Review by Choice Review
Johnsen (Michigan State Univ.) presents this densely written, well-documented book as a study of literary modernism, though of his three main subjects Ibsen is usually considered a precursor rather than an exemplar of modernism. The author argues that what these three have in common is an understanding of the way conflict and violence develop in individuals and a community and can be dissipated. This discussion owes much to two literary critics he believes have been unjustly marginalized in contemporary studies today: Northrop Frye and Rene Girard. From their work Johnsen derives ideas about the treatment of rivalry, betrayal, and scapegoating in classical and Judeo-Christian literature, themes he examines in selected passages from works by Ibsen, Joyce, and Woolf and in shorter discussions of King Lear and Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. His book should therefore interest critics of Western religion and literature and observers of critical trends. But much will tax the comprehension of all but advanced students, because Johnsen's insights are subtle and complex, and his prose lacks the "unmodish clarity" he claims for Frye and Girard. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. M. S. Vogeler emerita, California State University, Fullerton
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