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346Philosophy and Literature "replays Mozart's own real-life batdes." But Gay's discussion is really about Da Ponte's libretto, not Mozart's music, and much of it applies to earlier versions of the Don Juan legend as well. Gay does not explain what is unique about Mozart's musical version thatjustifies connecting it to his "own real-life batdes." The remaining essays are more direcdy related to the opera and more useful to its students. In "The Libertine's Progress" Peter Conrad presents a brief, serviceable overview of the DonJuan tradition, although this kind of thing has been done many times before and more comprehensively and informatively (see, e.g., Oscar Mandel's TL· TL·atre ofDonjuán: A Collection ofPlays and Views). Conrad properly begins with "the first sponsor oftiris prolific offspring," Tirso de Molina, who created the character of Don Juan in his play El Burlador de Sevilla (e. 1616). Astonishingly, Conrad is the only author in the book to mention Tirso. Also astonishingly, he proceeds to dismiss El Burlador de Sevilh as no more than "monkish propaganda," showing that he has not read or not read with understanding this rich and complex drama (see, e.g., Sola-Sole and Gingras 's Tirso's Don juan: TL· MetamorpL·sis ofa TL·me). On the decidedly positive side, Lawrence Lipking's "Donna Abbandonata" is a sensitive and elegandy written essay about the troubled and troubling character of Donna Elvira; and Joseph Kerman's "Reading Don Giovanni!' is an excellent, knowing, and insightful study of the opera. Significandy, Lipking and Kerman are the only contributors to the collection who actually discuss Mozart's music. In sum, dien, with the exception of these two superb essays, the book offers readers a chunk—or a series of chunks—of cultural history rather than serves as an aid to probing Mozart and Da Ponte's disturbing ("unpleasant," Kerman calls it) and wondrous opera. Modern Language Association of AmericaJoseph Gibaldi Divine and Poetic Creation in the Renaissance: Nominalist Theology and Literature in France and Italy, by Ullrich Langer; ix & 215 pp. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990, $32.50. Ullrich Langer's aim in this original, thought-provoking volume is to explore systematically correspondences between nominalist views of divine Creation, anchored in the distinction between potestas absoluta and potestas ordinata, and conceptions and the practice of literary creation in the Italian and French Renaissance. After an introduction which explains and justifies the subject and Reviews347 the method, five chapters take us from Rabelais's exuberant freedom to Montaigne 's "self-binding" to La Boétie. In the meantime, attention has been paid to Marot, Marguerite de Navarre, Ronsard, Du Bellay, Bodin, and d'Aubigné, as well as to Pulci, Castiglione, Ariosto, and Tasso. The discussion involves such different matters as the esthetics of courdy society and literature, the themes of service and merit, the notion of causality, the relations between royal sovereignty and the self-affirmation of die satirist. The book's richness lies in the varied connections which it establishes between Middle Ages and Renaissance, between literature and philosophy, and between the literary works themselves. In a certain way, this book reminds one of Panofsky's Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism. But whereas the historian of art was careful to bring together philosophical texts and architectural works belonging to the same period and geographical area, Langer appears at first sight to cultivate a paradox, since the philosophical and literary texts he quotes are not contemporaneous and, moreover, the latter are linked to Renaissance humanism, which often despises scholasticism. What Langer wants to show, however, is not a mere mirroring ofphilosophical themes in closely related literary works, but adisplacementwhich, of course, can occur between fields not direcdy related (and even opposed). The thesis is not that Renaissance literature aims at transposing nominalist themes but that, in fact, consciously or not, it transforms them by their application to the writer's fictional world instead ofGod's Creation. This is a question of structural shift and distance, not of influence and proximity; it allows Langer to write that his enterprise is "an attempt to practice a more or less structural history of ideas, with a focus on...


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pp. 346-347
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