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Reviews473 and imagery they would have interpreted in the light of a range of similarly complex and indeterminate rhetorical commonplaces, has of course been well argued in such books as Marion Trousdale's Shakespeare and the Rhetoricians (1982). Though this is not Professor Simonds' approach, her patient assemblage of a large number of more or less relevant iconographie topoi will remain permanently useful as a resource for identifying some of the iconographie contexts available to the original audience in constructing their own readings of the play's meanings. MICHAEL BATH University of Strathclyde Michael Robinson, ed. Strindberg's Letters. London: Athlone Press; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992. 2 vols. Pp. xvi + 952. $95.00. In his edition of August Strindberg's letters, the British scholar Michael Robinson argues that letter writing provided an ideal form for him "because it offered precisely the blend of distance and intimacy that he required in his dealings with others" (p. viii). It allowed him to explore roles and identities in himself and in others in a process where at times fact and fiction seemed to intermingle. The argument concerning life and literature is of long standing in Strindberg scholarship, but Robinson is not concerned with the empirical facts and their reliability per se. To Robinson the aesthetics of letter writing ultimately reveals "Strindberg's stage-managing and scripting of his life and then, as his life proceeds, living according to the script he has produced. Moreover, this script borrows in turn from the available literary texts and cultural models that he inherits, and from which he draws the symbolic language in, and through which he lives" (p. x). This description has been elucidated by Robinson in an earlier study, Strindberg and Autobiography , which concludes emphatically that "it is the work that illuminates the life, not the reverse, and for the reader both constitute texts to be interpreted" (p. 10). In traditional biographical criticism the author's life constituted a context formed by the criteria and concepts of law, purpose, and causality . What at first seems new, however complex it may ultimately seem, was always present in an initial situation. Causal thinking assumes a linear sequence of events from which everything that comes afterward derives by strict determinism (like the coordinate effects of some kind of inner and outer event) which could be used to explain certain aspects related to the text in question. Following in the footsteps of Freud, Lacan and his disciples tend instead to view the facts and events of the author's life as essentially a reconstruction or, so to speak, an evolving text on the level of other literary texts by the same 474Comparative Drama writer. In turn these "texts" form a larger corpus for the study of how the self reconstitutes itself through interconnecting patterns of associations , remembered and retold but always pointing inward to central meanings. Viewed in such a context, Strindberg's letters mirror this process of re-exploration and re-ordering of experiences elaborated in his stories and plays. As set forth in his Preface, Robinson's hermeneutic postulates explain above all why he has taken on the demanding task of preparing these volumes. The only reading of Strindberg's letters along lines similar to those suggested by him are to be found in a psychoanalytic study of the Bosse letters in Meddelanden frân Strindbergssällskapet by the American psychiatrist Donald L. Burnham. Time and again the latter reflects upon the dilemma of discovering a "true" representation of Strindberg, whether in life, letters, plays, or fiction. A standard edition of letters falls, however, solidly within the purview of the older biographical criticism. When Robinson discusses texts in his commentary to the letters, he remains within the boundaries set by historical criticism, matching fact to fiction in the tradition of many Swedish predecessors. He contends, for example, that the ultimate value of Strindberg's second marriage to Frida UhI resides in the biographical "material it offered his writing, beginning with Inferno and continuing in To Damascus, Advent and The Cloister" (p. 454). Strindberg's religious morality Black Banners is reduced to a "grotesquely comic settling of accounts with many of his old acquaintances " (p. 887...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 473-479
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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