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Reviews439 objects have been accurately cognized and faithfully concretized, die harmony ofthe particularattributeswill provide the basis foran intuition ofa metaphysical quality such as the tragic. Powelltestsher dieory againstthreevariantsofthe Electra myth. InSophocles' Electra the focus is on the suffering of its tide character—suffering that is selfinduced and self-perpetuating, yetwhich is die configuration ofthe single moral value that both elevates and destroys the heroine: just revenge. Giraudoux's Electre presents another sort of moral conflict between Egisthe's enlightened resolve to become a noble ruler and Electra's unflinching adherence to die value ofthe truth ofhis unworthiness as she plots and inspires his assassination. Sartre's Les Mouches, however, does not meet Powell's criteria for die tragic. Here, the emphasis shifts from Electra to Orestes, whose value conflict opposes his heroic (but not tragic) stance of asserting absolute freedom against the considerably lower value of enslavement to the gods exemplified by the principles of guilt and repentance. Stimulating though Powell's theory is, I was disappointed in the lack of enthusiasm in her presentation. I found myselfsearching for a glimmer ofher own excitement and conviction. Equally disturbing is the author's reticence with respect to the visual aspects of theater. The mue en scène, costumes, and stage directions could contribute to the experience Powell describes. While the spectator is mentioned in her study, it is the reader who receives her full attention and this, I believe, detracts from the basic fact that theater is a visual art form. Still, I value the author's findings and am certain that those who read The Metaphysical Çhtality ofthe Tragic will discover, as I did, fresh insights into literary criticism. Whitman CollegeJerry Curtis Augustine's PrayerfulAscent: An Essay on the Literary Form of the Confessions, by Robert McMahon; xxii & 175 pp. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1989, $27.50. The Confessions has been the subject of numerous scholarly studies, primarily theological, philosophical, and historical. But as Robert McMahon notes, "perhaps no greatwork ofliterature has received so litde close literary interpretation as the Confessions" (p. xx). Arguing for an examination of its "literary form," the author focuses on an issue that continues to nag students of the Confessions, its apparent lack of formal coherence. Although McMahon argues confidendy 440Philosophy and Literature that it is "a coherendy planned work," some may doubt his introductory assertion : "I do not deny the experience of 'planlessness' that readers so often feel in studying the Confessions. Rather, I argue that such planlessness proves part ofAugustine's plan" (p. xii). Nevertheless, this book is well worth reading, and even the skeptical critic will agree diat Augustine's Prayerful Ascent breaks important new ground. Froma modernliterary pointofview, the Confessions, like Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, concludes "badly." Both shift unexpectedly from literary, if digressive, narratives to exegetical and highly theologized discourses. Chaucerians have argued vehemendy about the extent to which the earlier tales of human honor and folly are to be understood sub specie aetemitatü provided by the Parson's Tale. Although not citing Chaucer, McMahon proposes something analogous for the Confessions, discovering "the paradigm, die latent design," of die first nine autobiographical books in the "inspired" allegorical exegesis of God's nine acts during Creation in Book 13 (p. 39). The basic principles of Books 10-12 differ, but their key is also found in Book 13. Some ofthe parallels McMahon examines in his third chapter, which is longer dian the combined length of die other four chapters, may seem even more farfetched than Augustine's unruly if vivid allegorical interpretations. For example , the grieffelt by the young Augustine over the death ofhis friend (Book 4) is explicated by contrasting his tears with those ofhis mother and then allying them with two different categories developed by the allegory on the fourth day of Creation (Book 13): "Monica's prayerful tears, let us recall, effect her son's salvation. A member ofthe 'dry land' ofthe Christian faithful watered by God's 'sweet and hidden spring' in the gospel, her 'soul germinates works of mercy according to its kind' (13.17.21). The young Augustine, in contrast, is a member of the 'sea' of those 'embittered' in heresy (13.17.20)" (p...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 439-441
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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