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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: April ::
Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0272.  Friday, 7 April 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Chris Stroffolino <LS0796@ALBNYVMS.BITNET>
        Date:   Thursday, 06 Apr 1995 15:24:07 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0267  Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
(2)     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Friday, 7 Apr 1995 01:25:13 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0267  Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
(3)     From:   William Russell Mayes <
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        Date:   Thursday, 6 Apr 1995 20:44:29 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0267  Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
(4)     From:   Melissa Aaron <
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        Date:   Friday, 7 Apr 1995 08:45:02 +0200
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0267 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
(5)     From:   Antoine Goulem <
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        Date:   Friday, 07 Apr 1995 08:15:00 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0267 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
(6)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 06 Apr 1995 22:24:14 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0267  Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Stroffolino <LS0796@ALBNYVMS.BITNET>
Date:           Thursday, 06 Apr 1995 15:24:07 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0267  Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0267  Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
This debate between Drakakis and Godshalk (bracketting the question of ideology
for the time being) seems most profound when it centers on the tendency of
various "schools" of criticism to tend to REDUCE the subjectivity of
Shakespeare's time to more of a monolith than the subjectivity of our time. Not
having any "hard evidence" on either side of the debate, it seems more
interesting to acknowledge that the kind of societal thinking we find in
Shakespeare and the way it intersects with more 'individual, lyrical, personal'
modes of thought is an achievement that could be useful in understanding
TODAY'S "world"--especially when the gap between say "Marx" and "Freud" or
"newspapaers" and "poetry" often seems unbridgable -- specialists, of course,
flaunt this "variety" and use it to claim how much more sophisticated and free
we are today than they were "back in Shakespeare time..."
 
Chris Stroffolino
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Friday, 7 Apr 1995 01:25:13 +0100
Subject: 6.0267  Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0267  Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
Bill Godshalk writes:
 
>Behind our discussion of subjectivity is, I think, the question: how alien from
>me or you is any given early modern person?  You will excuse me, of course, if
>I do not refer to people as "subjects."  If, as Stephen Jay Gould points out,
>our species has not evolved significantly in many millenia (I can't remember
>how many millenia), then it would seem to me that an early modern person and a
>contemporary person would react similarly to the same external stimulus. In
>other words, we have a firm biological basis for understanding people from the
>recent past.  And in terms of evolution, four hundred years is very recent.
 
Everyone on this list has a conceptual category 'homosexual'. It has been
argued (I think by Alan Bray in _Homosexuality in Renaissance England_ but I
could be mistaken) that this conceptual category did not exist four hundred
years ago and that the same practices were not organized into the groups we now
use such as "one's sexuality". What I understand by this is that the dominant
Western Renaissance ideology was quite different from the dominant late C20
Western ideology. I understand by 'subjectivity' the way that the dominant
ideology presents the world to me in digestible form by making available
categories like "homosexual". The idea of hegemony within competing ideologies
(specifically the terms dominant, emergent, and residual) I get from Raymond
Williams's _Marxism and Literature_. The term 'Culture' I DO have a problem
with and admit to a feeling that I don't really know what people mean when they
use it. I like Williams's "a tending of natural growth" (last couple of pages
of _Culture and Society_) but find that the whole of this book proves that the
term is now too debased to be useful.
 
Gabriel Egan

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(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Russell Mayes <
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Date:           Thursday, 6 Apr 1995 20:44:29 -0400
Subject: 6.0267  Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0267  Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
I hesitate to enter into this interesting, if acrimonious, discussion, but when
Bill Godshalk avers that an early modern person and a contemporary person would
react to the same external stimulus in the same way, I have to wonder what he
means.  He illustrates his point by referring to despotism, but that is hardly
a "stimulus" in a biological sense.  The sound of a car engine or the beating
of hoofs--those are stimuli.  I use these because it is clear that someone from
the sixteenth century could not react to an automobile the same way we do--that
much is almost too simple to mention.  But I don't think we would react to the
sound of hoofs in the same way either.  For most of us, this is a fairly
unusual sound that has all sorts of "cultural" connotations (whether it be
cowboys, the country or the dancing horses of Vienna), and those connotations
would be different for a person of the 16th C.  I would even go so far to say
that the sound of hoofs has a different connotation for contemporary people in
India than they do for us of the western industrialized world.  I would have to
agree with Godshalk regarding the implication of his closing question, "Do we
all share a subjectivity?"  No, we share a culture, though we all react to it
(dare I say it) subjectively.
 
