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158Philosophy and Literature of his questions to Rawls is, "Do we feel that Nora's expressions of dishonor and outrage at the state of her so-called marriage require that she be prepared to show why certain institutions (here the institution of marriage) are unjust or how others have injured her?" (p. 109). This is a direct question to Rawls's assertion, "Those who express resentment must be prepared to show why certain institutions are unjust or how others have injured them." That the husband in A Doll's House thinks he knows what is be t for his wife, that he understands and upholds the institution of marriage oetter than she—these are exactly what constitute part of the sense of violation. Cavell senses that Rawls's insistence on the disadvantaged providing justification for their complaints does not seem to address fully the ways in which the conversation of justice can become deformed—get out of hand—to the extent that one party feels that injustice has gone beyond the bounds of talking it out. While the current glut of books on ethics perhaps indicates how much society has lost its bearings, as some have suggested, Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome wants to say that even in one's uncertainty, one ought to have hope. Selfreliance can mean leaving the new ethics books aside on the hunch that having a rigorous, programmatic ethics does not necessarily make one ethical. Similarly, the absence of an ethics textbook in one's hand ought to make the ethicists wonder whether they are being continually rebuked. Laurentian UniversityBruce Krajewski Sophocles' Oedipus: Evidence and Self-Conviction, by Frederick AhI; xiv & 297 pp. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991, $41.50 cloth, $12.95 paper. In landmark studies of Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus, Cedric Whitman and Bernard Knox had emphasized the towering humanism and dignity ofits hero. The pride they found in him is exalted even if reckless, and his search for the truth exemplary even if invincibly misguided. In Ahl's challenge to traditional readings, Oedipus is at the other end of the spectrum: a self-deluded, selfconvicted , egocentric paranoid, "the very embodiment ofPlato's tyrannical soul," himself "the disease that lies heavy on the city regardless of whether he really killed his father and married his mother," tragically predisposed to trust unsubstantiated evidence ofhis guilt, despite weighty grounds for doubt, including his own first-hand experience. Ahl's analysis purports to demonstrate by a close, passage-by-passage reading, that Oedipus does not discover that he has murdered his father and committed incest with his mother, but that he convinces Reviews159 himself that he has done so, by trusting the reports of those who "exploit, often cynically, the multivalence of language for their own personal benefit." The result is not only a drastically revised Oedipus, but revised versions of other characters, the expedient exploiters of language: Tiresias ("a respected, professional seer, offended by Oedipus' amateur and single success"), Creon ("a demagogue whose power lies in dissimulation and double-talk"), the Corinthian ("a shepherd who sees a chance to live his remaining years in comfort"), Laius' servant ("a cowardly slave who will say what he has to say to preserve his life"). Ahl's reading produces even more starding (and to my mind less convincing) implications for two other characters. Jocasta's frantic final exit may be motivated, AhI suggests, not by the realization that Oedipus is her son, but by her mounting despair ofever dissuading Oedipus from the Corinthian's misconstruction of his past. And the speech of the exangellos is dissected to offer grounds for suspecting that Jocasta may not actually be dead. Ahl's methodology of suspicion is a refreshing antidote to several flawed approaches to Sophocles' play: (1) the view that "the myth" or "tradition" more or less determines what the poet can or cannot have Oedipus do; (2) the view that what dramatic characters say represents the facts unless the plot explicitly signals deception, conjecture, or fallible recollection; and (3) the view that socalled contradictions and inconsistencies are to be ascribed at worst to sloppy composition, at best to "dramatic economy," rather than to a deliberate representation of conflicting evidence. Ahl's is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 158-160
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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