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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: April ::
Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0282.  Monday, 10 April 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Melissa Aaron <
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        Date:   Sunday, 9 Apr 1995 17:52:00 +0200
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0277 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
(2)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Sunday, 09 Apr 1995 20:52:38 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0277  Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
(3)     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Monday, 10 Apr 1995 09:47:43 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0277 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
(4)     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Monday, 10 Apr 1995 10:59:28 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0272 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melissa Aaron <
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Date:           Sunday, 9 Apr 1995 17:52:00 +0200
Subject: 6.0277 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0277 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
In response to a request for an anthropological definition of "culture" here we
go, from Feder & Parks *Human Antiquity*-- "Anthropology assumes that all
facets of the organism's [human's] anatomy, physiology, behavior, environment
and evolution are interrelated and can only be fully understood in terms of
those interrelationships. . . In its most gneral definition culture is the sum
total of those things people have invented or developed and passed down.  It
includes how people survive; their religion, art, and technology; their social
relations and political organization."
 
Caveat--there has been a movement in anthropology, a philosophical shift, from
"all cultures have a lot in common and are basically the same" to "all cultures
are radically different."  And the question quickly arises, how much emphasis
does one wish to place on the biological raw material, given that humans are
domesticated animals and have domesticated (and been domesticated by) other
animals such as the chicken, the dog and the pig? Well,I have to go feed my
cats now.  Hope this is useful.
 
Melissa Aaron
University of Wisconsin-Madison
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Sunday, 09 Apr 1995 20:52:38 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0277  Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0277  Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
I figure my insistence on my complete autonomy is as non-rational as John
Drakakis's apparent insistence on his being overdetermined. I can no more prove
that I am a free agent than he can prove that he is controlled by Althusser's
ISAs.
 
Our environment is, of course, not completely of our making, and I cannot
shatter this world "to bits -- and then / Re-mould it nearer to the Heart's
desire!" But surely I have choices -- though limited -- inside this given
environment. Surely you'll grant this old naive materialist that much. Surely I
do not have to believe what you believe, nor, God save the mark!, do you have
to believe what I believe!
 
Subjectivity is "identity within a symbolic order," according to Drakakis. As a
naive materialist, I am a bit puzzled by the phrase "symbolic order." Could I
ask for a definition and an example, please? As an individual who has the
mentality of a KKK member and who believes that "language is transparently
referential" (according to John  Drakakis), I'll need all the help I can get in
understanding this reification.
 
Also, John Drakakis tells us that the "material of 'culture' is, surely
REPRESENTATIONS." Does "REPRESENTATIONS" mean something like "artefacts"? I
gather that "representations" is cult-historicist jargon, and as such has a
tendency to drift. And since this word is not "transparently referential," and
since no language is transparently referential, perhaps a definition is again
in order -- if we can trust words to define anything.
 
John Drakakis claims that "it is within . . . [a symbolic order] that an
imaginary unity is conferred upon identity. In the modern world even that has
become more complex." Although I'm not sure what "that" (untransparently)
refers to, isn't it the sign of the true naif to believe that his "world" is
"more complex" than, say, Shakespeare's world?
 
By the way, all of us with healthy brains are born with a unified identity. If
we had no unified identity, we would be incapable of learning which is not a
passive pursuit, but an active engagement with our environment. How could a
schizoid identity create a unified map of her world?
 
"It is only when a DIFFRERENCE [Derridian spelling?] perceives itself as a form
of subordination that the possibility of antagonism, and hence, a politics,
arises. This moves us some way towards dealing with the problem of agency and
those factors which overdetermine action." So saith Drakakis. I don't see how a
disembodied "DIFFRERENCE" can "perceive itself." And I don't see how these
statements can lead to a satisfactory account of agency and overdetermination.
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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 -01>
Date:           Monday, 10 Apr 1995 09:47:43 GMT
Subject: 6.0277 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0277 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
The increasingly acrimonious debate on the topic of 'Early Modern Subjectivity'
provides a fascinating case-study in the culture of  the contemporary academic
community. I find it remarkable that amongst the proliferating citations of
'authorities'  (a phenomenon itself comparable, one might suggest, to the
manner of theological debate in post-Reformation England) hardly anyone has
bothered to adduce evidence from Early Modern texts themselves.  Yet, surely,
if one wants to build up a properly complex picture of the ways in which people
understood themselves, explained themselves and their actions to themselves and
to others, and of the location of  their sense of identity within the larger
parameters of their culture (and this, I take it,  is what we are about), it
might be relevant, for example, to think what is implied when Richard III
asserts desperately 'Richard loves Richard; that is I am I'  (RIII, V.v.137),
or to consider what is signified by Montaigne's assertion in the preface to the
Essays that 'I myself am the subject of my book'.  I'm not for a minute
suggesting that we can simply short-circuit the real problems that derive both
from the situation of the modern reader, and from the contemplation of the
possibility that one can 'know' a culture with the benefit of historical
distance more fully than that culture can ever know itself - but it does seem
to me a necessary scholarly precondition for sensible debate.
 
For what it's worth, I think that at the heart of the problem, then and now
(and at all points in between) is the negotiation between determinism and
individual agency; whether in the theological debates of the Early Modern
period, the political anxieties of the modern, or current fears about the
degree to which we are genetically progammed. How that negotiation is figured
is, of course, culturally determined, but the possibility of our responding to
its figuration in different periods rests upon our fundamental emotional
identity with the problem itself.
 
Perhaps Donne's 'Satire 3' offers useful advice to the combatants in this
particular debate - his question: 'must every he / Which cries not "Goddess!"
to thy mistress, draw, / Or eat thy poisonous words?' might give mannerly
pause, and his observation: 'To adore, or scorn an image, or protest, / May all
be bad; doubt wisely; in strange way / To stand inquiring right, is not to
stray' could serve as a cautionary motto? For as this debate has continued it
has become increasingly apparent that it isn't really 'about'  Early Modern
Subjectivity, but about the power-plays and anxieties of the contemporary
academic world - and I'm not sure I want to genuflect before Althusser,
Williams, Foucault or any other, useful and stimulating though I find some of
their ideas.  Isn't it central to our discipline that we permit the texts of
the past to speak back to, and to challenge our own certainties?
 
Sorry to go on at such length - but I'm getting a bit weary of
academic battles whose sub-text is 'whose side are you on?'.
 
David Lindley
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Monday, 10 Apr 1995 10:59:28 GMT
Subject: 6.0272 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0272 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
Is it just possible that Bill Godshalk is being jerked around a tiny bit by the
neologism 'early modern'? It's a fine example of ideology in action.
 
T. Hawkes
 

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