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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: November ::
Historicizing; History and Literature
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 842. Friday, 25 November 1993.
 
(1)     From:   William Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Nov 1993 13:37:31 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 4.0835  Re: The Paradox of Historicizing Shakespeare
 
(2)     From:   James McKenna <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Nov 1993 15:55:38 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 4.0834  Re: History and Literature
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Nov 1993 13:37:31 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 4.0835  Re: The Paradox of Historicizing Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 4.0835  Re: The Paradox of Historicizing Shakespeare
 
To Terence Hawkes
 
Hey, we seem to agree on something. And don't worry, I'm not really in despair.
I'm rather happily a child of the twentieth century. I was interested in
eliciting a response from the new historicists who seem to be historical
determinists, on one hand, and, on the other, they seem to believe that they
can transcend their historical moment in order accurately to describe the past.
Pragmatism sounds right to me, but beware the Neo-Pragmatists!
 
To John Drakakis
 
Lang may yer lumb reek. Was that Scots sentence aimed at me? We weren't
students together at St. Andrews, were we? In any case, it's rather warm
here, so my lumb isn't reeking very much.
 
What you say sounds wonderful. But who is this person who has deprived me of my
universalizing strategy that allows me to range at random through the zodiak of
my wit? John, you seem to want to have it both ways: you want to be a
determinist, and you also want to have some amount of freedom. Some years ago,
John Lachs, the philosopher, and I were discussing determinism over chicken
paprika and bourbon, and I asked him what kind of freedom humans had. He said,
"we are free to know that we are determined." But you seem  to want to have
more freedom than that.
 
And, John, I've given up the insane root, and turned to red wine! But who are
these nude Shakespeare scholars? As Graves might have said, how naked are the
sometimes nude. In fact, that's what he did say.
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James McKenna <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Nov 1993 15:55:38 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 4.0834  Re: History and Literature
Comment:        Re: SHK 4.0834  Re: History and Literature
 
In reply to Nancy Miller,
 
Yes, I think I agree with your point that _Shrew_ and the homily can be taken
from different perspectives to illuminate each other.  The basic point on which
we differ, though, remains.  For lack of surer terms, I'll call the difference
between literary texts and nonliterary texts "sparkle."  It is as though such
sparkling texts demand attention for their immediate relevance, while duller
ones must be examined more closely before their virtues appear.  No line
divides literary from nonliterary texts.  That line we draw.  But--and here is
the difference, I think--those above the line are always the primary focus of
_literary_ study.  Texts below the line, however interesting for many reasons,
remain as evidence to illuminate those held as literary.
 
To our democratic minds, this idea is heretical.  I reel before it myself.  But
I find it impossible to defend my field when my area of study is the cracks
between the works and ideas that nonscholars find interesting.  As students of
Renaissance drama, we study works that appealed to a broad audience; and so it
is appropriate that we also study the crudest of the other writing that
remains.  But we have ourselves a broad audience, too, and it makes sense to me
to use the judgment of our own times as an indicator of just what might have
sparkled onstage in the first productions.
 
Dazzled and digging (and late to turkey dinner),
 
James McKenna
 

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