restricted access Gender, Theatre, and the Origins of Criticism: From Dryden to Manley by Marcie Frank (review)
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188 post-Restoration versions reveals that patriarchal authority was increasingly viewed as problematic and unstable. She does not consider that changes in genre, tone, performance (particularly the advent of the actress), and audience between 1610 and 1685 might also account for the considerable differences between pre- and post-Restoration versions. Dryden and Howard’s The Indian Queen and Dryden’s The Indian Emperour ‘‘appropriate Indian culture as a strategy for overcoming political and ideological instability in England.’’ Ms. Hutner argues that the central conflicts in these plays (competing forms of royal authority and Old World vs. NewWorld)are ‘‘enacted symbolically as a fight over the [noble native] female body.’’She perceptively suggests that Davenant’s The Cruelty of the Spaniardsin Peruand SirFrancis Drake may have influenced Dryden and Howard’s depictions of Spanish colonialism . Behn’s The Widow Ranter differs from the others analyzed for two reasons.Behn examines ‘‘the complex interrelationship of white and native women, and the oppression of women in general in a colonial context.’’ And, while Behn’s accounts of the New World also attempt‘‘to resolve England’s turbulent politics,’’ they depict a world ‘‘already fallen . . . inaccessible . . . and contaminated by . . . greedy white colonialists.’’ Statements such as ‘‘the Restoration [was] England’s first major period of imperial and colonial expansion’’and ‘‘Virginia [was] England’s firstsuccessfulcolony ’’ suggest that Ms. Hutner is unaware that English colonial discourseoriginated in relation to Ireland, not the New World. That Irish women are as rare on the seventeenth -century English stage as African women or American Indian women is significant. Don-John Dugas Towson University MARCIE FRANK. Gender, Theatre, and the Origins of Criticism: From Dryden to Manley. Cambridge: Cambridge, 2003. Pp. ix ⫹ 175. $55. This book is interesting, if at times frustrating. Ms. Frank’s argument is that criticism emerged in late seventeenthcentury England in writing for and about the theater, an argument condensed in her term ‘‘the critical stage,’’ which denotes both the central role of the stage in founding critical discourse and the significance of this period as an epoch, a ‘‘stage’’ of criticism’s history. The places where Ms. Frank turns to articulate and trace the implications of her argument are the writings of Dryden—primarily essays and prologues that accompanied the publication of some of his early plays—and texts by Behn, Trotter, and Manley, whom Ms. Frank sees following in Dryden ’s footsteps. What makes Dryden pivotal for Ms. Frank is the way that he develops a genealogical relationship to the literary tradition, placing himself in a line of succession of great native English poets , primarily Jonson, Shakespeare, and Milton. This in turn permits Dryden himself to function as a reference point for others—here Behn, Trotter, and Manley, each of whom acknowledges Dryden’s authority as a way to gain access to that tradition. Dryden’s innovation, Ms. Frank argues , using An Essay of Dramatic Poesy and particularly his Prefaces to Troilus and Cressida, Oedipus Rex, The State of Innocence, and All for Love, is to position himself in a critical relationship to his sources in Shakespeare, Sophocles, and 189 Milton. For Ms. Frank, Dryden defined the past as an ‘‘age’’ unlike the present that is both the originating point of a national literature and the source of an inheritance in need of improvement by more sophisticated writers, such as himself . His construction of Shakespeare as a ‘‘Universal Genius’’whose writings are available to all regardless ofstatusorgender , made that tradition available to later writers. Ms. Frank aims to reassert the centrality of theater to the emergence of critical discourse;toarguefortheimportance of Dryden as a foundational figure in that process; to sketch out a line of critical inheritance running from Dryden through several women writers of the next generation ; and to trace the shift from the Court to the public sphere as the place where criticism takes place. But she builds these broad arguments and sweeping claims on a narrow set of texts and examples. Some of her readings feel strained, for example, the conflict between Octavia and Cleopatra in Dryden’s All for Love being an allegory of male poetic competition. Perhaps more important , the argument of the book turns on terms that seem...