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Reviews145 identification always involves interpretation, but there is no clear explication or development of the latter notion, and this seems to weaken the essay. Flint Seiner's piece is rather less satisfactory, not because it is without interest or wrongheaded , but because it is unnecessarily convoluted. It begins by posing Hume's famous question ofwhy we take pleasure in tragedy, and takes rather too many pages to reach the conclusion that Hume's answer is basically correct. He then moves on to the different question of why we value and seek out the experience of tragedy in the theatre. His answer to this question is not without merit, but is labored and incomplete. Perhaps most controversial of all is Beardsmore's article on censorship. He rightly points out that the notion of censorship depends crucially on the view that some people are in a better position than others to make moral judgments (p. 104). But this idea, he claims, makes no sense at all. One can, we are told, be in a better position to make factual , but not moral, judgments. This seems wrong. For one thing, it overlooks the factual dimension ofmoraljudgments. One can be in a better position to make a moraljudgment about, say, apartheid, just because one is better acquainted with the facts of the South African situation. Then, too, one might recognize that one's own moral judgments about the virtues, say, of Ronald Reagan, are colored by one's jealousy and rancour as a failed actor. In such a case one could reasonably acknowledge that some other person is better placed to assess his morad strengths and weaknesses. In all, this is a lively and engaging volume: one which will reward reading and which says much for the present state of literary aesthetics in Britain. University of Canterbury, New ZealandDavid Novitz Role Playing and Identity: The Limits of Theatre as Metaphor, by Bruce Wilshire; xviii & 301 pp. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982, $24.95. This ambitious, cogently written study is the work ofa philosopher whose perspective is enhanced by his wide-ranging humanistic interests and by his awareness of the multiple dimensions of dramatic literature. Professor Wilshire is particularly concerned with the status of theatre as a performance medium and with the complex interrelationships between art and life suggested by onstage activity. A phenomenological inquiry, the book deserves to reach the broad audience for which it is intended. The philosophical problems , though intricate, are presented with sufficient clarity to allow nonspecialists to follow the thread ofeach argument; fascinating, well-chosen examples and frequent crossreferences help illuminate the author's thesis while constantly expanding the context in which the various issues are examined. Literary critics and stage practitioners, as well as philosophers, will find much here to ponder, debate, and appreciate. If the study prompts displeasure, it will be among certain social scientists whose "use of the role-playing metaphor ... in the last five decades" Wilshire finds "in general . . . astonishingly crude" (p. xvi; see also pp. 274-81). However, his critique of "role theory" β€” specifically that of Erving Goffman β€” is too forceful to be simply ignored. 146Philosophy and Literature Role Playing and Identity is divided into three sections. In Part One, "Theatre and the Reality of Appearance," Wilshire explores "the hypothesis that great theatre is revealingly life-like" (p. 44). In order to substantiate his view "that standing in and authorization is the essential theatrical theme" (p. 44), he treats two illustrative sets of dramatic variations β€”on the one hand, plays by Sophocles (Oedipus Rex), Shakespeare [Hamlet), and Beckett (Waitingfor Godot); on the other, plays by Ionesco (The Chairs), Robert Wilson (A Letterfor Queen Victoria), andJerzy Grotowski (Apocalypsis cum Figuris). In Part Two, "Reality and the Self," the author changes the thrust of his investigation. Now theatre is shown to illuminate the theatre-like in our daily lives. In Part Three, "The Limits ofAppearance and the Limits of Theatrical Metaphor," he indicates where the process of reciprocad analogizing stops. In the domain of literary analysis many insights are disclosed, but there are also a few disappointments. Although the patient weighing of evidence is one of the most salient merits of the study, Wilshire's reading of Godot...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 145-146
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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