Bryn Mawr Classical Review 94.08.06

Irene J. F. de Jong and J.P. Sullivan (edd.), Modern Critical Theory and Classical Literature. Mnemosyne supplement 130. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994. Pp. 292. $108.00. ISBN 90-04-09571-3.

Reviewed by Kirk Ormand, Loyola University, Chicago.

I apologize for the length of this review. As this book presents itself as an introduction for the uninitiated to various critical approaches, I felt it worthwhile both to critique the book as a whole and to provide more detailed readings of the eleven quite disparate essays. Part I, is, therefore, a self-contained overview. Part II consists of specific critiques.

Part I: Overview.

The interaction between ancient texts and modern criticism has become so serious that the profession of Classics now recognizes it as a problem. In 1987 Ralph Hexter and Dan Selden embarked on a project to put together a book of essays on ancient texts which "reflect[ed] explicitly on methodology," and that book appeared as Innovations of Antiquity (Routledge) in 1992. In 1990 the editors of the present volume set out on a similar task (interestingly, Glenn Most and Charles Segal appear in both volumes). By chance, I read the introduction to Innovations as I was about to sit down to write this review. In Hexter and Selden's description of the evolution of their project, I recognized many of the factors which, as I had read de Jong and Sullivan, I felt to be sabotaging their efforts. (I should also note that many of the same points, as well as some others, are raised by Goldhill's essay in de Jong and Sullivan [51-56].) It is instructive, therefore, to consider the changes that Innovations adopted, and which Modern Critical Theory and Classical Literature (hereafter ModCrit) apparently did not.

The difference between the two volumes is one of flexibility. ModCrit is marketed as a "representative collection of essays to illustrate the applicability of some of the new approaches to Greek and Latin authors or literary forms and problems" (from the jacket). In other words, a smorgasbord of theories, applied to classical texts for our general edification (the word smorgasbord is used both by Innovations, p. xvii, and by Goldhill in ModCrit, 51). Innovations began with a similar aim. But as the Innovations papers came in, the editors discovered an unexpected difficulty: most of the essays did not present any particular theory, and many drew from several approaches at once. There was a gap between "literary theory" and "practical criticism." Innovations chose to acknowledge that gap, historicizing it nicely in their introduction (xvi), adding nifty brief introductions to each pair of essays, and grouping the essays under broad rubrics rather than specific theoretical titles (e.g, "Figures," "Variance," "Gender," rather than "Deconstruction," "Narratology," etc.). ModCrit has the same problem, but simply does not address it. Many of the essays in this book, therefore, will irk the "interested neophyte" who is the target for the collection (as Goldhill's n.11 reveals). She has bought the book in order to see an application of various theories, and finds to her dismay that several of the essays (McDonald, Most, Fowler, Segal) use no identifiable theory, and that one of them (Nauta) does not apply his theory to a classical text.

Similarly, few of the essays explain the theory in a way that would be useful for the uninitiated. Those who are already familiar with a theory will, in general, be able to recognize elements of it in its respective essay; but my colleagues who really are neophytes report that they have found the book impenetrable. At first I wondered why things were not made more simple and straightforward. After reading the introduction to Innovations and Goldhill's essay in ModCrit, however, I began to realize that this problem arises from the nature of the project itself. It is a mistake, as Goldhill argues (51), to presume that "Classics" somehow prefigures "theory." Every reading involves a theory, and every act of reading affects the text read. Try as we might, as Fowler argues, "it is no good trying to recover lost innocence, to get back to a time before we knew what we were doing" (254). To imply that our canon exists as a discrete body, merely waiting for an officious attendant to apply theory like an ointment (as ModCrit does) denies the inevitable mutual implication of "text" and "theory" in that process. So, Innovations again rolls with this punch, providing an unapologetic context for the difficulty of its essays (xx-xxii), and ending with a statement that fully embraces the force of theory:

