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Reviews235 At the other extreme, Dufresne's essay is so larded with poststructuralist jargon that it confirms the suspicion she hopes to dispel: "Greek tragedy and contemporary drama may seem to have little common ground today for comparison and discussion" (p. 84). Critical method is the strong point in but a few of the ten essays in Literature, Arts, and Religion, and the blame for this unevenness lies not solely with the authors. "Whatever the artistic genre and whatever form the religious element in it takes," editor Heath writes, "a kind of chemical reaction creates, from the art form and its religious content, a new entity that, in religious terms, transcends both form and content" (p. 9). This is analogy, not analysis, and it makes a poor groundwork for interdisciplinary studies. What is missing from Heath's formula is a catalyst to induce the "chemical reaction." That catalyst is critical theory, and without it the elements of interdisciplinary criticism remain inert. University ??· HartfordWilliam L. Stui.i. Radical Tragedy: Religion, Ideology and Power in the Drama of Shakespeare and his Contemporaries, by Jonathan Dollimore; viii & 312 pp. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984, $20.00. Anglo-American literary criticism has always found Jacobean tragedy problematic because, according to Jonathan Dollimore, the plays subvert the very idealist perspective — whether Christian or humanist — on which that criticism is based. The tragic drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries is characterized by "a radical social and political realism" (p. 5), which undermines religious orthodoxy and engages in a "critique of ideology, the démystification ofpolitical and power relations and the decentring of 'man'" (p. 4). Dollimore grounds his study in Marxist literary theory — particularly that of Althusser, Brecht and Terry Eagleton — and takes care to establish the historical relevance of this approach. He argues that Renaissance thinkers like Machiavelli, Montaigne and Bacon anticipated Marx in suggesting that Christian providentialism was merely the dominant ideology, developed to legitimate the existing power structure through its system of order and degree. They did not, however, replace providentialism with the belief in an essential, unchanging human nature which informs traditional critical approaches from the formalist to the psychoanalytic and existentialist; this "essentialist humanism" did not become dominant until the Enlightenment. Renaissance scepticism decentered man: it detached the self from its relation to a cosmic hierarchy, but ultimately had to abandon as well its "quest for an essential, autonomous self" (p. 174), due to its emerging awareness that consciousness is shaped by social 236Philosophy and Literature and material conditions. The humanist view of tragedy thus errs when it accepts suffering and loss as inevitable facts of human existence and mystifies them as the means to understanding the transcendant essence of man. Jacobean tragedy presents suffering and loss as potentially remediable, the products of the mechanisms of political and economic power. The plays conduct a radical interrogation of those mechanisms, and of the ideology that sustained them. Although few tragedies openly attack the dominant ideology, many portray the contradictions within it, in keeping with the simultaneous shift from an idealist toward a realist conception of mimesis. The plays restore the orthodox order in the end only at the cost of consistency, for by then they have destroyed the validity of that order by revealing its corrupt and violent nature. The book's theoretical emphasis can be seen in the fact that less than half its length is devoted to brief, dense readings of thirteen plays by Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson, Webster, Marston, Chapman, Greville, and Tourneur. Dollimore develops his argument with some flexibility, adapting it to the individual vision ofeach play, as he does in a fascinating discussion of the relation of love to power in Antony and Cleopatra. Occasionally, however, the thesis tyrannizes as surely as the power structure it attacks. While Dollimore gives me new appreciation for Webster, he overrates plays like Mustapha and Antonio's Revenge on the basis of their political radicalism. He views King Lear as if through the narrowed eyes of an unrepentant Edmund, concluding that pity, love and insight gained through suffering are "precious yet ineffectual" (p. 193) in Lear because they fail to generate socio-political change. Despite these reservations, I found Radical Tragedy consistently...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 235-236
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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