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Reviews289 (especially to new historicism), his basic project would not seem that foreign to the New Criticism which he seems to attack for its "painstaking totalization" (p. 39). In fact, the author comes close to making hospitality a "unifying theme" in his discussions of Lear. At any rate, a consideration of a motif throughout a period is not beyond New Critical practice. Another point concerns background material. A perusal of earlier drama might keep the author from saying that from "Hrothgar to Stow the invocation of hospitality seems practically synonymous with a rhetoric of household nurture" (p. 157). On the contrary, Tudor moralities regularly show the protagonist's fall by sending him off to the tavern (in company with the Vice and/or assorted low types) in search of good cheer. Indeed, this is one of the limited means the morality play has to show change in the character's status. Yet another criticism concerns the style. Perhaps inescapably, given the vocabulary of modern criticism and the range of sources considered, the book is not easy to read. In addition to the perhaps inescapable heaviness, however, there is some incoherence. For example, in discussing The Old Wives Tale, the author dates the play 1595 and makes a transition to Macbeth with "by the turn of the next century" (p. 38). But Macbeth is no more than ten years away: the transition misleads. And in a discussion of Sidney's Arcadia, we read that the work "preserves absolutely the distinctions of rank" (p. 54), but on the next page Kalander "entertains the stranger without regard to degree"; here the solution to the problem may lie in Kalander's "instinctive" hosting, but such apparent inconsistency distracts the reader. Hospitable Performances survives such cavils, however, and is well worth the effort. Its intelligent use of modern critical approaches, its reference to much primary material, and its focus on a motif too little considered recommend it to the reader concerned with Renaissance English drama. CECILE WILLIAMSON CARY Wright State University Enoch Brater and Ruby Cohn, eds. Around the Absurd: Essays on Modern and Postmodern Drama. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990. Pp. 316. $34.50. This volume memorializes the publication thirty years ago of Martin Esslin's The Theatre of the Absurd, here celebrated as a book which "caught the pulse of Western drama . . . after the Second World War," or so the blurb writer with the typically encomiastic energies given to such activities would have us believe. The dedication—invoking Esslin, it appears, as some iconic, indispensable critical deity—is pretentious or tendentious, depending on how you regard his eponymous study of long ago. And the introduction by Professor Ruby Cohn, long the doyenne of this patch of the theatrical garden, is hypertrophic, done up in a perfervid prose which oddly and often omits definite articles in that ancient and quaint Timese fashion inviting parody. But Wolcott Gibbs is no longer around to do the honors; hence the common reader will have to endure the hasty trumpeting of this fast-paced roundelay as some kind 290Comparative Drama of tribute to Esslin, enshrined in the final sentences as one whose work presumably compares to and/or with the intellectual substance and philosophic import of, say, Das Kapital, The Decline of the West, or 7'Ae Birth of Tragedy. Not much, however, is new or inviting in Professor Cohn's overly urgent remarks, as she aggressively restates matters and details familiar to any student of the period. Often, however, she is downright disconcerting or baffling as she races from the end of the nineteenth century to the madness of the twentieth—a place, need we be reminded, filled with the utter despair of what is currently called postmodernism (whenever that "unfortunate movement," to borrow Lady Bracknell's useful phrase, began). For example, trying to be either historically clever or adroitly space-conscious she writes: "Queen Victoria died in 1901, but her unpuritan son brought no vigor to the British theatre." Well, one may ask: was he supposed to? Could he? Would he? Or was he perhaps much too busy chasing Lillie Langtry? What is the point of such a useless sentence? Is it to rush...


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