Studies, it would seem, which issue from a consideration of linguistic properties and textual organization in advance of historical or aesthetic values do not unequivocally reconfirm the system of oppositions and priorities on which Classics has been based. This not only makes the essays and the collection as a whole often difficult to square with the edifice of received scholarly opinion; it will contribute, we hope, toward the eventual restructuring of the profession. (xxii)
ModCrit, by contrast, wants to maintain this discreteness, to keep "the Classics" intact, and to present theories which can be applied or removed at will to a set of stable literary forms. Sullivan ends his learned and graceful introduction:
The present volume can do no more than present a sample of the possibilities for the possibly fruitful engagement between modern critical theory and the study of Greek and Roman classical literature. The intention was to dispel some of the incomprehension that surrounds this interaction.
These last two quotations sum up the difference in approach, and also sum up why, though ModCrit contains several exciting, provocative, and very sound essays, it could not but fail. The kind of essay that would have been necessary for its target audience would be a paradox: very few theories have, as their aim, an explication of the theory.

Goldhill brings up one other important point (53). Exempla are rarely unproblematic. Like a worldly manifestation of a Platonic form, they point to the thing exampled but are always in some tension with it. So (for example) in this volume Fowler finds that many supposed examples of "Romantic Irony," are ironic in a much wider sense. Nauta becomes so involved in the explication of reader-response theory that his "example" consists of an analysis of Lowell Edmund's application of the theory, 1 which he finds to be inconsistent with the theory. Most wishes to position himself between Deconstruction and New Historicism. Goldhill's clever essay on deconstruction chooses to deconstruct the notion of exemplarity, providing one of the most challenging conundrums (and interesting essays) of the book. The point, I hope, is clear. Neither theories nor texts are that simple.

I do not intend the last two paragraphs as criticisms of the essays in the book. Indeed, the authors are to be commended for refusing to "dumb down" their respective theories. It is by now a recognized phenomenon that, as critical approaches are bandied about, they tend to be assimilated to more familiar approaches. Then a sort of Gresham's law of criticism comes into play, as the less challenging "version" of the theory forces out the more challenging. Thus deconstructionism has largely been assimilated to its older friendly cousin New Criticism, and one finds any discovery of ambiguity or irony in a text labeled a "deconstruction." This phenomenon is documented in the case of Kristeva's term "intertextuality": as Van Erp Taalman Kip points out in her essay, Kristeva abandoned the term when "others began to use it in a sense not meant by her -- 'le sens banal de 'critique des sources' d'un texte'" (153). In this volume, the authors generally avoid this sort of reduction, and that is commendable. (Three exceptions: Van Erp Taalman Kip uses the non-Kristevan form of intertextuality in a nonetheless sharp and inventive essay; McDonald presents a strikingly untheoretical and naive use of Nachleben to analyze Sophocles; and Caldwell is apparently unaware of the important modifications made to psychoanalytic criticism in the past twenty years.) But what makes for success in the essays guarantees problems for the "interested neophyte" who wishes to read this volume as an introduction to the theory.

That said, the book fails in its aims in some rather more prosaic ways. Let me begin with the "General Bibliography" (pp. 281-288). Though each essay contains its own bibliography, at the end of the book the editors include a list of books categorized by theory: "1. introductions and collections, 2. narratology, 3. intertextuality, 4. reader-response, 5. feminist criticism, 6. psycho-analytical criticism, 7. structuralist, poststructuralist and semiotic criticism, and 8. dialectical and dialogic criticism" (281). Each category is then broken down into books on the theory "a.", and classical applications of the theory "b." CAVEAT EMPTOR. The book jacket announces that the "applications" sections offer "for the first time a complete bibliography of classical studies which incorporate modern critical theory." This is a bald lie. The book itself makes a less distinctive claim: "those under b. are more inclusive [than those under a.] although inevitably studies will have escaped our notice." Indeed. To be fair, these bibliographies are representative in the best sense of the word. They include good selections, on a wide variety of topics. But they are by no means comprehensive: the b. list for feminist criticism contains only 18 items.

