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HUMANITIES 167 vide all the known contemporary documentation for the Dr III kings and their courtiers. The availability of this data will facilitate subsequent research on many aspects of Vr III society. In addition, sources from/for peripheral cities on the frontier are included: Mari, Karahar, Kimash, Urkish, and Nawar. Occasional maps provide excellent supplemental data on geographical issues touched upon often throughout the text. Indexes of museum and excavation numbers and a concordance of selected publications facilitate the cross-checking of the sources with previous publications. And finally, a microfiche containing the transliteration scores of 108 inscriptions is included in a pocket in the rear cover. Frayne's publicationisin keeping with the high standards ofscholarship that we have come to associate with the Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia . The publication reflects wide internationalco-operation by a handful of dedicated scholars - historians, philologists and archaeologists - whose major preoccupationis therecovery ofancient Near Easterncivilization, the wellspring of our own Western civilization. This volume and the others, published and forthcoming, rank among the great intellectual endeavours to reconstruct the remote early history of the ancient Near Eastern world. Frayne is to be congratulated once again for an outstanding accomplishment . (DAVID LOWEN) Jennifer Wise. Dionysu.s Writes: The Invention ofTheatre in Ancient Greece Cornell University Press. x, 270. us $39.95 This book makes large claims for writing - not good writing or bad writing (which, sadly, characterizes much of the book), but writing per se. According to Wise, this teclmological innovation enabled ancient Athenians to invent the theatre. She denies ritual influence, without discussing important recent work (Seaford's Reciprocity and Ritual). She dodges Aristotle's views on the natural growth of the theatre from earlier performance genres (epic and dithyramb), allbut ignoring the influence of lyric poetry. The new technology of alphabetic writing tout court provides the originating impulse and requisite historical conditions for inventing the theatre. But the theatre may be the least of this technology'S accomplishments. Scattered through four lengthy chapters we learn that alphabetic writing also accounted for the rise of the visual, of ideology, self-consciousness, competition, the high (mind)/low (body) problem, even Plato's metaphysics ('Without appearing to have recognized what he was doing ... '). No matter that Plato in Phaedrus associates writing with impermanence and flux; for Wise, the 'decontextualized writing situation' holds the key to Platonic ontology, the abstract alphabet as model for the Forms. Sceptical of primitivist claims for ritual influence on early theatre, the author succumbs to her own primitive reduction of 'preliterate' poetry, 168 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 which lacks narrative subtlety, self-awareness, or the possibility offictional play. She seems Wlaware of the work on Homeric poetics of the past quarter-century (Nagler, Austin, Edwards, Ford, Mackie), claiming that 'epic is so strictly limited to praise that [quoting Jaeger from 19451] /J everything low, contemptible, and ugly is banished from the world of the epic."' So much for the suitors, or Achilles battering the corpse of Hector. Without the verbal ambiguity that only comes from writing, Homeric poems cannot but deliver'a transparency of meaning.' What of Penelope's ruse? Odysseus's lying tales? the verbal trick on Cyclops? Homeric complexity and continuity with tragic theatre gets lost in a desiccated application of Derridean faux-linguistics. As Raymond Tallis cleverly reminds us in his recent book, we (at least) should remain Not Saussure. Wise needs an oral culture trapped in transparency to provide a foil for alphabetic writing, which allows the theatre to do things Homer couldn't have dreamed of when he was nodding. And so 'the art of the epic ... was rendered culturally superfluous almost overnight by the advent of the alphabet.' Simple facts can pose problems for big theories, and the continued popularity of epic (and other nontheatrical) poetry through the fifth and fourth centuries underlines the basic problem the book fails to engage: oral and written culture flourished together for centuries in Greece, and elsewhere. The technology of the alphabet did not have the immediate and total transformative power that Wise (outdomg Havelock) claims. In fact, relatively few Athenians were literate, in the sense that they were daily readers of anything; and the vast majority could read nothing...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 167-168
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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