published several of my translations, this is not and never has been my position. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that no one with any knowledge of the English tradition of translation could ever take so simplistic a view. For one thing, metre and verse form tend to be language-specific, so it isn’t actually possible in most cases to reproduce them in translation. But, much more importantly, as Weissbort’s preferred authority Yves Bonnefoy has said, all translation involves sacrifice. That is to say, in deciding how a particular work is to be translated, the translator has to decide which aspects of the original will have to be discarded. Thus, to take a classic example which would appear to support Weissbort’s case, when Pound began translating Chinese poetry he solved at a stroke the problems of previous translators from that language by deciding not to imitate the Chinese verse forms. (No one has written more persuasively of this matter, by the way, than Donald Davie in his Ezra Pound: Poet as Sculptor.) However, the contrary is also possible. When Pound translated Cavalcanti’s sonnets, he recognised that the poems would simply collapse without something resembling the original rhyme-scheme. He found it possible to do this, of course, because a sonnet form exists in English as well as in Italian, while there is no such equivalent for any Chinese paradigm – nothing, at any rate, that would bear the resonance those verse forms presumably have for Chinese readers.

But this is not the end of the story. No one seriously supposes (do they?) that in discarding patterns of rhyme and metre, Pound also disregarded them. In casting his translations in free verse, he also found patterns of syntax and lineation that restored to the poems the ghost, I would guess, of their original structures. My objection to the Hughes/Csokits translations was essentially that they failed to do precisely this: that the original metre of, for instance, ‘The French Prisoner’ has been discarded and nothing put in its place, the result being shapelessness. (This is not to say, incidentally, that their book is without merit, as even, back in 1977, my somewhat callow review made clear. My objection seems to me less compelling where the shorter, more lyrical pieces are concerned.)

There is, moreover, a further aspect of verse form to which the translator is bound to attend, and that is the associations a particular shape may have for the native speaker. To give an example: if W.H. Auden’s early balladic poems were to be translated into some foreign equivalent of Whitmanian free verse, any reader conversant with the languages concerned would surely regard the result as a travesty, for in sacrificing the form the translator would have abandoned the whole raison d’être of the original poems. And this brings us to the main point which Weissbort fails to address: that, though sacrifices have to be made and though one of them in a particular case might have to be, say, a rhyme-scheme, the form of a poem is part of its meaning and cannot be simply removed from it without serious injury, any more than a sentence can survive the destruction of its grammar.

Clive Wilmer


John Lloyd (LRB, 28 May) writes that one of the main reasons men such as Pavlov, the Prime Minister, and Victor Gerashchenko, chairman of the State Bank, threw in their lot with the anti-Gorbachev putsch was that they were desperate for money. Liberalisation and deregulation of the Soviet economy had emptied the bank vaults of all available cash; how the Gorbachev reforms could be sustained was seemingly beyond comprehension.

In a Financial Times interview, published the day the putsch began, Gerashchenko announced that he had recently struck a deal with Salomon Brothers, the New York merchant bank run by John Gutfreund. Salomon Brothers, perhaps more than any other finance house in the United States, had come to represent the grotesque excesses of deregulated, ‘liberalised’ America, and Gutfreund to symbolise personal greed.

After the coup, Gerashchenko went to jail, the deal between Salomon Brothers and the State Bank was torn up and, a fortnight later John Gutfreund was fired for illegal dealing in US securities. There were many desperate men around last August, but it is important to remember they were not all Russian.

Henry Jebb
New York

Housewives are expendable

I do not agree that the new use of ‘she’ ‘invariably imparts something of a mental jolt to the reader’ (emphases added). That depends on the reader, and, unless she has made a survey, E.J. Mishan (Letters, 25 June) should speak for herself. I think, too, that, to the extent that jolts occur, that is because the new use is not sufficiently entrenched. In much US academese, ‘she’ is no longer arresting, and that is how it should be.

Do ‘potent economic forces’ make the new use of ‘she’ unnecessary? I very much favour potent economic forces, but sometimes the superstructure needs a separate push or jolt.

G.A. Cohen
All Souls College, Oxford

Horse Sense

Bellerophon, far from being Alexander’s horse, was the rider of the winged Pegasus from which he slew the Chimaera. Alexander’s horse was Bucephalus. An obvious difference between these two pairs is that Alexander and Bucephalus existed but Bellerephon and Pegasus did not. Maybe Edward Pearce (LRB, 11 June) thinks of his job as mixing myth and reality. An alternative explanation is that the slip is Freudian. Although Bucephalus was to Alexander what Pegasus was to Bellerophon (wonder-horses tamed by the hero), Pearce has turned Bellerophon into Alexander’s mount and eliminated the mention of historical or mythical horses altogether. I think we need Peter Shaffer on this one.

Peter Kennealy

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