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L ’E spr it C réa teu r memory that features Marguerite Duras and Georges Perec, and a “ Postscript” that bears the title “ The Future o f Memory” but might well have been called “ Autobiographical Tradition and the Individual Talent.” French Autobiography is a thoughtful and vigorous book, as fine as any I have seen on autobiography in some years. There is a strong intelligence at work in the book calling out an equal response from its readers, a group that should include anyone interested in the state of the art, whether that art be autobiography or criticism or the project that includes both, literature itself. J a m e s O ln e y Louisiana State University Mitchell Greenberg. S u b j e c t i v i t y a n d S u b j u g a t i o n in S e v e n t e e n t h - C e n t u r y D r a m a a n d P r o s e . Cambridge University Press, 1992. Pp. 240. In this intellectually engaging volume, characterized by an analysis of sustained subtlety and cogency, Mitchell Greenberg demonstrates the ideological mediations inherent in a multiplicity of seventeenth-century French texts, most of which are highly canonical: L ’ Astrée, Rodogune, and other plays from the Cornelian tetralogy, Tartuffe, La Princesse de Clèves, and several Racinian tragedies. He points to the emergence and eventual dissolu­ tion of the modern subject in the seventeenth century in France, focusing on the self as it becomes subjugated by patriarchal imperatives. Grounded in contemporary theory, Green­ berg makes lucid and meaningful applications o f numerous critics (Foucault, Althusser, de Certeau, Apostolidès, Freud, Lacan, Barthes, etc.), with feminist psychoanalysis taking precedence over socio-historical criticism. In his commentary on Corneille, Greenberg rightly underlines Chimène’s political incorrectness and depicts History, in Cinna, as a web of insurmountable contradictions. The author stresses the institutional value of kingship in Rodogune as well as the illusion upon which Antiochus’ world view is constructed. He argues convincingly that Cléopâtre suffers from a “ deviation” which is sexual and political in nature, and his argument could have been strengthened by correlating this characterization of the protagonist with the valorization of the patriarchal order at the end of the play. Centered on the myth of child sacrifice, Greenberg’s illuminating commentary on Racine addresses the politics of sexual ambiguity in Athalie, the Oedipal conflict underlying the drama of Racine’s children, and the primacy of the family unit in this theater. Thésée’s heroism is elegantly defined as a chiasmatic relationship between the slaying of monsters and the seduction of women. One readily grasps, from this analysis, that Classicism’s fundamental impulse was to exorcise the monsters from within. Among the highlights of the analysis of La Princesse de Clèves, one could cite the utopic/reactionary dimension of the historical narrative, the contrast between the family as a “ closed domestic unit” (182) and the series of extended kinship groups, the view of marriage as the ultimate institutional embodiment o f the dialectics of eroticized politics and politicized passion, the linkage between the sexual/political opera­ tions of phallic women and the radical absence of the father figure, and the sexual indeter­ minacy and narcissism o f the Princesse trapped by the limits of courtly specularity. Present­ ing Tartuffe as an epistemological attack against the principal institutions of seventeenthcentury French society, Greenberg makes subtle interconnections between the sexual and the political order implicit in the play and also makes pertinent observations on the “ blind­ ness and insight” paradox at work here, allowing him to posit Cléante as the epitome of classical transparency and offering a compelling definition of honnêteté. To be sure, Tar­ tuffe projects himself, as Greenberg contends, as a specular object. However, this projec­ tion needs to be placed within the context of the ocular imperialism of the King. It should 86 S p r i n g 1995 B o ok R eview s also have been noted that in addition to Tartuffe’s personal attack on...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 86-87
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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