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228Comparative Drama refer to a stage property representing the tomb, or does it merely indicate that the actor is expected to evoke the existence ofa tomb in the imagination ofthe viewer? Such questions cannot be answered definitively, and Dessen and Thomson are careful to announce within their entries when such conundrums arise. Possible criticisms of this volume are few and are confined to quibbles over the content of particular entries. For instance, one may observe a slight inconsistency in the authors' treatment oftermswhose current meanings differ from their earlymodern connotations. Dessen and Thomson prudentlydeclare that "presendy," in Renaissance stage directions, means "immediately" rather than "soon," but in their treatment ofthe word "sad," they neglect to point out that the term often means "serious" (OED 4) rather than "sorrowful." Also, consecutive entries for "thunder" and "thunder and lightning" cover much of the same ground and could probably have been combined into a single entry. However, these cavils do little to tarnish the noteworthy achievement of this dictionary, which admirably fills a void on the reference shelffor both scholars ofearly modern drama and beginning students. Michael D. Friedman University of Scranton Viviana Comensoli and Paul Stevens, eds. Discontinuities: New Essays on RenaissanceLiterature and Criticism. Toronto: University ofToronto Press, 1998. Pp. xx + 244. $65.00. You will not agree with everything in this book. What is probable is that, whatever your specialty and your point ofview, you will find parts ofit much more convincing (or unconvincing) than the rest. A diverse and often contentious set ofreflections on the studyand teaching ofearlymodern texts, Discontinuities abounds with disjunctions and contradictions. In their introduction, the editors themselves anticipate the reader's "experience ... of constantly having the ground from underneath one cut away" (xviii). Whether or not the reader herself is so unsure of matters as to react with such insecurity, Comensoli and Stevens have succeeded in creating a forum for an exceptionally honest and provocative exchange of opinions. Although no such volume can be comprehensive , this one exposes to an unusual degree of scrutiny many of the conflicting forces that shape the field as it stands now, in the aftermath of the upheavals ofthe 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, and offers contrastingalternatives for Reviews229 renewal. The essays, contributed for the most part (and in comparable numbers) by critics from Canada and from the United States, mainly attest to the importance of six interrelated influences in the study of Early Modern texts today: new historicism, post-structuralism, feminism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, and questions about canonicityand textual tradition or"reproduction." (This seems a large enough net to cast in one book—even ifit does not extend to the equally prominent subjects ofpost-colonialism and race, or to queer theoryapart from one briefappearance.) With a few exceptions, however, these authors share an overriding concern with die theoretical significance ofhistoricism. Many contributors see our uncertaintyabout the latter as symptoms ofa long-term crisis, in which die stakes are high for future scholars as well as for the broader reception —if there is to be any—of Renaissance texts into the culture of a new millenium. Among the manifesto-writers is Linda Woodbridge, whose essay, "Dark Ladies: Women, Social History, and English Renaissance Literature," is one of several in Discontinuities that are so trenchandy written as to qualify as position papers on the state ofthe discipline.Woodbridge evokes a nightmare prospect in which, "stretched on a hermeneutical torture rack with new historicists pulling on our arms and deconstructionists on our feet,we maybecome unable to read or interpret at all" (67). When she then pleads for the adoption of a "middle ground—readings that, given what we know about social history and literary history, are more probable than others" (68), her eloquence gains plausibility from the inclusive, eclectic, undogmatic quality of her own work as a critic. Throughout her career,Woodbridge has stood squarelywhere she stands here; whatever her proposal may lack in systematizing pretentions it makes up in its honest pragmatism, its unmysterious concern with maintaining (or recovering ) a common ground for practical criticism after the ideological divisions ofthe recent past. Close to Woodbridge in this respect, yet far more concerned with the blind spots ofdeconstruction than with those ofhistorians, is Sylvia...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 228-234
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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