In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

308Comparative Drama duction photos. The Cambridge series errs in not including an index, the Twayne series in providing only a skeleton of one. JUNE SCHLUETER Lafayette College Gail Finney. Women in Modern Drama: Freud, Feminism, and European Theater at the Turn of the Century. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989. Pp. ? + 234. $29.50. The first thing to be said about this book is that the intriguing title is misleading. How can a discussion of "European drama" on the announced period and topic not mention France (most of the action, after all, was in Paris), Italy, or Spain, to say nothing of Russia and "the other Europe"? Nothing on the French Naturalists, Symbolists, Jarry, or Apollinaire; no futurism, no Pirandello, no Lorca. Chekov is rather lamely dismissed in the introduction "because the problems from which his characters suffer are existential and transcend gender boundaries . . ." (p. 15). Something like "Aspects of Northern European Drama" would have been more accurate. This said, Finney does cover a lot of ground, giving fresh readings and raising provocative questions along the way. Starting from the historical premise that the years between 1880 and 1920 saw both the spread of Freud's theories and the first feminist movement as well as the rise in respectability of acting as a profession for women, she states that these factors contribute to the presence of so many important female theatrical roles during this period. She argues that women responded to their oppression either by adopting the feminist cause or, at the other end of the spectrum, by hysteria, and that men reacted to women either by espousing feminism or by "hysterization" (Foucault's term for the process by which women are reduced to their sexuality and their reproductive function). She finds these reactions reflected in the portrayals of female characters by the male dramatists whom she studies. Detailed analyses of individual plays constitute the bulk of the book. While Finney claims to be reading with the tools of reader-response criticism, psychoanalysis, and other theoretical schools in addition to feminism, these approaches are not always evident in her practical and straightforward approach to the plays. When she does introduce theory, it is sometimes with a heavy hand: do we really need a two-page summary (pp. 33-34) of the notion of the Oedipus complex? I found her first chapter, on Schnitzler's Reigen, to which she brings not only Freud but production history, Viennese society, and paradigmatic gender types, lacking in coherence and the least satisfactory in the book. The second chapter, on Wilde's Salomé, is on the other hand well argued and provocative. Referring to other fin de siècle portrayals of Salomé, to Beardsley's suppressed drawings for the Wilde play, and to what might be called the European tradition of poetic male voyeurism beginning with Petrarch, Finney convincingly argues that the character of Salomé is a mask for homoeroticism. She further argues that Wilde's position as a homosexual in Victorian British society led him not to Reviews309 misogyny but rather to an understanding of androgyny and to sympathy with feminism and the "New Woman." Although Finney attempts to relate the discussion of Salomé to Wedekind's Lulu plays through the father-daughter relationship, there is little mention of this relation in the discussion of either play. Referring to Teresa de Laurentis and Laura Mulvey's theories of women as spectacle in the cinema, Finney convincingly shows Lulu's roles to be those of a "commodity and spectacle" and less convincingly characterizes Wedekind as a "hysterizer." The father-daughter relation is more central to her discussions of Synge's Playboy of the Western World and Hauptmann ^ Rose Bernd. While the initial situation of each play reveals a traditional patriarchal control of the daughter, Pegeen Mike of Synge's play responds with outward, androgynous, feminist behavior, while Rose Bernd's reaction, not only to her father but to her seducers, is that of hysteria. Another female character to respond with hysteria to her hysterization is Ibsen's Hedda Gabler. Finney's stance of "reading as a woman" becomes most evident in her treatment of Hofmannsthal's (and Strauss') Die Frau ohne Schatten where, clearly reading against...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 308-310
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.