Curiously, the categories in the bibliography do not correspond to the theories represented in the book, and this leads one to realize that the book is missing some crucial chapters. Most flagrant of all, the book does not contain a single feminist essay (though both McDonald and Segal are -- faintly -- influenced by feminist theory). Nor a Marxist or post-Marxist essay. Nor a New Historical essay. No approach, in fact, that stems from a political stance, or that embroils the reader in the dangerous intersection of literature and "the real world." Now, it could be that the editors chose not to include these genres because they have been well-represented elsewhere, feminist theory and gender theory particularly. But nowhere do they say so. If this book is to stand as an introduction to various theories, then these most common but most hotly-debated approaches are sorely missed. Sullivan did state in his introduction that not all those asked were able to contribute an essay (21); perhaps those who did not would have filled in some of these gaps. (This might also explain why the book, advertised in the 1993 Brill catalogue as 452 pages, is only 292.)

It is with no small regret that I consider this book a failure. As I said at the beginning, many of the essays in it are challenging and worthwhile. But for now, "interested neophytes" have several better options. I have already mentioned Innovations in Antiquity which, though difficult, makes no pretense about its difficulty (and is considerably less expensive). Good introductions to theoretical approaches are available: I still find Terry Eagleton's Literary Theory: an Introduction (Oxford 1983) lively and useful. Good examples of applications can be found in the various "special volumes" of Arethusa and Helios. In the hot topics of gender theory and feminist theory I recommend Winkler & Zeitlin, Before Sexuality (Princeton 1991), and I remain very favorably impressed with Foley, Reflections of Women in Antiquity (New York 1981). Also worthy of mention is Rabinowitz and Richlin, Feminist Theory and the Classics (New York 1993). I have not seen this volume yet, but see the (largely favorable) review by Goldhill in this journal.

One final comment: E.J. Brill produces beautiful books, and this is no exception. But at the listed price of $108, I know no individual who will buy this volume.

Part II: Individual Essays.

J.P. Sullivan: "Introduction"

Sullivan's introduction needs little comment. It is, as always, elegant, careful, and demonstrates the vast grasp of secondary material that Sullivan had. In a few spots I found that Sullivan made some approaches sound simpler and more familiar than they are. But that is fitting for a volume of this sort, and a certain amount of detail is lost in any introduction. His first footnote, on deconstruction, is an admirable reminder that all categorization of theories is in some respects arbitrary, that many theorists find labels thrust upon them by readers.

I.J.F. de Jong, "Between Word and Deed: Hidden Thoughts in the Odyssey"

De Jong has published several useful narratological works recently,2 and her contribution here is equally interesting. The piece does not give a full explanation of narratology, though it defines some major terms as it goes along; and in any case, narratology is one approach that has gained a strong foothold in the Classical world, particularly as applied to epic. Using the formal tools defined by Bal and Gennette, de Jong overturns the commonplace assertion that Homeric characters have no hidden thoughts. She analyzes the many places in the Odyssey where Odysseus, Telemachos, and Penelope distinctly hide their thoughts, and shows Homer's skillful manipulation of this technique. Curiously, she does not mention the one thought that Penelope hides not only from Odysseus, but also from the reader: the trick of the bed in Bk. 23, so dazzlingly analyzed by Winkler.3 Still, students of the Odyssey will want to consult this essay.

S. Goldhill: "The Failure of Exemplarity"

Goldhill draws the unenviable task of explaining deconstruction. He begins his essay by critiquing the project of the book, (an appropriate deconstructionist's move) and in some ways his entire essay serves as a critique of the project. Though he does not systematically explain deconstruction (a notoriously difficult task), Goldhill follows his introductory critique with three sections, and he hits upon three of the major foci of the approach: 1) the problem of contextualization, 2) the constant shift of meanings in any (supposed) opposition, and 3) the inevitable invasion of narrative (with all its foibles) into exempla. I do not see, however, that he is writing for the neophyte. In fact, the first section is a deconstruction of speech-act theory. Goldhill makes a good point: the problem that deconstruction poses is not that it denies all valuation of meaning. Rather the deconstructionist takes the directive for contextualization absolutely seriously: the result is "not 'anything goes' ... but the question of how far to go ..." (59). Though Goldhill tries to link the problems of limiting context in speech-act theory to the philological practice of determining the meaning of a word, this section is not an application of the theory to a classical text, but rather to the articulation of another (not entirely discrete) theory. It is certainly not for the uninitiated. A failure of exemplarity?

