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Reviews385 It is hardly surprising that the feminist critic Ruth El Saffar interprets Marcela's story as an admirable example of the autonomous woman and an attack on cultural arrangements that perpetuate "between men and women a false sense of mutual dependence" (p. 174). Though she observes that male critics have almost universally seen Marcela in a negative light, she refuses to acknowledge—as Carlos Feal does in his discussion of the character Luscinda— that Cervantes may have deliberately planted hints at both positive and negative aspects of Marcela's character in the text. What I do find surprising is that El Saffar justifies her interpretation by inventing out of whole cloth a putative nursemaid never mentioned in the text. Similarly, Mary Gossy argues that the key to interpreting Cervantes's novella "The Pretended Aunt" would be the mother whom Cervantes never mentions, and about whom no previous critic has written, "because . . . critical writing . . . works to erase the mother" (p. 263). Predictably, the gay critic PaulJulian Smith sees the Captive's Tale in Don Quixote as offering "a male alternative to the patriarchal, hierarchical order, an alternative that may perhaps be identified with a desublimated homosexuality" (p. 277). Maurice Molho likewise infers that Cervantes's suppression of his maternal surname and his portrayal of "phallic women" and "infravirile men" in his works are indications of homosexuality. Andrew Bush argues that the theories of Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok demonstrate that "even the most recalcitrant texts may be made to yield the secret of their meaning" (p. 27On) , yet the "secret meaning" he finds in "The Dogs' Colloquy"—a tale of father-daughter incest—is neither enlightening nor convincing, at least to me. María Antonia Garcés also sees incest encoded in that novella, but in her view it represents the rape of a mother by her son, encoding a symbolic descent into the womb and a defeat of the monster of origin that makes speech possible. Eduardo Gonzalez's paper "Curious Reflex, Cruel Reflections: The Case for Impertinence" is a rambling, stream-of-consciousness collage incorporating works by Marcel Duchamp, Montaigne, Henry James, and others, only to conclude that "little truly new or profound can be said about curiosity as one emerges from the intertextual legacy rehearsed in this essay" (p. 224) . Pomona CollegeMichael McGaha The Aesthetics of Murder, by Joel Black; ? & 276 pp. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991, $42.50 cloth, $14.95 paper. This is a learned and lucid study of a surprisingly fertile subject. The author shows how De Quincey, in his famous 1827 essay, aestheticized murder by inserting it into the Kantian concept of the sublime, and how his seemingly 386Philosophy and Literature eccentric focus grew into a rich literary tradition that finally broadened into a veritable media-mediated cult of violence. Poe, Baudelaire, Schwob, Gide, Borges, Nietzsche—these are but a few of the writers who contributed to what increasingly emerged as a major trend; they were later joined by movie directors such as Hitchcock and De Palma, and by those who acted out the script in reality, from Kleist via Lacenaire to contemporary assassins or wouldbe assassins like Chapman and Hinckley. Thus we are also dealing with the complex problem of the interrelations between art and reality, fiction and life. Black demonstrates that the romantic view of the criminal-as-artist tended to be superseded by the modernist image of the artist-as-criminal. The analysis extends to the relationship between violence and sexuality, and to the drugrelatedness of murder—an aspect dear to De Quincey but already initiated by the Arab sect of the hashshashin. Black cleverly argues that media addiction now often takes the place of hashish. The material is too vast for enumeration; but the book is perfectly organized, and its strains are effectively woven into a clear, ongoing interpretive account. Clearly murder literature is not marginal but a privileged case of what Gadamer has called the "aesthetic differentiation," in which the aesthetic tries to withdraw upon its pure essence by separating from everything it is not: ethics, cognition, and finally concrete life and reality as a whole. One may ask why murder, of all things, emerged as a focus...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 385-387
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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