In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

BOOK REVIEWS 431 “sacrifice[ing of] the father to the polis,” the Hebrew Bible “sacrifices the son to the nation” (57). But whereas Oedipus’ fate is a result of Delphic prophecy, Abraham is directly commanded to sacrifice Isaac (59). In both cases, however, real fatherhood is eclipsed behind the paternal figure of politics and religion—neither Oedipus nor Abraham act like fathers. The first attempts to become his own successor by “fathering . . . children with [his] own mother” (55) while the second becomes one of the major scrip­ tural patriarchs precisely in his abdication of fatherly responsibility (70). It is the subsumption of real parenthood to the trope or myth of pater­ nity that forms the political and religious landscape of the West. In subse­ quent chapters, Weineck deals deftly with the transformations of the Laius Complex in the thought ofPlato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Lessing, Hegel, Kleist, Freud, Federn, Weinninger, and Hofmannsthal. If it is beyond the con­ fines of this review to detail the development of Weineck’s argument and readings of these texts, it is surely not beyond the confines of the reader’s engagement with her book to enjoy and learn from it. Mention should be made, however, of Weineck’s fascinating reading of Hobbes: the thinker most associated with tyranny turns out to be the thinker who most stringently interrupts the authoritarian trope of paternity by “locating the origin of [paternal] power in the appeal of an infant in need” (115)— paradoxically, it is Hobbes who defends fatherhood. And although this brief moment in Leviathan—“almost concealed within the relentless logic of power grounded in the specter of death” (115)—does not appear to ex­ ert the gravitational pull away from the aforementioned trope, it does glimpse at a question that Weineck does not answer (mainly because it has no philosophical answer): What does it mean to be a father? For this, as well as for her impeccable treatment of the paternal trope, I suggest that The Tragedy of Fatherhood is a book for the whole family. Jeffrey A. Bernstein College of the Holy Cross Brian McGrath. The Poetics of Unremembered Acts: Reading, Lyric, Pedagogy. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2013. Pp. 167. $45. Who remembers learning to read? No doubt most of us claim memories of a self that preceded literal literacy; but does anyone—can anyone—possess as a memory that fabulous instant (supposing it were to exist as an instant) when marks become letters? No pedagogical accomplishment, in the modern developed world, is more ordinary than learning to read; but a touch of necromancy still lies latent in this moment when it is imagined SiR, 54 (Fall 2015) 432 BOOK REVIEWS as a moment—a lightning-bolt of revelation that breaks the continuity of time and identity, as “the black marks become magical.” I am quoting the title of a chapter in George Eliot’s novel Romola (1863), in which Eliot set herselfthe task ofimagining what it would be like for a scholar to remem­ ber how to read. Dispossessed of his literacy by a trauma he has suffered, the scholar, Baldassare, suffers another shock that restores it. He looks at a book; “he could see the large letters at the head of the page” (and here Eliot breaks her narrative to print, in capital letters, a chapter title from Pausanius in the original Greek, a language that only a select portion ofher novel’s readership, even in 1863, would have been able to read): “yet an hour ago he had been looking at that page, and it had suggested no more meaning to him than ifthe letters had been black weather-marks on a wall; but at this moment they were once again the magic signs that conjure up a world.” The “glow ofconscious power” he experiences in the wake ofthis epiphany is temporary (he soon loses his literacy again), unredemptive (he remains monomaniacal in his desire to kill his ungrateful adoptive son), and perhaps most remarkably, rooted in an unseizable event. The power to read surges up out of the fissure between “an hour ago” and “at this moment.” It originates in a narrative interruption, an immemorial event more primary than the amnesia to...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
2330-118X
Print ISSN
0039-3762
Pages
pp. 431-435
Launched on MUSE
2020-03-13
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.