Goldhill's second section is an interesting reading of the oppositions of Penelope vs. Clytaemnestra and Penelope vs. Helen in the Odyssey. In a tightly argued 5 pages, he shows how the oppositions tend to create "slippage" in the assigning of values. In the former opposition, Penelope is held up as an exception to the general rule set by Clytaemnestra, so that (paradoxically) "the exemplary [Penelope] becomes exceptional" and reinforces the notion that women are not to be trusted. In the latter, Penelope describes Helen in such a way that she is assimilated to Penelope's situation, so that the "transgressive [Helen] becomes sympathetic". This really is a deconstruction of a classical text; I found myself wishing, on the one hand, that it were published in a different context, since the passages under discussion have been the subject of much recent debate. But then I wondered if these 5 pages could stand in a context other than that of being an example of a theory. And oddly enough, this status detracts from the argument: it currently stands not so much as a reading of the Odyssey as a picture of a type. "One could do this if one wanted," it seems to say. But it has little to say about whether one wants or if one should. Another failure of exemplarity?

The third and final section is not a deconstruction. Rather, Goldhill simply shows how the chorus' attempt to use an example in Euripides' Electra results in a series of ambiguities. It is not clear exactly what the chorus' example is, nor in what way it is to be applied. This reading, in itself, is little more than a New Critical close reading; it only serves as an example of deconstruction in a meta-argument. That is, since Goldhill shows that exempla exist in narrative, the application of such exempla is never simple or unproblematic. So too (I presume) with this example. A final failure of exemplarity, one which deconstructs the underlying principles of this book? This is the most generous possible reading of Goldhill, but he is self-reflexive enough throughout to warrant it.

R. Caldwell: "Aeschylus' Suppliants: a Psychoanalytic Study"

There are two distinct modes of psychoanalytic criticism at work in Classics today. In the first, the critic approaches a myth as if it were a dream, i.e., as if it represented in symbolic form the subconscious desires and structures of the culture (rather than individual) that produced it. In the second, the critic takes a text from the ancient world as if it were a transparent description of events, sets up the characters in it with a psychiatrist, and reports on the findings. Ultimately, this mode demonstrates the ancient author's supposed insight into human psychology. I find the first approach useful (at least in a limited way). I have little sympathy for the second. Caldwell has written in the first mode in the past, and the "Interpretive Essay" included in his translation of Hesiod's Theogony is a fine introduction to the approach.4 In this volume he writes in the second mode.

Bolstered by a close reading of the text, Caldwell comes to the conclusion that the Danaids' refusal of marriage is an indication that they are neurotic: having developed a "female Oedipus complex" they are too attached to their father, and are likened by Caldwell to a type of woman described by Freud, "who ... lack the capacity to give their husbands what is due to them; they make cold wives and remain sexually anesthetic" (82). The problems here are multiple, but they come down to the fact that Caldwell sees Freud as producing universal, transcendental truths; he does not historicize. So, he makes much of the fact that the Danaids refer to Zeus as "father" and Io as "mother" -- this is a displacing of paternity to hide their incestuous lust for Danaos. But the application of such terms to a distant famous ancestor is quite regular in ancient Greek culture. Surely not every instance is an example of displaced incestuous desire? Even more important, Caldwell has no sense of the need to historicize Freud. He assumes (as the quotation above indicates) that Freud was right, that women in any age who wish to avoid marriage are "neurotic," and so can refer, e.g., to the Danaid's "mutilated state" (79). This is nothing less than a (dangerous) reinscription of the patriarchal views of the Greeks (and its echo in the Victorian era), which proscribed any mode other than being married with children as unhealthy for women.5

