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Reviews187 notions of indeterminacy and typicality. We have, then, a torso of interesting and useful genre studies distorted by Procrustean theoreticism. And that is decisively undialectic: a compelling abstract idea grows into theory by illuminating specific literary texts; criticism, if it plunges deep enough into the specificity of literary texts, will blossom into theory. Here we see no such dialectical, organic growth, but only a bad mortaring job. Pennsylvania State UniversityThomas O. Beebee Detours of Desire: Readings in the French Baroque, by Mitchell Greenberg; vii & 163 pp. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1984, $17.50. The relatively recent "discovery" of the Baroque in French literature might explain the self-conscious position of its critics. Two of its foremost interpreters , Jean Rousset and Gérard Genette, recognized that the literary period preceding Classicism had been "invented" as a mirror to reflect modern concerns . Admitting from the outset the "speculative" character ofhis approach to the period 1550-1650 — where we find "an uncanny figure of the same" (p. 4) — Mitchell Greenberg presents this Protean era under a new mask, that of psychoanalysis. His study of the representation of desire and its "detours" integrates and actually goes beyond previous definitions of the period in terms of the themes of movement, metamorphoses, disguise, death (Rousset); the notions of absence, ellipse (Sarduy); or, the antithetical perception of the universe (Genette). In his introduction to Detours of Desire, Greenberg discusses the system of representation in Baroque literature by focusing on the image of the Father as a signifier of unity and integrity. This symbol of an ideology of containment, dominant during the Renaissance and seventeenth-century Classicism, is veiled during the Baroque period. Greenberg argues that the Baroque is "a fall away from [the Father's] structuring order into excess" (p. 6). The "ambivalent and fractured forms of representation" (p. 7) in Baroque textuality, informed by a nostalgia for a "ritualizing center," are illustrated through five essays, on d'Aubigné, Montaigne, Viau, Sorel, and Corneille. Greenberg's readings range over "antithetical axes — self/other, male/female, active/passive, life/ death" (p. 11) — in order to analyze the various manifestations of desire and its repression in the Baroque. In his first chapter, Greenberg considers the oscillations of metaphors in d'Aubigné's L'Hécatombe à Diane, arguing that "the images of the Lover's desire constantly suggest the object's intimate link with Death" (p. 34). Next, he 188Philosophy and Literature discusses how, in his Essais, Montaigne "domesticates" the threatening difference of masculine models and manages to free his text (and himself) from Death, thanks to a "passage through the 'feminine'" (p. 57). The third chapter, on Théophile de Viau's tragedy Pyrame et Thisbé, takes as a topical image for the configuration of desire and of social order the wall which separates the lovers on the stage, and beyond which they will inevitably lose their "self in the chaos of in-difference, of death. There follows an insightful reading of the first edition of Francion, where Greenberg approaches the structural complexity of Charles Sorel's novel by showing how "grotesque" episodes constantly interrupt the biographical linearity of the narrative, thus preventing the constitution of the character as center. The last essay, dealing with Corneille 's Polyeucte, focuses on Pauline's dream, which represents the sacrifice of duty to pleasure; by the end of the play, however, the feminine has been "contained" by a more powerful force, the new order ofChristianity. AU in all, Greenberg's thought-provoking "speculations" remain open: considering the episodic character of each chapter in this wide-ranging study, should we see the absence of a conclusion as yet another way to conform to Baroque structure ? Also, we are tempted to understand the absence of a bibliography as a reflection of the Baroque subversion of the "Father," a subversion that Greenberg has so deftly demonstrated in the text. Detours ofDesire is a valuable contribution to seventeenth-century studies. It offers a provocative perspective on the first part of the "Grand Siècle," while illuminating the ideological context of French Classicism. In addition to reinterpreting well-known authors, like Montaigne and Corneille, this study also reveals the modernity of more neglected yet fascinating works...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 187-188
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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