Beckett’s texts do span various styles,nthere’s something suspect about Ms.nDillard’s pronouncements.nTheoretically, Ms. Dillard is a seriousncritic: she is a novelist and a PuUtzer Prizenwinner in the nonfiaion category. Shenmakes a call for serious criticism, whichnshe thinks will save fiction from then”large and paying audience whose tastesnserve to keep it traditional”—to revivendead horses. She is most laudatory tonformalist approaches to texts. A critic—nespecially a formalist—must make deepnreadings of works, particularly thosenwhich are as complex as the contemporarynmodernists’s. But serious criticnDillard’s readings are not depth-plumbing.nShe says, “The context into which anwork is received actually affects its meaningn(despite a century’s valuable effortsnby formalist critics), and this context cannbe manipulated.” Her example of suchnmanipulation is an unscrupulous publisherntouting a detective novel by annunknovm as a must for “everyone whonloved Ficciones, In the Labyrinth, ornHarmonium. ” Ms. Dillard, for example,nof course. She continues, “Wouldnthe actual content of the novel, in such ancontext, acquire new meaning? I thinknso. I would be the first to fall for it. Mynreview would read the narrative as annenormous metaphor for the search fornepistemological certainty.” Such an admissionnfrom any seemingly intelligentnperson is frightening. But when a personnwho sets herself up in the position of anserious analyzer of literature readily confessesn(“the first to fall for it”) that hernreading of a given text is based primarilynon what is nothing more than a salesngimmick, fright is tempered with disgust.nAnother comment from AnnienDillard can serve to sum up the differencenbetween whatever it is that she isn(a propagandist for contemporary modernism,nperhaps) and a bona fide seriousncritic like Leon Edel: “The novel is angame or a joke between author andnreader.” Such a reduction of the effortsnthat many devote their lives to, admittedlynwith varying degrees of success,ndemonstrates, in itself, a peculiar sensen10 inChronicles of Ciilturenof humor.n1 homas Babington Macaulay’s descriptionnnotwithstanding. Dr. Johnsonnhas come to the present as a monumentnin the history of letters, both physicallynand with regard to his dictums, whichnseem to have been cold chiseled into livingnstone. Boswell, the source for this interpretation,nof course, was kind to hisnmentor. More recent biographers, suchnas John Wain, have made their examinationsnwith a more relendess eye, which isnonly natural, given their proximity to thensubject; Johnson was a very vital presencento the young, absorbing Scot. Still,nBoswell’s Life remains the de facto standardnportrait. Johnsonians—even thosenwho like to think themselves verynmodern skeptical types—turning tonJohnson’s Diaries, Prayers, and Annalsn(New Haven: Yale University Press,n1958), can’t help but be abashed by thenraw presentation of the man: praying,npleading, agonizing. Even if the notoriousn”De pedicis et manicis insanancogitatio ” is overlooked, it is still pellucidnthat the Rambler wasn’t the mainstay henis typically thought to be. In a similarnmanner, Jonathan Swift is often treatednas the author of a book that’s typicallynavailable with cartoon pictures of a giantnand litde people, not as a dark, complexnindividual who went so far as to predictnmental breakdown in a poem about hisnown death. It is commonplace to say thatnthere is more to an author than meets theneye, yet even when his or her life isndocumented for biography or thatnauthor’s works mined for symbols, therenis often a hesitancy to go behind thenauthor’s eye, into the mind, the placenfrom which the work of imagination hasnsprung, fully armed or barely clothed.nSome of those who do, like Leon Edel,nperform something that Edel callsn”literary psychology.” He defines thatnpractice as “The adaptation of psychologynand psychoanalytic concepts to thenstudy of mankind’s ability to create andnuse myths and symbols, in essence anstudy—without therapeutic purpose—nof what literature expresses of the humannnnbeing who creates it.” Obviously, anwriter of creative texts works with thenstuff of his or her life, whether in blatantnor subtle ways. Edel carefully reads textsnand compares certain elements in themnagainst elements drawn from thenauthor’s life. As he is well versed in bothnliterature and psychology, his observationsnand conclusions, while not alwaysnacceptable to one who makes anothernreading, are invariably plausible.nIn general, what is dangerous aboutnliterary psychology is that unskilled practitionersnundermine its viability. Thesenhumbugs are usually reductive in thatnthey apply significant meanings to thingsnthat have simple, obvious explanations.nFor example, a dime-store literary psychologistnmight interpret a character’snputting on of a necktie in terms of thatngarment as a penis, when it is actuallynnothing more than an act desaibed tonshow that the character wants to bensocially acceptable. Using a pencil,nspeaking into a miaophone, flying in anjet plane, and various other acts are alsonripe for reduction to the sexual by thesenposeurs. Edel avoids such ridiculousnstatements in Stuff of Sleep and Dreamsnand elsewhere; he is a scholar who knowsnwhat to look for and who knows how tondescribe what he discovers. That is, henavoids the use of terms that are no morenthan cant in the mouths of mawkishnguests on the “Donahue” show, authorsnand/or psychologists who have all thenanswers to what one of them calls “acutenreality problems.”nOne jargonlike word that Edel doesnemploy is tristimania, which was coinednby Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signatory to thenDeclaration of Independence and thenfather of American psychology. Accordingnto Edel, Rush used the word tondescribe “agitated forms of depression.”nSays Edel of the word: “It may be inaccuratenin a diagnostic sense; yet I find itnhas descriptive value. It helps describenthe component of depression in art, fornnothing is more chronic among writersnthan their sadness.” x Stuff of Sleep andnDreams he provides case studies—ofn