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386BCom, Vol. 49, No. 2 (Winter 1997) the notion that the "tragic action . . . evolves from failures oflanguage: spoken and written words at odds with each other and with the characters' actions " (221). James Burke reads the text as a countervailing argument to written authority represented in the play by official documents. By associating Estrella with Saturn, the playwright provides a counterexample to the weakness and lust ofthe king. Charles Oriel contrasts oral speech acts with written ones to show the fluctuating sense of responsibility on the part of the king and others. The last essay reprints Elias Rivers's "The Shame of Writing," where he claims that "writing in itself . . . threatens the honor system " (270), concluding that honor depends on the "nonreiterable uniqueness ofthe performative utterance" to sustain itself(274). In the breadth of its approach and the eminence of its contributors, Heavenly Bodies proves a valuable contribution to the study ofthe comedia in general and to La estrella de Sevilla in particular. Elizabeth Teresa Howe Tuffs University Greenberg, Mitchell. Canonical States, Canonical Stages: Oedipus, Othering , and Seventeenth-Century Drama. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994. Paper. 219 pp. Mitchell Greenberg's Canonical States, Canonical Stages, honored by the Modern Language Association with its 1995 Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literary Studies, seeks to illuminate relationships among seventeenth -century theatrical constructions of modern subjectivity, the simultaneous development of political absolutism in Europe, and questions of Western literary canonicity. Greenberg, a specialist in early modern French literature, addresses works in the British, French, and Spanish canons; comediantes will very likely find his chapters on Lope and Calderón most directly relevant to their own scholarly interests, yet they will also surely find something ofvalue both in the analyses ofplays by Shakespeare, Corneille, and Racine and in Greenberg's exploration of the broader epistemological and political shifts that engendered all three great national theaters. Greenberg begins Canonical States by constructing the theoretical foundations upon which both his central argument and his textual analyses will rely. He emphasizes that this study will not seek to establish Sophocles's Oedipus Tyrannos as a literary source for early modern European drama, but rather that the mythological figure of Oedipus and his fate offer an ex- Reviews387 emplary scenario demonstrating the sociopolitical dynamics of "othering," an exclusionary and sacrificial process through which national identity and absolutist subjectivity were shaped. For Greenberg, the stage "most intensely configures a dialectical space, where competing and contradictory ideologies act out for and through the audience a ritualized, sacrificial mise-ensc ène of society's own internal struggles" (xxvii). Unlike Walter Cohen, who links English and Spanish drama while distancing them from the French stage in Drama ofa Nation, Greenberg conceptually unites the national theaters of early modern England, Spain, and France, asserting that they all served this same cultural function. Oedipus's story, which simultaneously inscribes family relationships in terms of political configurations and vice versa, can easily be viewed as a paradigm for the drama of a patriarchal era that ideologically aligned fathers, kings, and God. In the plays that Greenberg examines, the collisions of social law and individual desire result in the sacrifice of "Oedipal" others— who in these works might be defined racially or sexually — in order to purge the social body ofperilous difference; the absolutist discourse enacted onstage could thus impose itself on the spectators and thereby perpetuate itself on the extratheatrical level, along with the othering mechanism vital to that process. Greenberg turns first to Shakespeare's Othello, offering a striking interpretation emphasizing Venetian society's sacrifice ofboth Desdemona, who embodies disruptive feminine sexuality, and Othello himself, the barbarian other whose resemblance to Oedipus Greenberg convincingly demonstrates. Also worthy of the reader's time are the author's two concluding chapters, the first exploring several Corneille plays (including Le Cid, the analysis of which will likely be of some interest to Hispanists) and the second illuminating Racine's Bérénice, which Greenberg terms "perhaps the most perniciously seductive version ofpersonal and political sacrifice to an implacable paternal injunction" (xxxix). This concluding analysis is the finest in the book. Greenberg devotes the two chapters between Shakespeare and the French playwrights to Fuenteovejuna and La vida es...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-0928
Print ISSN
0007-5108
Pages
pp. 386-388
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-08
Open Access
No
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