Nor does Caldwell seem to realize that Freud himself has been located in a particular historical (and sexist) moment: In a particularly telling passage, Caldwell speaks of "Freud's ... discovery that the stories told to him by his female patients about paternal seduction, all of which he had previously accepted as literal truth, were for the most part constructions of fantasy" (83). This is an extremely problematic development for post-Freudian studies, and feminists have again argued that, in one celebrated case, this "discovery" of Freud led to his disbelief of a real case of sexual abuse.6 To his credit, Caldwell admits that Aeschylus might be presenting male, rather than female psychology (96). But he appears entirely unaware that critics have found Freudian analysis to have a masculine bias in itself. One need not go far afield to find this out: P. duBois' Sowing the Body (Chicago 1988) (not mentioned or cited by Caldwell) took Freud to task with regard to Classical texts six years ago.

M. McDonald, "Elektra's Kleos Aphthiton: Sophokles into Opera"

McDonald does not expound on, or use, a theory. She justifies her process of reading Sophokles through the lens of opera by stating (correctly) that others have done so, but she never bothers to tell us how this works, or why it should work. She needs a critical apparatus like that carefully articulated by Nauta, but she does not have one. Along the way, she makes some interesting points about opera which I am not qualified to judge. In the process of re-making Sophocles' Electra into her later operatic persona (which is to say, a heroic, fully admirable, ultimately vindicated destroyer of tyrants) she does some violence to the text. One example: she claims that in the play Chrysothemis dreams of marriage and children (112). In fact, this is a taunt that Electra throws in her sister's face (lines 963ff.), and we do not know if it is true or not. Finally for all her talk of Electra as a tyrant slayer, McDonald seems not to know D.M. Juffras, "Sophocles' Electra 973-85 and Tyrannicide," TAPA 121 (1991): 99-108.

G. Most, "Simonides Ode to Scopas in Contexts"

Though Most presents no particular theory, he writes a sophisticated and interesting analysis of Simonides' ode. In it he argues that Simonides has been misunderstood in the portrayal of him as a turning point in ethical and pro-democratic political thought. Rather, the ode is a careful praise of a patron whom others might wish to blame. In teasing out this argument, Most relies on a close reading of the text, combined with careful analysis of contemporary praise-poetry. Hence the notion of "contexts": Most insists on the careful alignment of the "internal context" of the poem, and what we know about its external context.

Along the way, Most does philologists a valuable service. An oft-quoted maxim of Eagleton is that "An opposition to theory usually means an opposition to other people's theories and an ignorance of one's own" (quoted in this volume by Goldhill, 51). Most provides us with a "theory" of philology -- a set of rules which most of us use, but rarely articulate, in determining the value of an interpretation (133-34). It is extremely useful to see these principles spelled out, not least because it puts philology on equal ground with other approaches that are often dismissed as "arbitrary," or "relying on principles external to the text." Those who wish to disagree with Most will have to do some serious thinking about method to do so.

A. Maria Van Erp Taalman Kip, "Intertextuality and Theocritus 13"

As Van Erp Taalman Kip explains in her introduction, "intertextuality" is a term now used to describe two connected but not identical approaches. The first use of the term, by Kristeva, insisted that all texts were constantly intertextual, that "any text is constructed as a mosaic of quotations; any text is the absorption and transformation of another" (cited on p. 153). Soon after she introduced the theory, however, others began to use it in the sense of "source criticism." This led Kristeva to drop the term. Van Erp Taalman Kip, perhaps unfortunately, uses the term in the latter, less radical sense.

In so doing she provides a clear and interesting critique of Theocritus 13 and its manipulation of sources. The essay is certainly worth reading. But, after all, this form of "intertextuality" is no different from a theory that we are already quite familiar with; and Van Erp Taalman Kip concludes merely that Theocritus adopts Homeric passages in such a way that he both identifies with epic, and sets himself apart from the earlier tradition. Van Erp Taalman Kip is also somewhat hampered by a desire to know what the author intended as a final determinant of meaning. Though she is aware of the problem that this entails (154-5), she still tries. The attempt shows its weakness, as one finds her admitting that she is "not altogether sure" (161) of a proposed interpretation because, after all, there is no way to determine the conscious intent (let alone unconscious) of an ancient author.

