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Reviews327 on the marginal, most of these essays confront major works, but they come at them from some unusual angles: Prospero's treatment ofCaliban in TL· Tempest is approached as an example ofthe European encounter with native Americans; child-rearing techniques of the nineteenth and seventeenth centuries are juxtaposed to offer access to King Lear; Marx's essay "On the Jewish Question" becomes a means of understanding Marlowe's TL· Jew ofMalta; an American anthropologist's reaction to a Zuni ritual involving the ingestion of excrement suggests a commentary on scatological imagery in Rabelais and Martin Luther. Finally, I do not know that we learn very much about the "new historicism" by reading these essays. In fact, the most sustained piece of "new historicist" criticism, "Murdering Peasants: Status, Genre, and the Representation of Rebellion ," which begins with a discussion of Dürer's plans for a "Monument to Commemorate a Victory over the Rebellious Peasants," seems both in tone and content out of place in this otherwise more personal collection. Its sustained use of argument and demonstration, its four-and-a-half pages of learned footnotes , are the trappings of an academic article more than an essay. Even the final two "theoretical" pieces, "Towards a Poetics of Culture" and "Resonance and Wonder," proceed with a lighter tone and contain entertaining and instructive digressions on the execution of Gary Gilmore and Greenblatt's own reactions to the State Jewish Museum in Prague. This may seem a peculiar endorsement of Horace, but Greenblatt begins his collection by reminding us of the importance of "literary pleasure" for "historical understanding" (p. 9). Thus whether or not we discover anything new about the "new historicism" by reading these essays, we are likely to find that Greenblatt's talents as writer and storyteller are formidable indeed, and that they often lead to both pleasure and understanding. National Endowment for the HumanitiesMichael L. Hall Religious Aesthetics: A Theological Study of Making and Meaning, by Frank Burch Brown; xvi & 225 pp. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989, $27.50. Is the experience of Donne's poetry the same for a Christian as for a nonbeliever ? Does the beauty and power of Chartres cathedral depend on its aesthetic or religious qualities, or both? If both, what is the relationship between the two qualities? Is it sinful to scorn the bourgeois taste of those who like Bombii These wide-ranging aesthetic and religious questions indicate the scope and 328Philosophy and Literature complexity of the issues taken up in Brown's provocative study. The essential task he sets himselfis twofold. First, he wants to formulate a concept ofreligious aesthetics that avoids reducing aesthetics merely to a branch of philosophy and thereby interpreting aesthetic phenomena in stricdy purist terms. Secondly, he wants to explore how Christian theology might be informed and shaped by incorporating aesthetics into its thinking. To Brown, current views ofaesthetics are distorted. They tend to the extreme positions of either a Kantian purism, or a postmodernist "egalitarian" rejection of any commonly accepted aesthetic criteria. Brown finds such positions inadequate to encompass the complex aesthetic, moral, political, psychological, and religious "seriousness" of, for example , the Oresteia. In response he develops an argument for "neo-aesthetics," an "attempt to take seriously such complex aesthetic responses and judgments and to recognize the extent to which they are ingredient in all of culture, and not least in religion" (p. 13). Brown's neo-aesthetics is essentially integrative. For him, aesthetic experience and religious experience are intrinsically related. Both are rooted in human sensation, perception, and spirituality; both are concerned with meaning and truth—hence they are not simply deconstructible "texts." At the same time, Brown affirms a link between the aesthetic/religious experience and the larger political, philosophical, and utilitarian context or "aesthetic milieu" of the work. Within diis larger context Brown sees the aesthetic experience as involving a dynamic process oftransformation between object, perceiver, and culture itself. There is no "pure" aesthetic object; the poems of Hopkins, Wordsworth, and Plath veer into the religious by their evocation of a "something more," a transcendent dimension that embraces the visionary and prophetic. Brown thus links artistic making widi religious meaning, and so locates the experience of...


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