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100Victorian Review musters the evidence, using exercise as her focus, to debunk the idea of the "eternaUy wounded female" who cannot measure up to men. In asserting women's equaUty with men, however, she does not seem to question whether the male standard is not itself a deviation from something more human. That is, the book assumes that women are equal to men, and not that men and women are equaUy human, though not necessarily the same. This assumption haunts me, as does the book's epigraph from Bram Dijkstra's Idols ofPerversity (1986): Those who hitch their fortunes to the cultural pendulum of absolute opposites never realize that they are riding the devil's tail, not die god's own chariot to the sun." Epigraphs are by nature cryptic, but I take this one to be intended as a condemnation of those medical authorities who tried to define women as opposite to men, to construct biology, by medical prescription, in the image of cultural distinctions of gender. Dijkstra's own metaphor is instinct with opposites—one rides the devil's tail or the god's own chariot—and stands as a warning of the invidious persistence of opposition in our thought process. Works Cited Woolf, Virginia.? Room of One's Own. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1945. Susan Drain University of Toronto Nina Auerbach. Private Theatricals: TheLives ofthe Victorians. Cambridge, MS: Harvard UP. vü + 132. $15.00 US (cloth). Readers of Nina Auerbach's previous books will find in this brief but expressive volume provocative extensions of her enquiries into the situation of women in Victorian England, Victorian iconography, and the demonic in Victorian Ufe and art, more especially, in this work, as it expressed itself through the theatre. Members of VSAWC might take a particular interest in this book since one section of it ("Little Actors") was deUvered as a paper at the Fifteenth Annual Conference in Winnipeg, in 1986. The book's subject is "theatricality," the study of which led the author to combine "three fields ofinquiry that are traditionally segregated Reviews101 from each other: theatre history, Uterary criticism, and the history of culture" (vü). This interdisciplinary approach is taken toward an issue of perennial interest to criticism, namely the integrity of the self. That integrity, in Professor Auerbach's view, was threatened in Victorian England by the theatre and its influence, whatever transient pleasure the latter may have provided. Carlyle's rant about "gas-Ughted histrios" and "playactorism" was more culturaUy significant than an enthusiastic modern play-goer might suppose for, Professor Auerbach suggests, the Victorian theatre "became the primary source and metaphor for meretricious, life-destroying activity" (4). Its focus on pretence, upon the acting of roles "connotes not only Ues, but a fluidity of character that decomposes the uniform integrity of the self." The theatre and its impUcations pose the threat that "Newman's 'phantom . . . which gibbers instead of me' might also be the real man" (4). Private Theatricals (the title is derived from James's The Turn of the Screw) offers a set of paradoxes. It maintains that the theatre, by means of the very acting which was the source of its appeal, suggested lying and deceit Lives (Uke Newman's Apologia) written to establish the "truth" of the writer's self might, in fact, present only masks, such as those worn and cast off by actors in a play. It is argued that the Victorians, who advocated action as a cure for doubt and other spiritual woes, harbored at the same time "a covert fear that any activity is destructive of character because aU activity smacks ofacting" (4). Dorian Gray's opinion that "man was a being with myriad Uves and myriad sensations, acomplex multiform creature" (9) did not reassure the Victorians who "clung to an idea of self that is not only knowable, but a reassuring object of faith" (12). Professor Auerbach's book, on the basis just outlined, examines the variety of defences raised by the Victorians against the impUcations of multiform selfhood suggested by the theatre as weU as by Dorian Gray. Shakespeare could not be ignored. His cultural significance was preserved by his removal from the sphere of poet and playwright...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 100-103
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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