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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: July ::
Re: Production of Q *Lear*; Character; Metrics
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0598.  Thursday, 7 July 1994.
 
(1)     From:   J F Knight <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Jul 1994 14:01:46 +1000 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0594 Re: Textual Transmission
 
(2)     From:   Pat Buckridge <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Jul 1994 14:59:36 +1000 (EST)
        Subj:   Character
 
(3)     From:   Christine Mack Gordon <
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        Date:   Thursday, 07 Jul 1994 08:14:15 -0500
        Subj:   metrics, readers, actors
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           J F Knight <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Jul 1994 14:01:46 +1000 (EST)
Subject: 5.0594 Re: Textual Transmission
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0594 Re: Textual Transmission
 
The New Theatre here is Sydney (which grew out of worker's collective / general
leftie movements of the fifties and is our oldest theatre group) recently
mounted a production of Lear in which the straight Quarto text was used.  The
director David Ritchie argued in the programme notes that this was probably
Shakespeare's considered, amended version after testing on the stage.  The
production was not HUGELY different from a normal Lear as you might imagine,
but was shorter and seemed leaner, tauter and more gripping, certainly than the
other Lear playing concurrently with a conflated text at the Sydney Theatre
Company (the main state subsidised company in town) which offered a fairly
misguided reading based on recent events in Eastern Europe (huge statue of Lear
which topples as the state totters, that sort of thing).  STC tends to render
the 'hard bits' into modern Australian - that doesn't help, either. JFK.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pat Buckridge <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Jul 1994 14:59:36 +1000 (EST)
Subject:        Character
 
Apparently when John Drakakis categorises intellectual positions this is a good
thing, and it's called 'having particular conceptual frameworks in mind', but
when I do it it's a bad thing, and it's called 'pigeon-holing'.
 
We don't have to agree on a nomenclature, but I find it hard to believe John
doesn't have some inkling of what I have in mind in using the phrase 'British
neo-Brechtian orthodoxy'.  Would it help if I named some more names - MacCabe,
Heath, Belsey?  I'm well aware that 'neo-Brechtian' doesn't sum up the
intellectual affiliations of these people (or 'people' if John prefers it); it
wasn't meant to.  What it does is isolate the salient feature of the
intervention they and others made in the late '70s and early '80s for  our
present discussion of character, namely their critique of the 'classic realist
text', with its antecedent in Brecht's polemics against Lukacs.  This remains
an orthodoxy in British cultural studies,  and a significant presence, as
recent postings by Hawkes and Drakakis make plain, in the 'progressive' wing of
canonical literary studies.  My previous comments on its limitations as a way
of looking at fictional character stand (at least until - shudder! - the
'rigorous postmodern interrogators' arrive).
 
The answer to Drakakis' question as to why scholars and other theatre-goers
persist in using a realist vocabulary is surely obvious: because that's how
they experience the text; and they experience it that way because the text
(usually) encourages or at least allows them to.  If it didn't, they wouldn't.
Maybe this is what Drakakis means by 'unbridled relativism'; it's hard to be
sure.  But in any case I won't take the libertarian bait.  Making texts mean
something is not a violation of the civil rights of signifiers, but it is a
political act, in a very broad sense, and a necessary one.  Drakakis seems to
imply here (as he and Hawkes have in earlier postings) that semiosis is curbed
not politically but epistemologically, by the superior truth of constructivist
(e.g. emblematic) readings of character over mimetic (or realist) ones.  The
basis for this alleged superiority is the asserted (but never documented)
radical alterity of the Renaissance mentality. This is a highly debatable
assumption in itself, but even if it weren't it's not clear why it should
impose any particular obligation on later dramatic realisations of Renaissance
texts.
 
If discussion continues on this theme, I'd be happy to explain why I think
Williams' _Modern Tragedy_ makes a useful contribution.  Meanwhile, perhaps
John might indicate which particular essay in _Problems in Materialism and
Culture_  (a book I know very well) he thinks supports his position.  And let
me reciprocate by suggesting that he have a look at the _Keywords_ entry on
'realism' and try to guess which pigeonhole I'm popping him into.
 
Yours cathartically,
Pat Buckridge
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Christine Mack Gordon <
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Date:           Thursday, 07 Jul 1994 08:14:15 -0500
Subject:        metrics, readers, actors
 
Rick Jones notes that Shakespeare knows what he's doing when he varies the
regularity of the iambic pentameter line, and I'd just like to note my
agreement. Having spent some time this spring teaching the sonnets to an
undergraduate class, I came to realize once again how very carefully they are
constructed. The same, of course, holds true (even more so, perhaps) for the
plays.
 
I am currently having the wonderful opportunity to sit in on the final class
being taught here by emeritus professor G.T. Wright on "Techniques of Poetry."
We spent some time on Shakespeare and Donne, and have rapidly moved back and
forth through the centuries to look at (especially) meter and form. If any of
you are not familiar with Ted's book, "Shakespeare's Metrical Art," I recommend
it with awe and enthusiasm.
 
Sweltering in Minneapolis,
Chris Gordon
 

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