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This article is taken from PN Review 174, Volume 33 Number 4, March - April 2007.

Writing in the Margins of Miriam Leonard's Athens in Paris Frederic Raphael

As its title suggests, Miriam Leonard's book examines the uses made of ancient Athens in post-war Parisian intellectual and academic circles. The deviant, sometimes devious, readings of the ancient world, by psychoanalysts, philosophes, structuralists and Marxisants classicists (Jean-Pierre Vernant and the late Pierre Vidal-Naquet eminent among them) rarely escape the long shadow of Franco-German relations which ran jaggedly through the siècle de cruauté until finding its loud quietus in the confection of the European Union. Leonard's book is so dense with sources and the knots of language have been pulled so tight, from different ends and to different ends, that they can scarcely be unravelled. My cull of passages is intended to draw attention to the bones of contentiousness between the various pundits, many of whom - not least Foucault, Lacan and Derrida - have influenced attitudes far beyond the academic bear-pits of Parisian causeries.

5. (Numbers refer to M.L. pages). After the defeat of the Nazis and in the light of the decline of Soviet power, the new hegemony of democracy makes Foucault (1974) 'turn away from the unmasking of these external tyrannies' (did he do a lot of that?) 'and seek out the tyrant within... Oedipus represents the oppressive allegiance between [sic] knowledge and power which underwrites the dominance of modern liberal democracy'. Implying that what - ignorance and power? - would be better or less oppressive? ...


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