R. Cohen, "Speech-acts and Sprachspiele: Making Peace in Plautus"

I consider this one of the most successful pieces in the volume. In a skillful introduction, Cohen explains a key concept in speech-act theory, that of "illocutionary" force. The term marks the fact that words do things which may not correspond to the literal meaning of the words. To give one of Cohen's examples, "in saying 'I'd like to be alone now,' she was asking me to leave" (172). Two important corollaries: for any such illocutionary force, there are an infinite number of utterances (I can ask you to leave in numberless ways); and for any utterance there are an infinite number of illocutionary forces (I can intone the word "well" to mean a wide variety of things). Cohen does not explain the two other basic components of speech-act theory, "locutionary force" and "elocutionary force", I presume because he does not use them. This essay is an introduction, not a full description.

Cohen then applies the notion of illocutionary force to a series of peace-making scenes in Plautus. I found his readings interesting, lively, and well-informed. In the end, he is close to describing a poetics of Plautine humor: often what is funny in Plautus stems from the distance between the meaning of a character's words and their illocutionary force. E.g., at Poenulus 392-9, Milphio sues for peace using language of violence and torture.

R.R. Nauta: "Historicizing Reading: the Aesthetics of Reception and Horace's 'Soracte Ode'"

The first 14 pages of Nauta's 21-page essay are a discussion of reader-response theory, or more specifically, Jaussian "aesthetics of reception." When he does get to the "example" part of his piece, it is not to present his own Jaussian reading of a classical text, but rather to critique Edmunds' (In a Sabine Jar). Nonetheless, I found this another of the book's more successful efforts. Nauta traces the history of reader-response in a readable, careful survey. I have always been confused by the distinction between reader-response and narratological approaches. I still see the two as accomplishing similar aims (at least in part) but Nauta's explication makes clear one key difference: narratology concerns itself with the mechanics of authors and readers within a text, whereas Jauss emphasizes the series of readings of a text (each located at a specific historical moment), and those readings' effects both on future texts and future readings. Ultimately, however, Nauta finds that "a specifically Jaussian hermeneutics does not exist" (221), that Jauss' theory fails. His analysis of Edmunds, similarly, argues that Edmunds' application of Jauss is not consistent and that "[Jauss] has not offered an acceptable model for interpretation, either in its original form or in its adaptation by Edmunds" (228). One can hardly miss the irony of such an essay in a volume which intends to show us how to apply a set of theories. Nonetheless, Nauta writes the sort of essay that theorists in other fields are concerned with, and in addition to providing a sharp discussion, he serves as an example of the gap between critical theory and literary interpretation (see Part I).

D. Fowler: "Postmodernism, Romantic Irony, and Classical Closure"

Again, Fowler presents no particular theory, though his work could be called "postmodern" (a vaguely defined term, at best) in its resistance to closure. In it, Fowler discusses "Romantic Irony" as a particular type of irony, in which the ironic moment serves not to undercut the author's meaning, but to re-inforce it by calling attention to the artistic process. In a set of persuasive readings, Fowler locates such irony in Latin love poetry and argues on behalf of the open-endedness that such a reading creates. In the end, Fowler sets Romantic Irony as a model for classicists in the postmodern world: we cannot return to a state of pre-theoretical innocence, and we need to recognize that, as one of my former professors was fond of saying, "Saying that something is constructed does not mean that it is not real." On the contrary, we care all the more for our (self-reflexive, subjective) interpretations because we are "making it all up" (254). For, as the ironic reading of love poetry teaches us, we live by our fictions. Fowler's essays are always among the best in contemporary classics, and this one stands as a serious challenge to those classicists who have heard themselves say, "Well, if you throw out historical truth (or objective truth, or the author's intent, or ...), then you have nothing to stand on, and you may as well stop trying to interpret." Fowler provides, if not a map, at least a starting point for negotiating meaning in the seemingly boundary-free world of modern critical theory.

