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Reviews49 1 That O'Neill's plays are highly autobiographical is by now a commonplace of criticism, well demonstrated in the work of Barbara and Arthur GeIb, Philip Weissman, Louis Sheaffer, Travis Bogard, Virginia Floyd, and others. This volume does more than add new facts to the repository. To a remarkable extent Alexander succeeds in picturing O'Neill as a writer rooted in time and place who shaped images and life experience into matter for the stage. But no critic can fully enter an artist's psyche or fill the abyss between source studies and the finished play. Despite the detective work underpinning this engaging study of the major works of O'Neill's middle period, the playwright's secrets of manufacture remain hidden still. MICHAEL HINDEN University of Wisconsin—Madison Jeanette R. Malkin. Verbal Violence in Contemporary Drama from Handke to Shepard. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Pp. 245. $49.95. In Verbal Violence in Contemporary Drama from Handke to Shepard, Jeanette R. Malkin proposes to expand on Jean Vannier's 1957 "theater of language" analysis and on Martin Esslin's The Theater of the Absurd (1961). She probes the question of man's relationship to language: "Do we control language, or does it control us? Does language speak for us or through us?" (p. 5). The contemporary drama of verbal violence involves the philosophy of language, and its inspiration is at once "Naturalist," "Symbolist," and adapted from Absurd theater (e.g., Jarry's "Ubu"; pp. 6-7). No one should teach plays by Ionesco, Pinter, Havel, Kroetz, Bond, Mamet, Shepard, or Albee without reading Verbal Violence, for Malkin studies post-World War II theater as the product of a critical period when, recovering from the destructive powers of propaganda and war rhetoric, intellectuals were evaluating the relation between speech and humanity. Malkin details how Ionesco exemplifies a reaction against language 's tendency to systematize thought. He stands against jargon because , as a totalitarian language, it tends to redefine the common linguistic pool. Such modification also alters the national unity of a given people by tampering with their linguistic identity through "coercive verbal norms and totalitarian practices" (p. 96). Germans experienced such a redefinition under Hitler, while the Russians suffered under Stalin: "The ideology of absolute power . . . controls speech and indeed redefines language in its own terms" (p. 94). "The politics of language domination" is effective in Fascism, Capitalism, and Marxism as well, and it is lurking behind any systematization of language. Indeed, "coercive verbal norms and totalitarian practices" organize thought, but such organization is inherent in language and necessary to speculative 492Comparative Drama thought as well. Further examining this shaping of the mind through language, Malkin looks for means to differentiate between the production of blinding propaganda and knowledge. She finds that post-World War II playwrights shared Ludwig Wittgenstein's need to "combat 'the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language'" (p. 6). For Wittgenstein the categories implied by the linguistic structures of a given language invariably reflect the myths, the governing principles, the philosophy of the society using it. In other words, a given language reflects its culture. Malkin shows how language reflects its society in the "word games" played by George and Martha in Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? where language is always combined with hierarchy and socio-economics. Malkin asserts that the post-World War II playwrights perceive language in the following ways: (1) It stands at the center of their production as a tyrannical vortex which intimately shapes the mind of individuals. (2) Language is a tool used by coercive governments which invent linguistic drifts. Such language is akin to propaganda and advertisement. (3) Language is a hostile apparatus, dangerously manipulative and easily integrated into society. Therefore she depicts the evolution of violence in modern drama as a brutal verb devouring its speakers. The plot of linguistic violence follows an Orwellian pattern as does Malkin's table of contents. At first, people possess enough liberty to feel merely coerced by the new code. Thus they feel "dominated." But later, when they become used to what Orwell called "Newspeak," the linguistic fabric is broken. The chapter "Language as a Prison...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 491-493
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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