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Canonical States, Canonical Stages

Oedipus, Othering, and Seventeenth-Century Drama

1994
Author:

Mitchell Greenberg

Canonical States, Canonical Stages

"Greenberg offers a powerful interpretation of the classical stage in its relationship to the emergence of absolutism in Europe....The originality and strength of the book reside in its fascinating integration of texts dealing with political theory, psychoanalysis, history, and literature....This book is one of the most important contributions to date on the study of the European classical stage." --Marie-Hélène Huet, University of Virginia

"Greenberg offers a powerful interpretation of the classical stage in its relationship to the emergence of absolutism in Europe....The originality and strength of the book reside in its fascinating integration of texts dealing with political theory, psychoanalysis, history, and literature....This book is one of the most important contributions to date on the study of the European classical stage." --Marie-Hélène Huet, University of Virginia

Greenberg’s erudition, conceptualization, and rigorous argumentation establish Canonical States, Canonical Stages as a model for the psychoanalytic study of comparative drama. . . . No other work has demonstrated so well the complex interdependence of the sexual and the political in this masculine drama. . . . Readers will leave this book with a solid appreciation of the role of psychoanalytic relations in the production of the absolutist ideology.

Timothy Murray, Cornell University

In the crucible of seventeenth-century Europe, a new kind of subjectivity formed, private and interior. Perversely, the new private subject made its most spectacular appearance on the public stage-an appearance that, as Mitchell Greenberg amply demonstrates, also marked the emergence of absolutism in Europe. What these two phenomena had to do with one another, and how they were elaborated in the theater of the seventeenth century, is the subject of Greenberg's book, a masterful critical work that relates the dramatic construction of modern subjectivity and absolutist culture to the formation of the Western literary canon.
In particular, Canonical States, Canonical Stages shows how the Oedipus myth, reinterpreted on various stages at the end of the Renaissance, served the purposes of the emerging culture by replaying the founding moment of absolute rule. Working with models of genealogical criticism, psychoanalysis, and a certain Continental feminism, Greenberg reads plays by Shakespeare, Lope de Vega, Calderón, Corneille, and Racine to show how, as symptomatic texts staged within the confines of familial scenarios, they combine a dynamics of politics with a conflicting "private" desire shown to be inimical to the dominant ideology. This analysis reveals how scenarios of sacrifice and transcendence are brought into play to normalize and naturalize inchoate and threatening forces of social change by appealing to preexisting cultural models such as the myth of Oedipus.
A fascinating integration of texts from political theory, psychoanalysis, history, and literature, Canonical States, Canonical Stages offers a powerful interpretation of the interrelated representation of subjectivity and absolutism on the seventeenth-century stage.

Winner of the 1995 MLA Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literary Studies

Mitchell Greenberg is chair of the Department of French and Italian at Miami University in Ohio. He is the author of, among other books, Subjectivity and Subjugation in Seventeenth-Century Drama and Prose: The Family Romance of French Classicism (1992).

Awards

Winner of the 1995 MLA Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literary Studies

Canonical States, Canonical Stages

Mitchell Greenberg is professor of French Literature at Cornell University in New York. He was the author of, among other books, Subjectivity and Subjugation in Seventeenth-Century Drama and Prose: The Family Romance of French Classicism (1992).

Canonical States, Canonical Stages

Greenberg’s erudition, conceptualization, and rigorous argumentation establish Canonical States, Canonical Stages as a model for the psychoanalytic study of comparative drama. . . . No other work has demonstrated so well the complex interdependence of the sexual and the political in this masculine drama. . . . Readers will leave this book with a solid appreciation of the role of psychoanalytic relations in the production of the absolutist ideology.

Timothy Murray, Cornell University

Greenberg offers a powerful interpretation of the classical stage in its relationship to emergence of absolutism in Europe. . . . The originality and strength of the book reside in it fascinating integration of texts dealing with political theory, psychoanalysis, history, and literature. . . . This book is one of the most important contributions to date on the study of the European classical stage.

Marie-Hélène Huet, University of Virginia

Theater, according to Greenberg, provided a place where kingship could be simultaneously affirmed and rejected, conflicts between individual desire and society's needs explored, and society rebelled against yet reaffirmed, while ‘othering’ those who threatened its uniformity-including Muslims, Jews, foreigners, and women. . . clear and brilliantly argued.

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