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Reviews 243 of Privileges. The issue that Nader raises in her introduction, of the difference in the meaning of the text when it is arranged chronologicaUy rather than as left by Columbus, seems to m e a particularly pertinent one, and this edition provides some of the material necessary to address the question. This edition of the Book of Privileges would be both of interest to the general historian and a useful tool for the serious scholar. A r w e n Sutton EngUsh Department University of Sydney Nuttall, A. D., Why Does Tragedy Give Pleasure?, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1996; cloth; pp. x, 110; R.R.P. AUS$49.95. This is, as the author says, a short book, based on the NorthcUffe Lectures for 1992 in University College, London. What it lacks in length it makes up by richness of reference and the deft elegance of its movement through western phUosophy. Also impressive is the author's generous appreciation of the writers brought into the discussion, even those he finaUy disagrees with. The book asks a difficult question, considered irrelevant in certain schools of criticism today, which brings together two terms with clear connotations of transcendent values and aesthetic responses. Tragedy, wrote Stephen Booth, is an idea whose definition has aroused more attention than any other, apart from the nature of God. NuttaU tackles this problem at a fundamental philosophic level, and considers examples of Greek, English and French classical tragedy, giving most attention to King Lear. 'Pleasure' turns out to be the trickier term in this context, even when recast to reflect a twentieth-century preference for nonconsoling tragedy, as 'enjoyed discomfort'. Nuttall pursues an answer to this problematic enjoyment along such long and winding paths that, at times, the book seems to amount to a perambulation around the question rather than an answer. But this is justified by the nature of the question and, in the end, by the intellectual rewards of the journey. The exploration begins, as we'd expect, with Aristotle, w h o wrote 244 Reviews to defend poetry from attack by Plato, Aristotle's teacher and himself a superb poet. Soon, however, Nuttall is debating with Martha Nussbaum the interpretation of catharsis, with Nuttall insisting on a medical meaning, purgation not purification, castor oil not holy water, and at the same time on a non-material understanding of tragic catharsis, that is, Aristotle is implying a medical analogy, not a literal purging of 'emotional' humours from the body. The quotations from Nussbaum, w h o interprets catharsis as 'clarification', suggest their views are not so far apart, and their argument looks like phUosophical hair-spUtting, especially since NuttaU, later, abandons purgation, or 'discharge', altogether and settles on a notion of 'exercise'. However, at this stage, he introduces an important point for his whole approach, the observation that when Aristotle speaks of catharsis he refers not to what the hero in the play experiences but to the spectators' experience. Nuttall's concern is with what w e feel. H e is tackling head on a topic which very few critics are willing to address, except perhaps some psychoanalytic writers. The chapter ends with a characteristicaUy generous reading of Sidney (and more briefly of MUton) as commentators on Aristotle w h o accepted his linking of catharsis to the audience's responses. Sidney conceived of an audience moved to 'excited emulation' of poetry's golden heroes, but his poetic theory allows no place for 'the morally tense field of tragedy'. The next chapter returns more generally to imitation and to Platonic and Aristotelian conceptions of reality. It begins to looks as U Nuttall cannot drag himself away from mimesis, that endlessly intriguing topic, on which he wrote in 1982. H e delights to point out the ironic twists taken by a Une of argument, derived from Plato, on the subject of the value of poetry, and presents a crystal clear account of Aristotle's understanding of the status of art as imitation not of the actual but of what is likely. This notion of the hypothetical is at the centre of his final response to the book's question. N o w , at about page...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 243-246
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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