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138 LETTERS IN CANADA 1991 therefore has a present as well as a past, and Augustine is acutely aware of the difference between them. Even as he recalls moments where much seemed present in his life, he also makes us aware of a later sense of absences. He tells us, for instance, that many of those with whom he shared those brief, paradisaical months at Cassiciacum are now gone: Monica, whose death still troubled him, and Adeodatus, whom he remembers, he says, 'without apprehension, for I have nothing to fear for him as a boy, as a young man, nor for what he might have become as a grown man.' But the father, the grown man recently become a bishop, now feels that he has much to fear for himself. That is why the Confessions , though it remembers Augustine's conversion, focuses on an aspect of it that the dialogues had ignored: on a Christianavita without the otium. The account of his conversion is therefore u.nlike the one he had presented in the Cassiciacum dialogues simply because it is written out of a different present; and from that different present Augustine reflects upon his commitment to conversion, and what that commitment would demand of him. This required not just a remembering of the past, or a tracing of its logic, but an articulation of the author's feeling about the experience, a present feeling that Kenneth Burke, in his study of Augustine, called a 'rhetoric of motive.' Starnes has carefully traced the act of remembering in the Confessions, and the logic by which it is shaped; but he has not done full justice to the expression of feeling in the book, or to the rhetoric that discovers Augustine's motive for writing it. (AM. YOUNG) Penelope Reed Doob. The Idea of the Labyrinth from Classical Antiquity through the Middle Ages Cornell University Press 1990. xviii, 355. us $34.95 As the saying appropriately goes, this learned book raises as many puzzles as it solves. It is indeed a frustrating work of discovery. But the frustration begins with Pliny the Elder, who tells us that there were four labyrinths in antiquity: they were 'multicursal,' and without a guiding thread one could lose one's way. In the centre of the most famous and influential of them all had lurked evil and the fruit of evil: the Minotaur of Cnossos. They can symbolize loss of one's moral bearings, leading to sin and death. Amazingly, visual two-dimensional representations of them are not multicursal at all; they are unicursal, require perseverance to the end, and bring safety to those who persevere. Such themes, in classical antiquity, and medieval art, with especial emphasis on the 'moral labyrinth,' are the subject of the first six chapters of Doob's book; these chapters will be a standard guide to their subject matter in the future. HUMANlTIES 139 The second part of the book (as I, but not the author, divide it) moves on to more complex and obscure matter, with chapter 7 ('Textual Labyrinths ') perhaps providing the turning point. Here we meet the notion not that artists of various kinds discuss mazes, literal and metaphorical, but that their works themselves are labyrinthine - in a chapter somewhat misleadingly introduced by a quotation &om Augustine in which he spoke of the fact that 'what is sought with difficulty is discovered with more pleasure.' Yet every difficulty is not a labyrinth, and in the latter part of Doob's book, under the influence of a theory of the labyrinthine construction of medieval (and much classical) literature, there seems to be just too much talk and emphasis on labyrinths: in other words, in her discussions of Virgil's Aeneid, Boethius's Consolation, Dante's Commedia, and Chaucer's House of Fame, we sometimes seem to find labyrinths dragged in; or, if not that, over-emphasized. Not that there is reason to deny the importance (even if sometimes the secondary importance) of Theseus, Minos, Ariadne, and the rest, but it appears that much of the (often highly illuminating) comment on these works would be clearer if labyrinths occupied a more modest role. That is particularly true of the chapter on...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 138-139
Launched on MUSE
2017-05-25
Open Access
No
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