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REVIEWS It might have been interesting ifKoelb had looked at a few popular contemporary writers ofnovels ofancient Rome, for example Colleen McCullough, Steven Saylor, or Lindsey Davis, to see how they compared to the older (perhaps more literary) authors. Davis's Falco would probably come off as a postmodernist, a twentieth-century Englishman in Roman dress and Roman settings; Saylor's Gordianus as a bit less modern, but at least advanced for his time; and McCullough's characters (except perhaps Caesar) as quite alien. This book should certainly interest comparatists, especially those with specialties in historical fiction or in more than one or two ofthe authors Koelb discusses. Classicists who study or use historical fiction of ancient times should consult Koelb's perceptive comments on individual novels. The book translates all but the shortest non-English passages in the text but preserves the original French and German in the endnotes. Fred MenchTAe Richard Stockton College ofNewJersey LAURA OTIS. Membranes: Metaphors ofInvasion in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Science, andPolitics. Baltimore:Johns Hopkins UP, 1999. x+210 pp. Laura Otis's recent book studies the history ofthe disintegration ofboundaries. In order to illustrate the fluidity of borders between the individual, social, and political bodies, the author focuses her analysis on the effervescent century (18301930 ) that established the fundamental directions ofmodernity. It is the century of important medical discoveries in microbiology, neurology, and psychiatry, to name three fundamental fields, which brought, for the first time, the scientific approach into the realm of a multidisciplinary understanding of the human being. Never before had scientific and literary discourse been so much in dialogue; as Otis points out, "politically, the years 1830-1930 mark the peak ofEuropean colonialism," thus reshaping the entire cultural reality ofthe continent (5). Otis relies on a comparative and interdisciplinary approach when discussing the issue ofterritorial invasion that suggestively echoes the "archeological" method ofMichel Foucault. Closely similar in theme to Membranes but treating a different historic period is Linda Bisello's recent study Medicina della Memoria. Aforistica ed Esemplarità nella Scrittura Barocca (Firenze: L. Olschki Editore, 1998) that analyzes the relationship between medical science and literature in Baroque writers. Otis's main contribution lies in her insistently detailed analysis ofthe connection between apparently diverse disciplines and their impact on both individual and collective lives. Politics, economy, and medicine are, as a result, closely intertwined , and their interaction with fiction borders on the realm of the imaginary become reality. All ofthe authors discussed command with nearly equal competence both scientific and fictional discourses. Arguing that their "passions for colonialism, bacteriology, and hypnotism coincided more than chronologically," Otis implies that along with the diachronic dimension ofthe disciplines a synchronicity ofintention ought to be expected (6). In other words, military (imperialistic) politics, medicine, and the realm ofthe subconscious (the psychoanalytic rendition of the more literary term "imagination") are inextricably conjugated as signifiers of an orchestrated violation of "membranes." The mere geographical extension sustained by colonial empires stretches boundaries to the point offluidity. Moreover , tenitorial aggression triggers psycho-physical regression as an inevitable response to the law of causality. Derrida notes in La Pharmacie de Platon the Vol. 25 (2001): 182 ??? COHPAnATIST double ambiguity ofthe Greek termpharmakon: it simultaneously designates the magic properties ofthe drug and the healing virtues ofthe remedy, in the sense of "transparent rationality ofscience" (Editions du Seuil, 1972: 1 10, my translation). Virchow, Koch, S. Weir Mitchell, or Ramón y Cajal are individual illustrations ofsuch transgressions ofboundaries, each seeking the scientific remedy to the diseases encountered while transferring into the fictional (the "other" side oftheir explorations ) the occult forces binding the scientific to the imaginary. In each case, the violation of membranes announces that a liminal stage has been reached in which territories and discourses are interfering with one another. The first chapter ofMembranes contrasts Virchow and Koch's medical investigations . Prominent pathologists and hygienists of their time, they are divided by methods that reflect opposing sociopolitical beliefs. Virchow bases his medical research on more liberal assumptions unlike Koch, whose ideas correspond to the imperialistic discipline ofcentral authority imposed by Bismarck. The American Weir Mitchell moves further away from the interference ofthe political in the life of the individual; both his medical...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0887
Print ISSN
0195-7678
Pages
pp. 182-184
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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