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178Philosophy and Literature welcome a book at odds with its own medium for what promise it might hold for others possible in the future. Kansas State UniversityLinda C. Brigham Play, Philosophy andLiterature: Essays in CulturalIntertextuality , edited by Virgil Nemoianu and Robert Royal; vi & 221 pp. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992, $12.95 paper. The essays in this collection bring together a number of important concerns, drawing into the discussions ofliterature and religion the realm of comparatist studies, aesthetics, biblical criticism, and some sharp and detailed literary analyses of texts. The first paper, by VirgU Nemoianu, opens a challenging theological debate from the works of Hans Urs von Balthasar andJean Luc Marion. Marion, it is clear, is becoming a central figure in postmodern theological discussion, drawing from deconstruction while remaining within the spiritual tradition of Catholic mentors. But if Nemoianu deftly opens up areas ofinquiry, and offers some insightful suggestions about religion and "the modes of its relatedness with literary culture ," he fails to provide a sufficient defense of the essays which follow his Introduction. Although they have a common theme, "play as a mediating structure," the sense remains of a series of discrete studies without any real connection or overall purpose. The subject, witirin the postmodern world acknowledged by Nemoianu, is important enough—a consideration of "theologia ludens," the activity of imaginative play as not merely chaotic but as an activity of order. Yet this high promise is never really fulfilled. Perhaps inevitably there is unevenness ofquality. More worrisome, interesting suggestions are never developed or drawn out by even the slightest attempt at editorial control. Thus, while one can largely ignore the inadequate reading of Old Testament texts in Arthur Quinn's paper (inadequate because theologicaUy so naive), one regrets that the detailed and careful reading ofLycidas by Sanford Budick, with its all too brief final reference to Derrida's essay, "Heidegger's Hand," is simply abandoned, and we are thrown immediately into a long consideration of Carlyle's humor in Sartor Resartus. Not that Ziolkowski on Carlyle and Kierkegaard is at aU bad—indeed he is an excellent Kierkegaard scholar— butjust inappropriate at this point. There are, of course, always strengths as well as weaknesses in bringing together such disparate subjects within an overall theme. Some of the authors Reviews179 were quite unknown to me at first hand, and I appreciated introductions to Calderón de la Barca, Max Jacob, and Mario Luzi, in particular the last with his indebtedness to Bergson and TeUhard. Yet I am left wondering who the reader is who would require preliminary introductions to some and could manage advanced essays on others. Occasionally the editors do slip in clues about their prejudices. Thus, Robert Royal, in his essay on Péguy, suggests that "one of the most deep-seated critical prejudices in the twentieth century is that religion is bad for literature" (p. 160). I am not convinced of the truth of that claim—though pardy true, the very opposite might be a more sustainable position. What is needed is more editorial energy. This could be a very important collection, but it simply falls apart, and fails to engage with the real issues of the ludic as a central element in the reworking of theological thinking today, not least through literary exercises. The profoundly liturgical (and spiritual) dimension of that reworking is recognized in Marion and in the last essay by Louis Dupré, "Ritual: The Divine Play of Time." Dupré's excellent comments on temporality and drama as ritual are hardly sustained by any previous close readings and provide no real conclusion to the book. And his final sentence is revealing—suggesting that we live in an age suspicious of religion and religious language. What is needed is a much clearer theoretical sense of the postmodern so profoundly recognized by Jean-Luc Marion, and its deep theological implications, not least in its sense of play in text and literature. In his endorsement of the book, Gerald Gillespie acknowledges the "brilliant synthesizing" by Nemoianu and Dupré in their essays. This is just what is lacking in a book which contains individual papers of great insight and literary scholarship. University of GlasgowDavid Jasper The...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 178-179
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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