My two cents in an interesting discussion,
 
W. Russell Mayes Jr.
Department of English
University of Virginia

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(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melissa Aaron <
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Date:           Friday, 7 Apr 1995 08:45:02 +0200
Subject: 6.0267 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0267 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
O, wot the hey, I'll get involved. . .
 
One of my old anthro profs used to say that when humans started to use culture
to fill in physical needs, several things happened (I am simplifying here)--
1) Human evolved physically very little
2) The more culture, the less evolution (diff ways of dealing w/ environment)
AND
3) cultural development, drift, etc has to be measured differently. Physically,
there have been some changes since the early Modern era (I won't bore you all
with third-molar aphasia) but cultural change seems to be different, faster,
predicated on local pressures and local needs.
 
Culturally yours,
Melissa Anthroparon
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Antoine Goulem <
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Date:           Friday, 07 Apr 1995 08:15:00 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0267 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0267 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
Bravo to John Drakakis. A question for Bill G.: granting that there are no
biological barriers to understanding people from the past, then how do you
account for our difficulty in achieving that understanding. In fact, how do you
explain the difficulty that we have of understanding one another. The point
that I granted above is it seems to me totally meaningless. How could
biological factors interefere with understanding? They might interefere with
hearing, seeing and so on. It seems to me that it's inportant to distinguish
between biology (and psychology, i.e.Skinner) as a discourse, and that aspect
of our experience to which biological discourse is directed.
 
Antoine Goulem   goua@alcor.concordia
 
(6)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 06 Apr 1995 22:24:14 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0267  Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0267  Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
John Drakakis demands an answer -- quick and in a word! Actually, I thought
that Drakakis (rather than Godshalk) was driven by an ism (i.e., Marxism,
Althusserism). And I genuinely resent the Freudian strategy of "damned if you
do or damned if you don't." You're sick whether you admit it or not; if you
don't admit it, you're sick. If you admit it, you're sick. No matter what, I'm
jerked around by ideology. If I admit to be jerked around, I'm jerked around by
ideology. If I don't admit to be jerked around by ideology, I'm jerked around
by ideology.
 
Well, no, Newt does not jerk ME around with his ideological statements, nor am
I jerked around by the deeper, unseen, unknown ideology -- the mystical
ideology of the Foucaultians. Individuals -- people, persons -- are free
agents. I do not HAVE to be a Marxist. You may not have a choice; I do.
 
In asking the question of subjectivity, I had no set answer I was looking for.
I think Tom Bishop's response was the kind of intelligent, informed, skeptical
discussion I was hoping to read. Pierre Bourdieu's approach is, for me,
congenial.
 
I find John Drakakis's inability to admit that homo sapiens is an animal, well,
astounding! Stephen Jay Gould makes the point over and over again that biology
is not reductive. It's quite adaptive -- within limits. We mammals will never
grow wheels.
 
My references to brain and gene are attempts to ground our discussion in
something material. It seems to me that unresearched assertions about sociology
and historical subjectivity are fantasy, fun to read, but not factual.
 
I could, of course, read Raymond Williams's definition of "culture," or ask one
of my anthropology colleagues to give me the latest definitions. But what I'm
interested in is how we Shakespeareans use the term. We use "culture"
recurrently. But what do we mean when we speak of "early modern culture"? Do we
all agree on what culture is?
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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