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406Comparative Drama Bert O. States. The Pleasure of the Play. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994. Pp. ix + 226. $34.50 (casebound); $12.95 (paper). Bert O. States' The Pleasure ofthe Play might be called "The Pleasure ofPlaying with Aristotle's Poetics." Declaring his Aristotelian discipleship in the introductory chapter, States means to extend "the ramifications of a text that has dominated my pedagogical life" by linking Aristotle's "thinking to more recent methodologies such as structuralism , semiotics, reader-response theory, and phenomenology" (p. 4). I am not sure that States succeeds in securing all these links, but he certainly does expand and "modernize" several Aristotelian principles as he runs the gamut of the main Aristotelian dramatic topics: mimesis, catharsis, plot, peripety and recognition, hamartia, character, and mought. In the process States manages to loop a number of modern plays in some way or another around the Aristotelian tether: plays by Ibsen, Chekhov, Brecht, Pinter, Stoppard, Peter Handke, Caryl Churchill, and even Samuel Beckett. In his introduction States centers his concept ofpleasure on "how—by what structural means—the play 'anticipates' our desires and succeeds in awakening them" (pp. 9-10). Says States, "I have written (like Aristotle) a manual of seduction" (p. 10). There is more about pleasure in States' Chapter 1 on "Mimesis and Pleasure," some ofhis concepts here being rather scattered elaborations on what little Aristotle has to say about pleasure at the beginning of Chapter 4 of the Poetics (Section 6 in Gerald Else's translation, which States uses): the natural inclination to imitate from childhood on, the pleasures taken in works of imitation, the relation ofpain and pleasure. There are in States' Chapter 1 a few interesting excursions beyond Aristotle country into anthropological and biological ideas such as the "neuronal need to represent the world" (p. 22), but the chapter comes back home with States' remark that "Discovery, or what I refer to as unconcealment , is probably the central principle ofdramatic action and a main source of our pleasure in reading or witnessing plays" (pp. 23—24). But it is not so much Discovery as Peripety which is the key to States' book as a whole. In Chapter 6 on "Peripety and Recognition" States makes clear that he means to make more of peripety than Aristotle did. For States peripety is more than a plot device. It is rather "the copulative of dramatic spectacle, its means of enjoining the audience in its (always) peripetous acts of representation" (p. 86). For States the term comes to apply to any kind of reversal of expectation, involving multiple kinds of ironic changes or oppositions in a play's action, or in its language, or in the relation of play and audience, or in a play's selfconscious exploration of its own illusory nature (thus metatheatre). The key chapter for the expansion of the principle of peripety is Chapter 7, "The Real Inspector Oedipus," where States defines something he calls "Oedipal inversions" as "systemic reversals, inasmuch as they are systemwide occurrences," reversals that are "self-discovering, and often self-incriminating" (p. 103). This definition allows States in- Reviews407 terpretatíve entrance in the name of Aristotle into a range of modern plays. Near the end of Chapter 7, States proposes "Aristotle's law" (States' law, actually): "The law is simple and unastonishing: the interest and pleasure of the audience arise from the gap between the predictable and the unexpected" (pp. 121—22). This law, neatly and simply relating pleasure to play, is, in a nutshell, the "real inspector" premise of the book as a whole. Two of the more interesting investigations of the book are Chapter 5 on "The Unity in Time" and Chapter 11 on "Tragedy Today." States does not pursue the blind alley of Aristotle's incidental remark on the limitation of represented time in Greek tragedy, as did the sixteenthand seventeenth-century Italian and French neo-Aristotelians. Rather, for his concept of unity of time, States begins with Augustine's zones of consciousness (memory, sight, and expectation) to formulate a tíieory of the dramatic illusion as "a present filled with its future and its past" (p. 76), a theory that does more with Aristotle's sense...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 406-408
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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