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610Comparative Drama loyalty, respect for duty, and générosité even as the objects of their obligation or fidelity change and even as the circumstances that make virtuous conduct possible vary. This book rests on a subtle discussion of the role of time, continuity , and change in the construction of Corneille's tragedies. The discussion of the characters' own understanding of their place in history relative to the past, present, and future is exceptionally rich and is sustained by sensitive readings of the texts. The account of tragedy, especially the surprising, unverisimilar tragédie à visage découvert in which Corneille specialized, is also extremely interesting. The book as a whole is elegantly written and clearly organized. The Tragedy of Origins will be a work to reckon with for critics of French classical tragedy and will stimulate scholars working on early modern theater in other national literatures. BRADLEY RUBIDGE New York University Modern Arabic Drama: An Anthology, ed. Salma Khadra Jayyusi and Roger Allen. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1995. Pp. xii + 416. $57.50 (casebound); $24.95 (paperbound ). This volume collects and translates twelve plays by Arab writers, chiefly from Egypt (Salah abd al-Sabur, Mahmud Diyab, Alfred Farag, Ali Salim) and Syria (Walid Ikhlasi, Sa'dallah Wannus, Mamduh Udwan), but also including dramatists from Iraq (Yusuf al-Ani), Tunisia (Izz-al-din al-Madani), Lebanon (Isam Mahfuz), Palestine (the Balalin Company of Jerusalem), and Kuwait (Abd al-Aziz al-Surayyi). These playwrights represent the second generation after Tawfik al-Hakim, who first gave Arabic drama its current artistic form; they are little known in the West except among literary experts and may be unfamiliar even to readers in the Arab world. I tried in vain to acquire copies of the Arabic originals in the bookshops of Beirut, Cairo, and Amman, but the plays were either out of print or simply forgotten by shopkeepers. The only two plays I succeeded in acquiring were by Wannus and Mahfuz. Thus this edition by Jayyusi and Allen is extremely valuable. The concise introduction by M. M. Badawi—one of the leading Arab scholars to study the history of Arabic drama, whose Early Arabic Drama (1988) remains a classic—provides a survey of Arabic drama in general and a brief overview of each of the included plays. Drama is a recent genre in Arabic literary history. While there were numerous attempts in the Arabic Renaissance of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries to experiment with theater, the form never reached the excellence that it had reached in the English and French sources on which it often relied for both plot and theme. One reason is Reviews611 language: classical Arabic is quite different from the numerous colloquial dialects that are used in the Arab world—and that are the medium in which theater functions most successfully. Although some of the playwrights in the collection write in the colloquial, they suffer by inevitably limiting their audience. A second reason is a political environment that censors publications and performances: writing under repressive Arab regimes or Israeli occupation necessitates exceptional skills which challenge both artists and audiences. Finally, the editors note that as Arabic drama was beginning to come into its own in the 1960s, television invaded the Arab world and undermined the experience of theatrical immediacy . One form of drama that has flourished is the popular musical by Lebanese and Syrian playwrights written and produced in the 1970s and 1980s. Although the plays of Hasan Ala'el-Deen (Shooshoo), Dureid Lahham, Ziad Rahbani, the team of Theatre de Dix Heures, and others, do not constitute a literary drama—using as they do colloquial forms of Lebanese, Syrian, or French—these politically critical, defiant plays achieved tremendous success. Topical, blunt in criticism of state corruption , this was theater at its most dynamic, enjoying audience interaction, wide popular support—especially among the lower and middle classes— and incisive, if sometimes crude, dialogue. Jayyusi and Allen have understandably omitted such plays from their collection and have instead focused on works that demonstrate literary and structural integrity. In so doing they have selected what is the finest in contemporary Arabic drama, including, importantly, an example of what remains...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 610-612
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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