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302Comparative Drama postmodern solutions iftheir productive tensions are unintended. On the whole, the readings of tragedy are more successful than those of philosophical dialogue. This is partly because of an oversimplified opposition between "Socrates" and Plato, partly because it's here that Rocco must extract a meaning not easily found in the text (I find it difficult to believe that the Republic "agrees with Socrates' Athenian accusers" [127]). Nor am I sure that a dialogue's lack of narrative closure can easily be equated with a programmatic resistance to theoretical closure. I shall end with tragedy and mention one last discomfort . In spite ofhis disinterest in ancient contexts, Rocco will occasionally make generalizations such as "tragedy was conservative and opposed the fifth-century enlightenment" (57). Such statements would better have been avoided, since it is not Rocco's project to substantiate them. (And where, we wonder, does Euripides fit in? Too easy, or too difficult?) In spite of my few reservations, this book is worth the read. It is lucidly written, intelligent, and well-organized. Rocco has digested and organized much ancient and modern scholarship, and he presents it in a way that cannot fail to engage and challenge those with an interest in the "classical turn" of the late twentieth century and the dilemmas it addresses . His attempt to plot an "alternative route" (10) between Habermas and Foucault by way of ancient Athens is innovative and shows that ancient tradition still has much illumination to offer the modern world. KATHRYN A. MORGAN University ofCalifornia at Los Angeles Frank Whigham. Seizures ofthe Will in Early Modern English Drama. Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture, 11. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Pp. xi + 299. $54.95 casebound, $19.95 paperbound. Frank Whigham's first book, Ambition and Privilege: The Social Tropes ofElizabethan Courtesy Theory, wrought in the early years of New Historicist scholarship and capitalizing on the techniques and subjects of interpretation it made available, opened new territory in early modern literary and cultural history by assessing the rhetorical strategies of courtly poetics in the context of extra-literary forms of self-expression and construction. His present study, Seizures of the Will in Early Modern English Drama, offers interpretations of Renaissance texts as striking as those in Ambition, but it is neither as innovative nor as persuasive as the earlier book. Seizures is remarkable for its attention to non-Shakespearean plays whose dynamics Whigham studies with painstakingly thorough care, but with an approach already made familiar by other critics ofthe tactics ofearly modern "negotiation." Reviews303 Negotiation is the rubric adopted by scholars whose critical agenda, in reaction to the limitations ofNew Historicism's interpretive axes of subversion and containment, is to describe the social and political interactions of individuals in ways that both acknowledge their agency and recognize their structural determination. The Whigham of Seizures is deeply committed to the possibilities of deliberate human activity in the face of imposed constraints—the possibilities of what he considers human will. In his valuable and provocative introduction Whigham identifies his project as a recovery of the early modern will —the capacity of Renaissance subjects, however embedded within structures of rank, gender and kinship, to improvise, assert, or, as his title suggest, seize personal identity in active and intentional ways that can be aggressive, violent, even self-contradictory. This project extends into a series of readings that observe "the dialectic of mutual determination between patterns of social construction and the appropriation and reconstruction of those patterns by individual actors" (3). Whigham's methodological affiliation entails a commitment to studying the theater as an institution, the work ofmultiple people and forces, as illustrated in Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, the anonymous Arden of Faversham, John Wilkins's The Miseries of Enforced Marriage and John Webster's The Duchess ofMalfi. The result is scrupulous attention to characters' interior experiences and motivations, paid for in the coin of a sometimes hyperbolic vocabulary and substantial plot summary, and at the expense of focused arguments about the structure ofthe plays themselves. Whigham works chronologically, beginning with The Spanish Tragedy and focusing on Bel-Imperia's transgressive willfulness, adding to long-standing commentary on her proto-feminist rebelliousness...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 302-305
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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