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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: July ::
Re: Character
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0626.  Wednesday, 20 July 1994.
 
(1)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <GODSHAWL@UCBEH.BITNET>
        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Jul 1994 20:37:41 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Some Questions
 
(2)     From:   Naomi Conn Liebler <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Jul 94 11:53:20 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 5.0625 Re: Character
 
(3)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Jul 1994 12:20:43 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0625  Re: Character (once more)
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <GODSHAWL@UCBEH.BITNET>
Date:           Tuesday, 19 Jul 1994 20:37:41 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Some Questions
 
I have three questions that relate fairly directly to John Drakakis's posting
of 18 July:
 
(1) What is a "symptomatic reading?"
 
(2) How can empiricism, a theory, be "untheorized?" Isn't this a logical
impossibility?
 
(3) Can anyone give a brief, but serious, emblematic reading of HAMLET (the
play, not the dramatic figure)? We've been arguing over the concept of
emblematic reading of Renaissance (or early modern, or sixteenth and
seventeenth century) plays, but what would such a reading look like?
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Naomi Conn Liebler <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 20 Jul 94 11:53:20 +0100
Subject: Re: Character
Comment:        SHK 5.0625 Re: Character
 
Memo to Billy G., Pat B., Johnny D, and a few other guys:
 
If you boys can't learn to play nicely, you will be sent to your rooms without
supper. Your recent hijacking of this network for what appears of late to be
little more than a schoolyard fistfight has denegerated beyond what even the
most generous eavesdropping should have to tolerate. Look, you all have each
other's e-mail addresses, and if you really want to "educate" each other, I
request that you carry on your great reckoning in some little room where the
rest of us are not made captive audiences. Go duke it out in private. This is
not to say that the CONTENT of some of these exchanges, where it is separable
from the ad hominem slagging-off, is not in itself valuable. But the ad
homininity has gotten downright stupid, and the potentially valuable content
has long since been obscured by your private slugfest. Note too the
gender-specificity of the term "ad hominem." Notice who among this list's
subscribers have NOT been participating? I assure you that our silence has NOT
sprung from a lack of interest or of contributing intellgence to a real
discussion of characterological issues.
 
Billy G. notes that "shit is transhistorical." Sorry, Billy, it isn't even
infra-historical; the specific biochemical composition of feces depends greatly
on nutritional and other environmental differences, as one who lives and works
at the confluence of 3 once-badly-polluted rivers should know (I hear they've
cleaned up Pittsburgh in the last couple of decades). Moreover, as the noted
anthropologist Mary Douglas has written in *Purity and  Danger (London: RKP,
1966), pollution, or,  more specifically, "dirt," is culturally defined (and
culturally specific) as "matter out of place." Primary among substances capable
of such variant definition are bodily substances like blood, urine, milk,
feces. So shit in one cultural context is not the same in another. Which brings
us back to the question of what constitutes pollution in an intentionally
scholarly and collegial discussion group.
 
Cheers,
Naomi C. Liebler
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 20 Jul 1994 12:20:43 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.0625  Re: Character (once more)
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0625  Re: Character (once more)
 
I'm not sure if Ben Schneider is pretending to miss the point, or if he
genuinely does not understand that Pat Buckridge and I are NOT saying that
Shakespeare drove a Chevy to the levy, drank bourbon, and dated Miss American
pie. OBVIOUSLY, the world of the sixteenth and early seventeenth century was
different from ours, and the people who inhabited that world are different
from us -- well, most of us. (Hardy assures me that John Calvin is alive and
well in Maryland.)
 
But making contact with Shakespeare's world is not like making contact with
aliens from outer space. Some traditions (e.g., Christianity) connect us with
that world. And we can -- I know that this, too, is an act of faith -- we can
understand that world. Even John Drakakis seems to admit that we can understand
the "Elizabethans" -- as he calls them (even if they are "Jacobeans"). At
least, he professes to understand how they thought, i.e., emblematically.
 
In contrast to John Drakakis's assumption, I assume from the evidence of the
written material (we have only artefacts to guide us) that the humans (circa
1600) had the concept of mimesis, that mimetic art was not unknown to them
and that an auditor might respond to this art. I am NOT denying that certain
other auditors (especially the pious, I assume) might respond "emblematically."
 
When Clifford Gertz encounters a human culture different from ours, he makes
sense of that culture in human terms, i.e., other human cultures including our
own. Humans have one important thing in common: we are all language makers. And
we have similar mammalian needs and desires. Those similarities allow us to
understand across cultures. These are the contact points. And so it is possible
that Jews can understand (and talk with) Bantus.
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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