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142Philosophy and Literature only achievement of Reading Raymond Carver it would be welcome reading indeed. But it is also a most insightful piece ofwork with many brilliant passages, e.g., the analysis of the middle stories in Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? with its convincing emphasis on the letters folded in half like the collection itself which might be folded in half between two stories to read the two "one on top of—congruent with—the other" (p. 38) or the suggestion that closeness between situations may be productive of meaning, perhaps even of narrative ("What Do You Do in San Francisco?"). Reading Raymond Carver is a very stimulating contribution to Carver criticism that will leave no reader indifferent. University of PoitiersClaudine Verley The Idea ofthe Labyrinthfrom Classical Antiquity through the Middle Ages, by Penelope Reed Doob; xviii & 355 pp. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992, $13.95 paper. This is a very good book that provides insight into ancient and medieval texts which, consciously or unconsciously, are informed by the pervasive idea ofthe labyrinth. Ms. Doob makes it clear that she means "idea" not in a Platonic sense, but as a habit of thought that permeates medieval literature even when its presence is indirect or metaphorical. The fundamental principle of the labyrinth, according to Doob, is its duality. From the inside it is confusing and threatening, perhaps inextricable or impenetrable , certainly a "difficult process." Viewed from the outside it provides a "privileged" perspective—authoritative, artistic, and heuristic. Within the labyrinth one does not know whether success, or even retreat, is possible; from without, the complex pattern, a sign of a human or divine artificer, is clear and instructive. Doob's argument is superbly intricate. Beginning with an overview of the four mazes of antiquity (Egypt, Crete, Lemnos, and Etruria), especially as transmitted to the Middle Ages by Pliny the Elder, Doob weaves a vision that is not only a strategy for reading but also a form for medieval critical theory. She distinguishes between unicursal mazes (where there is simply one path, though it meanders from center to circumference and back, and die only question for the traveler is whether to persevere) and the multicursal maze (where wrong choices can be made, one may have to retrace one's steps and try again, and "extricability" is possible only with a guide who can turn the multicursal into unicursal by means of sound advice). My summary does not Reviews143 dojustice to the enormous learning which informs Doob's foundation. Building on the myth ofMinos, Theseus, and Ariadne, consolidatingwith the elaborations of Virgil, Ovid, and Pliny, and confirming with the commentaries of major medieval theologians and rhetoricians, she weaves a labyrinth of her own that is finally compelling. The treatment ofart and architecture is not only a learned prolegomenon but also a practical frame for the interpretation of metaphors and intertextualities. Oddly, the weakest chapter in the book is the seventh, where Doob relates "labyrinthicity" to modern critical theory: the obeisance to modern theory is perhaps understandable but her own insights are so much more powerful that the connection seems trivial. I am not persuaded by all of Doob's applications. When any trackless path or circularity or duality becomes a labyrinth the power ofthe "idea" is dissipated. The application of the theory to La Queste del Saint Graal seems a simple variant of old ideas of gardens, deserts, quests, and journeys. Most gratifying is the ultimate application of the idea to major works—the Aeneid, the Consolation of Philosophy, the Divine Comedy, and House of Fame. Ideology bows to sensitive interpretation; each application is a critical gift. Of course, I have some reservations . These applications are most apt when applied to gross narrative structure , like Aeneas' errantjourney, rather than specific incidents. The approach to Boethius seems somewhat forced in a work whose movement may be better described by a 0-1 computer analogy. And in the Paradiso, where circularity and perfection are all, the labyrinth seems ancillary rather than central. Occasionally it does seem here and elsewhere that the labyrinth, though present, is an explanatory figure rather than a structural center. But the readings of the Inferno and the Purgatorio are stunning...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 142-143
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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