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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: July ::
Re: Character: Dirt, Titles, Conduct Books
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0639.  Thursday, 28 July 1994.
 
(1)     From:   E. L. Epstein <epstein@QCVAXA.BITNET>
        Date:   Tuesday, 26 Jul 1994 11:23:57 EDT
        Subj:   RE: SHK 5.0627  Re: Character
 
(2)     From:   Naomi Conn Liebler <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 27 Jul 94 12:59:51 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 5.0637 Re: Dirt
 
(3)     From:   David Schalkwyk <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 27 Jul 94 11:43:51 SAST-2
        Subj:   character
 
(4)     From:   Ben Schneider <SCHNEIDB@LAWRENCE.BITNET>
        Date:   Wednesday, 27 Jul 1994 20:50:54 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   character
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           E. L. Epstein <epstein@QCVAXA.BITNET>
Date:           Tuesday, 26 Jul 1994 11:23:57 EDT
Subject: 5.0627  Re: Character
Comment:        RE: SHK 5.0627  Re: Character
 
In re Mueller: the Hottentots of south eastern Africa equated milk with feces
and urine and would not drink it. ELEpstein
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Naomi Conn Liebler <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 27 Jul 94 12:59:51 +0100
Subject: Re: Dirt
Comment:        SHK 5.0637 Re: Dirt
 
Nina Walker rightly refers to Mary Douglas's specific language in citing dirt
as "matter out of place," but then muddies up the intended distinction by
saying "Culture be damned." Citing menstrual blood as what she thinks is a safe
example of a substance "universally" eschewed, Ms. Walker says "Tell me of one
[culture] that has thought differently." Douglas herself cites the Walbiri of
Central Australia: "Even menstrual blood is not avoided, and there are no
beliefs that contact with it brings danger" (*Purity and Danger* Pelican
edition, p. 168). Elsewhere in the same book Douglas reminds us that "Blood
[not menstrual, in this instance], in Hebrew religion, was regarded as the
source of life, and not to be touched except in the sacred conditions of
sacrifice" (p.144 . Douglas goes on to cite a large number of very specific
examples of various body substances that are, in various cultures, variously
valued as instruments of dirt OR purification. Other anthropologists make
observations about other populations (sorry, I'm away from home and haven't got
the citations handy). The point is that culture cannot be damned in these
discussions: specific cultural distinctions define what constitutes "in place"
or "out of place," and thus what constitutes purity or pollution. The idea that
what is so in YOUR place or MINE must be so everywhere on the planet and at all
times is a regrettable form of ethnocentrism.
 
One more quotation from Mary Douglas seems apposite here: "Each culture has its
own special risks and problems. To which particular bodily margins its belief
attribute power depends on what situation the body is mirroring. It seems that
our deepest fears and desires take expression with a kind of witty aptness. To
understand body pollution we should try to argue back from the unknown dangers
of society to the known selection of bodily themes and try to recognize what
appositeness is there" (p. 145).
 
Her cautionary advice serves us well. In discussions of culture, whether early
modern or any other, we need to look more closely at what is being signalled by
this or that allusion, citation, aversion, occlusion, or attention. "Yuck" is
not a useful critical distinction.
 
Cheerio.
Naomi C. Liebler
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Schalkwyk <
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Date:           Wednesday, 27 Jul 94 11:43:51 SAST-2
Subject:        character
 
The discussion of the status of names and titles in _King Lear_ set me thinking
about the titles of the plays in general.  Is there any significance in the
fact that while none of the comedies has the names of protagonists as a title,
all of the tragedies do?  And is there any significance in revisions which
change _Much Ado About Nothing_ to _Beatrice and Benedick_, but _Antony and
Cleopatra_ to _All For Love_?  A shot in the dark.
 
David Schalkwyk
University of Cape Town
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ben Schneider <SCHNEIDB@LAWRENCE.BITNET>
Date:           Wednesday, 27 Jul 1994 20:50:54 -0600 (CST)
Subject:        character
 
To those who questioned my appeal to conduct books.  Many thanks for your good
thoughts.  Cannot respond in detail now because using borrowed hookup.  Will
continue my argument about August 1.
 
Yours ever,
BEN SCHNEIDER
 

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