In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviews299 ing principles left this reader, at least, longing for a firm commitment to either. As it stands, the work seems fractured and indecisive. Is this a book about the response of dramatists to specific political "moments"? Is it about the careful sifting of evidence in order to determine which plays are more "Tory" and which are more "Whig"? Or is it about putting "Whig drama back on the cultural map" (274)? Honestly, I'm still not certain—and I don't think Owen is, either. She has quite a lot to say, and quite a lot of what she has to say stands usefully to complicate our understanding of the relationship between Restoration-era drama and politics. Ultimately, though, readers of Restoration Theatre and Crisis might have benefitted more from a more cohesive ifperhaps less comprehensive examination ofthe subjects at hand. MARGO COLLINS University ofNorth Texas Christopher Rocco. Tragedy and Enlightenment: Athenian Political Thought and the Dilemmas ofModernity. Classics and Contemporary Thought, 4. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1997. Pp. xv + 228. $40.00 This book is an exercise in "conceptual displacement," the mapping of Greek concepts onto modern contexts. Its aim is to allow us to see our society with fresh eyes, and Rocco aligns this enterprise with that of ancient tragedy, which also, on his reading, used the past to interrogate the present. Rocco's method is to present four "staged" encounters with classical texts as a way of examining the nature and value of the Enlightenment. The theater for the book is thus the Western tradition from antiquity to the present, the drama is intellectual, and the audience is those currently struggling with the "dilemmas ofmodernity ." Ancient drama is but one (crucial) forum in which these dilemmas are played out, although it turns out that important analytic tools are those first employed by Aristotle in his ground-breaking examination oftragedy: recognition and reversal. The introduction sets up the framework that will structure the whole. Rocco connects recent debate over the importance of Classics and the ancient world with the postmodern debate over the legacy of the Enlightenment. Precisely how should the past be interpreted and challenged? The protagonists in this controversy are Habermas and Foucault. The former, espousing the goals of enlightened reason, hopes that an ideal speech community can separate language's implication with power, while the latter declares that enlightenment and rationality are coercive, hegemonic discourses that must be subverted and subjected to genealogical critique. Rocco's enterprise is not to choose one position over the other but to use tragic poetry and philosophical dialogue to think through this opposition in tension. His study is not 300Comparative Drama "content with either regulative reason codified as disciplinary norm or the endless subversion of all normative codes" (16). Because his interest is the present, Rocco thinks that "Greek tragedy and philosophical dialogue contribute most towards theorizing the present when their disturbing content is wrenched out of its original context and appropriated to disrupt the established norms and forms of democratically constituted selves and societies, even as they provide a democratic identity and practice against which to struggle" (16). He explicitly disavows, therefore, any interest in ancient context or authorial intention. The procedure in the four central chapters is to set up the text and its problems with a summary of content and scholarly interpretation. Rocco aligns the various interpretive possibilities with the post-modern debate between Habermas and Foucault, and then sets up a series of questions whose upshot is "can we envision a practice that includes both interpretive poles and holds them in tension?" The answer is, of course, yes, and the text in question points the way. In the end, the master question is "can we both encourage and resist democracy and/or enlightenment?" Rocco wants us to answer affirmatively and help, perhaps , to construct an "agonistic democracy" (4). Chapter 2 reads the Oedipus Tyrannos of Sophocles as a "tragedy of enlightenment," an expression of a "dialectic between the seemingly unlimited potential of our enlightened reason and our inability fully to circumscribe ourselves and our world" (39). Rocco distills quantities of scholarship on the play (pp. 36-55 are a useful...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 299-302
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.