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Reviews133 Sartre, and Drama, by Robert Champigny; 123 pp. Birmingham, Alabama: French Literature Publications Company, 1982, $17.00. In the first part of his book ("Theory"), Robert Champigny takes the essays collected in Sartre on Theater and many other items in the Sartrean corpus — Bang and Nothingness and What Is Literature? in particular — as points of departure for an investigation of the differences between history and fiction, the utilitarian and the ludic, action and gesture, man as agent and man as actor. On the basis of the same texts, Champigny also describes Sartre's theatrical preferences and prejudices: his taste for Romantic drame, his (theoretical ) penchant for extreme situations, his affinity with characters that are nothing else than their choices in these situations, and his privileging sharp conflicts between or within these characters. In the second and longest part ("Practice"), Champigny discusses Sartre's eleven plays, including Bariona and the adaptations ofKean and The Trojan Women. Champigny does not attempt to give a reading of the plays. Rather, he concentrates on those aspects in them he finds particularly relevant to the distinctions and perspectives developed in the first part: the emphasis on freedom as decision and invention in The Flies, for instance; the problematic reliance on evocations of torture as aesthetic fuel in Dead without Burial; the characters' desire to transcend play-acting in Dirty Hands; or the dialectic of opposites structuring the evolution of the hero of The Devil and the Good Lord. In a short conclusion, Champigny compares Sartre's plays with some of the texts that profoundly transformed the French theatrical landscape in the 1950s— Waitingfor Godot, The Chairs, The Blach, Professor Taranne, and The Subway Lovers. Vie finds that these more modern plays represent a kind of theater antithetical to Sartre's dramatic vision. They dissolve fabulation. They avoid character-related conflicts. They squarely situate themselves in a ludic field. They constitute a theater of (mainly verbal) gestures. According to Champigny, they make Sartre's dramatic techniques and ambitions look obsolete and thus help explain why he stopped writing plays. Champigny's book, as its title indicates, is not primarily about Sartre's drama but rather about Sartre and about drama. As such, it has many strengths. Champigny succeeds in isolating and shedding light on several Sartrean traits like the tendency to favor dramatic types of meaning, the inclination to generalize rashly, the exclusive interest in human animals (human chauvinism), and the fascination with Hegelian totalities, universale, and allegories (Lord Man, Lady Literature). Champigny also succeeds in bringing out the metadramatic aspects of Sartre's philosophical and critical essays and he puts forward a coherent view of theater as essentially ludic. Yet Sartre and Drama is not entirely satisfying. In the first place, it is often more than awkward in style — "Should not we say that those are human roles?" (p. 19); "Drugs, verbal for instance, are not always malefic" (p. 46); "It seems that, ifless brave, they are more courageous; they have to" (p. 62). Furthermore, perhaps because Champigny dislikes Hegelian syntheses, he favors fragmentariness and discontinuity in exposition; this makes it difficult to perceive the immediate relevance to his argument of some passages. More importantly, though his distinction between utilitarian and ludic is suggestive, it does not sufficiently take into account the fact that fiction relies on its links with reality for many of 134Philosophy and Literature its most powerful effects. Finally, though what Champigny has to say about Sartre and drama is valuable, it ultimately does not renew our vision of these topics. In short, Sartre and Drama is an interesting text without quite being an outstanding one. University of PennsylvaniaGerald Prince Four Critics: Croce, Valéry, Lukács, and Ingarden, by René Wellek; ix & 92 pp. Seatde: University of Washington Press, 1982, $8.95. Compared to René Wellek's sizable volumes in the history of criticism, this recent book constitutes a slim, "portable Wellek." The text is based on lectures the author gave as Walker-Ames Professor at the University ofWashington in 1979 and is meant to provide a "conspectus oftwentieth-century continental criticism" (p. vii). Its real interest lies in the confrontation between the nearly eighty-year-old historian of literary criticism and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 133-134
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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