Charles Segal: "Philomela's Web and the Pleasures of the Text: Reader and Violence in the Metamorphoses of Ovid"

Segal is an immensely learned scholar. Few classicists are as well-read, so it is worth our while to take him seriously when he announces that he "prefer[s] eclecticism because no single method can adequately interpret the range of meanings of a complex literary work and therefore the critic should be free to choose any method or combination of methods that seem most helpful" (258). Unfortunately, this sort of critical pluralism often results in readings that are less critically informed than less "eclectic" readings, and such in the case here.

Segal has set himself a difficult text: the rape of Procne has been interpreted both as a moment of supreme authorial sadism, and as a moment of supreme authorial sympathy for the victim.7 The problem, as Segal recognizes, is "the critic's decision about where to situate himself or herself in relation to the text." (Segal never quite situates himself to my satisfaction.) And in a subtle and nuanced reading, Segal makes use of narratology, deconstruction (particularly the concept of the "supplement"), and his own familiar brand of structuralist close reading to tease out some of the possibilities suggested by the text. As always with Segal, one learns a great deal from reading this essay.

Segal shows some surprising critical naivete, however. At one point, he argues that Ovid signals his "distance and disapproval" of Tereus' rape of Procne, because "He shows the victim's emotional as well as physical trauma" (262). But lingering on the victim's emotional trauma is stock-in-trade for sadism, as Mulvey explains (quoted with approval on 260). Moreover, in a persuasive section, Segal shows how the description of Tereus' gaze in Ovid's text prefigures his later rape of Procne. Segal cites Mulvey's now-classic article on the male gaze to locate this reading in a modern approach, but says in a note that he "take[s] Mulvey's terminology and descriptions as phenomenological rather than psychological; their value as descriptive analyses is independent of the Lacanian and Freudian frame in which they are embedded" (n.11). Fair enough. But in extracting Mulvey from her "frame" he also eliminates an important part of her (and others') theorizing of the male "gaze," namely that all such gazes (including the gaze of the reader) represent an asymmetry of gender and power.8 These may seem like small nits to pick. But I find Segal's casual use of bits and pieces of feminist theory disturbing. And in the end, what is useful and interesting about this essay stems more from Segal's New Critical observation of "symmetries" and "correspondences" than from his use of more recent approaches.


  • [1] In a Sabine Jar, Chapel Hill: U. of North Carolina Press, 1992.
  • [2] See in particular Narrators and Focalizers: The Presentation of the Story in the Iliad (Amsterdam, 1987). Ch. 2 provides a clear and fairly comprehensive introduction to the approach.
  • [3] "Penelope's Cunning and Homer's," in Constraints of Desire (New York 1990), pp. 129-161.
  • [4] R. Caldwell, Hesiod's Theogony (Cambridge, Mass. 1987) pp. 85-100.
  • [5] For a particularly clear analysis, see H. King, "Bound to Bleed: Artemis and Greek Women," in Cameron & Kuhrt, Images of Women in Antiquity (Detroit 1983) pp.109-127.
  • [6] See, for example, C. Bernheimer & C. Kahane (eds), In Dora's Case: Freud Hysteria Feminism (New York, 1985).
  • [7] For a view very different from Segal's, see A. Richlin, "Reading Ovid's Rapes," in Richlin (ed.) Pornography and Representation in Greece and Rome (New York 1992), pp.158-79. Segal states that he saw Richlin's piece too late to incorporate it fully into his own work (n.6).
  • [8] See especially L. Irigaray, The Speculum of the Other Woman (Cornell 1985). One might also note that Barthes, in his The Pleasure of the Text (which Segal does not cite, but recalls in the title of his essay) likens the act of reading to sadistic pleasure, and then to watching a striptease. (R. Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text, trans. R. Miller (New York 1975), pp. 6-7, 10-13.)