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Reviews193 TL· Surprising Effects of Sympathy: Marivaux, Diderot, Rousseau and Mary SAeßey, by David Marshall; ? & 286 pp. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988, $27.50. David Marshall begins his original and intelligent examination of the indeed surprising effects of sympathy by considering the preface to Marivaux's Les Aventures de *** ou Us effets surprenants de la sympathie both as a remarkable precursor to texts by Du Bos and as a philosophical and literary statement that serves as a unifying theme for the ensuing scenes of the novel, which critics have heretofore incorrecdy deemed the unrelated and disjointed scribblings of an inexperienced, young author. According to Marshall, the novel's diverse adventures Ulustrate the effects of pity and compassion evoked by a violent action upon the spectator/reader/beholder ofa scene/novel/tableau. These tales explore the links between sympathy and theatricality and the dangers inherent in being the subject of spectacle. In Marshall's view, Marivaux is consciously investigating the effects not only of scenes of violence on the viewer but the literary, dramatic, or artistic portrayal of such scenes, which may inspire both sympathy and pleasure. The author uses La Vie de Marianne to illustrate how the reading given a particular set of circumstances determines the outcome; how pity and compassion can be confused with love; and how Marianne, whüe writing her autobiography, becomes the subject of ambiguous scenes which may be (mis)interpreted by the viewer. Marianne thus becomes a victim, a fact she only recognizes when she, as reader herself, is confronted with essentiaUy the same story recounted by another character. Marshall's interpretation of Marivaux's novels brings out striking symmetries which have gone largely unnoticed. He also nicely develops the intricate relations between characters as authors and as readers and the reader as actor. This truly excellent discussion is followed by a chapter on La Religieuse in which Marshall expands the discussion of sympathy as a dangerous and contagious disease. Identification with the victim implies the risk of seduction which is met with the punishment associated with erotic transgression. In the following chapters, the author develops the link between that which is seen and thatwhich is mirrored, between real and artificial spectacles, between sympathy for others and love of self. Marshall is so methodical and complete one wonders why he does not mention Rousseau's own version of Pygmalion and Valentini Papadopoulou Brady's work on sight in Marivaux, which would have admirably suited the discussion. In any case he sets the stage for his nonetheless surprising conclusion that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, inspired by Rousseau's life and writings, is essentially a phüosophical discussion ofthe faUure of sympathy. The argument encompasses interpretations of works by Mary Shelley's parents, WUliam Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft. Projected against a biographical background, these arguments are powerful and convincing. 194Philosophy and Literature This study is fuUy accessible to the unüingual reader as aU quotations are translated. UsuaUy, they are presented in French and foUowed by an English translation. OccasionaUy they are uniquely in English translation with a few French words scattered about in brackets. Unfortunately the typographical integration of both languages in the text condemns aU readers to the tedium of reading die quotations twice. MarshaU's fresh, clear style makes up in part for this disadvantage. Both the work and the notes bear witness to the author's considerable erudition. This is a cogent, incisive study which brings a sensitive and new interpretation to the texts studied. The diesis succeeds in drawing the diverse works considered together into a new, original pattern which is very logical both in the eighteenthcentury context and in the light of contemporary thought. MarshaU's book makes a very important contribution and wül certainly be required reading for scholars of French and comparative literature, history, and phUosophy. York UniversityRoseann Runte TL· New Criterion Reader: The First Five Years, edited by Hilton Kramer; xvu & 429 pp. New York: The Free Press, 1988, $24.95. Criterion was founded by T. S. Eliot to advance the cause of modernism. TL· New Criterionwas founded by HUton Kramer, the artcritic, and Samuel Lipman, die concert pianist and music critic. Like its predecessor, TL· New...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 193-194
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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