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218Philosophy and Literature TL· Poetics ofGreek Tragedy, by Malcolm Heath; vü & 221 pp. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987, $32.50. Aristode, it seems, was right after aU (except ofcourse when he was wrong): the purpose of tragedy is to give an audience pleasure, die pleasure which accompanies strongemotions (notjust pity and fear—Aristode misspoke himself here, according to Malcolm Headi). The intention of the Greek tragedians was to ehcit this pleasure, and though other pleasures and poetic embeUishments may be on offer, these are subsidiary. AU the surviving tragedies, except PrometheusBound , do this perfecdy weU. Modern problems in interpreting Euripides or the so-caUed diptych plays of Sophocles are the faüures of "intellectualizing" approaches to tragedy. So runs the "emotive-hedonist" theory of tragedy presented in this prickly but chaUenging book. Heath is an intentionalist. Echoing E. D. Hirsch's distinction of meaning and significance, he differentiates between interpretation and application. The goal ofinterpretation is to find outwhat the authorintended, thatis, how he intended to arouse emotional response. Though he insists that "application"—what the Oresteia, for example, may seem to say about the nature ofjustice—is not "a derogatory term set in competition with 'interpretation' " (p. 77), in practice he finds most applications wrong and impediments to understanding the play. This book is not for the faint of heart. The Greekless wül find reams of transliterated but untranslated passages from Aristode, Plato, Gorgias, and scholia. The tone can also disconcert: the views of Heath's opponents range, it seems, from "frivolous" and "insidious" to "disastrous" and "utterly worthless." Some critiques are salutary: his insistence on performable meaning is certainly right—one wishes, however, for more performance analysis on the lines of his very interesting state/event distinction—and his discussion of "Euripides the traditionalist" is most welcome. Two large assumptions must be questioned: the author's notion of myth and its role in tragic causality. Heath shows that Aristode's notion of causal connection is broader and less centered in persons than we tend to think. He uses without argument, diough, a notion of a unitary, omnipresent body of myth, invokable at wül to supply causality: the intervention of Lyssa ("Madness"), for example, in the Heracles is fuUyjustified by the mythic "datum" of Hera's anger against Heracles. Is any hostile action by an antagonistic god then justified in any plot at any time? Myth and tragic causality are more complex than Heath acknowledges. Even more interesting are the unargued assumptions about personality and emotional response. Heath notes that it is natural for Antigone to feel more famüial obhgation to her dead brother than does Creon (and equaUy natural for audiences to find male figures in general more spoudaios [noble] and therefore more tragic) without noting how completely the notion "natural" ironizes Reviews219 and undercuts his whole project. If inteUectual content is whoUy secondary to emotionalresponse, dien Greek tragedy's status as a "classic" is wholly dependent on the possession or recreation of a personality that responds as the Greek audience did. For whom today must Oedipus be nobly born to be tragic? The unintended consequence is to make tragedy unperformable, despite Heath's interest in performance, for where wül we find such an audience? "Understanding " tragedy in his sense is left only to readers who never ask embarrassing questions about justice or the gods, which might complicate or deflect the evocation of emotion. One wonders if the sacrifice is worth it. Universität KonstanzNiall W Slater Images in Our Souls: Cavell, Psychoanalysis, and Cinema, edited byJoseph H. Smith and William Kerrigan; 209 pp. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1987, $29.50. The tide rather accurately reflects the contents ofthis coUection often essays. The lead off essay is Stanley CaveU's revision of his Weigert Lecture, originaUy delivered to the Washington School of Psychiatry in 1985. Of the nine essays that foUow, two (those by Timothy Gould and Karen Hanson) are primarily explorations of CaveU's ideas; three Oby Stanley R. Palombo, WUliam Rothman, Micheline Klagsbrun Frank) draw upon Cavell in passing; and four (by Robert Winer, Irving Schneider, Bruce Sklarew, Stephen M. Weissman) show litde or no indebtedness to CaveU. Winer's primary influence...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 218-219
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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