In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Shorter Reviews Historical Drama: The Relation of Literature and Reality, by Herbert Lindenberger; pp. 194. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1975, $11.00. Mr. Lindenberger states in his preface that he is concerned neither with a definition of the genre about which he writes nor with the development of historical drama. Nor is he content merely to give a few close textual readings. This leaves him free to deal with "the transactions between imaginative literature and the external world" (p. x). That is to say, he uses historical drama to inquire into problems posed by dramatic literature in general. This approach is all the more profitable as most major dramatists and most literary movements, for that matter, produced historical drama of one kind or another, so that readers, once they have become aware, by Mr. Lindenberger's example, of the richness and complexity of the historical-dramatic tradition, can explore its problems on their own in whatever literature they are most familiar with. Mr. Lindenberger's examples come from English, French, and German literature , in particular from the plays of Shakespeare, Corneille, Racine, Goethe, Schiller, Büchner, and Brecht. By limiting the number of texts which he subjects to detailed analysis (he does provide provocative sidelights on such diverse dramatic products as Aeschylus' tragedy The Persians, Berlioz's opera Les Troyens, and Eisenstein's film Potemkin), Mr. Lindenberger defines closely the various problems of dramatic literature he is concerned with. The first chapter "discusses the problems we meet with in postulating and describing relationships between drama and reality" (p. xi), that is, such topics as the different degrees of literal-mindedness of different ages, theatrical conventions, ideologies, historical frameworks which shape the interpretation of history by writers and audiences; the consciousness of different ages concerning problems of Schein and Sein; and the interrelationship between history and theater, a topic of much more than academic interest to our age of televised politics. The second chapter makes three helpful distinctions between characteristic types of historical drama, between those of conspiracy, tyrant and martyr plays, and discusses their dramatic advantages and liabilities. The third chapter views history "as a magnifying agent that creates specialized perspectives through which we experience such forms as tragedy, ceremonial plays, opera, and film" (p. xi). The fourth delineates the imaginative area which historical dramas since the Renaissance have occupied; for instance, the area of change and ethical complexity rather than that of temporal and 244 Shorter Reviews245 ethical absolutes which are traditionally the province of pastoral and romance; and the area of conflict between the private and the public sphere. The last chapter investigates some of the manifestations of historical-philosophical thought in historical drama, for instance the dramatists' fascination with power or with the historical process. All this makes stimulating reading and this reviewer, at least, is grateful that the book nowhere bogs down in ideological dogma, in jargon, in vast generalization, or in value judgments as to whether or not this or that dramatist is "really" interested in, true to, history. Mr. Lindenberger wishes to encourage in his reader an "exploratory attitude and the spirit of intellectual play" (p. xi) and admirably succeeds in doing just that. One might quarrel with some individual points of interpretation (repeatedly, I found myself wishing to modify interpretations of Brecht or of Weiss). But such disagreements add to the fun. The book should be useful in courses on drama and literary theory in all the modern languages and in philosophy and literature. One hopes it will stimulate further discussion of historical writingalongthe lines Mr. Lindenberger suggests. A detailed index increases the usefulness of the volume. University of California, Santa BarbaraUrsula Mahlendorf The Story-Shaped World: Fiction and Metaphysics—Some Variations on a Theme, by Brian Wicker; pp. viii & 230. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975, $12.95. Brian Wicker has prepared for his readers a concoction which suggests the laboratory of an encyclopedic autodidact who is also an eclectic amateur spokesman for Vatican II. But if readers are prepared in advance for much heavy going—ungraced by the comfort of a first rate literary style or even a Second Class philosophical sense of clarity and...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 244-245
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.