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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: April ::
Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0284.  Tuesday, 11 April 1995.
 
(1)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Monday, 10 Apr 1995 12:52:54 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0282  Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
(2)     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Monday, 10 Apr 1995 21:38:30 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0277  Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
(3)     From:   Imtiaz Habib <
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        Date:   Monday, 10 Apr 1995 21:29:02 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0282 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
(4)     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Monday, 10 Apr 1995 22:35:10 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0282 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
(5)     From:   Bob Gingher <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 11 Apr 1995 04:51:39 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0282 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Monday, 10 Apr 1995 12:52:54 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0282  Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0282  Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
I think we should thank Melissa Aaron for giving us a definition of culture,
and David Lindley for getting us back on track. Calling each other mildly
opprobrious names isn't very fruitful.
 
But perhaps we can salvage something from our debates, and take a close look at
RICHARD II which seems to utilize (or perhaps "use") the tensions between
internal identity and social identity. Although John Drakakis has not had time
to define "symbolic order," the concept of symbolic order does seem to have a
prominent place in R2. Richard seems to believe that he has an assured place in
an assumed social order. "Not all the water in the rough rude sea / Can wash
the balm off from an anointed king" (Riverside III.ii.54-55).
 
But the action of the play seems to deny that assurance: "With mine own tears I
wash away the balm" (IV.i.207). And the looking glass episode (IV.i.275ff)
seems to draw attention to an inner identity: "my grief lies all within" (295),
which has nothing to do with social identity.
 
Richard's final assertion of his former social identity: "Exton, thy fierce
hand / Hath with the King's blood stain'd the King's own land" (V.v.109-10), is
denied by the political realities of the play.
 
Does the play as a whole indicate that "symbolic order" crumbles when
confronted by a political strongman like Bolingbroke?
 
The play also uses another identity question: who killed Gloucester? Several
characters are identified as the murderer -- including Richard. But somehow the
identification of the murderer reflects on the identification of the king. Is
the murderer always the king?
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Monday, 10 Apr 1995 21:38:30 +0100
Subject: 6.0277  Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0277  Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
Bill Godshalk quietly announced a breakthrough in neurology which ends our
discussion once and for all:
 
> The brain responds to external stimuli by means of a complex system of
> feedback loops.
 
I shall throw away my Freud, Klein, et al and pick up some books on plumbing.
 
> ...a contemporary baby and an early modern baby experiencing horses' hooves
> for the first time in their lives would deal with the sound in the same way,
> i.e., using the same brain mechanisms: hypothesis, experiment, feedback;
> revision of first hypothesis, experiment, feedback, and so on. "Culture"
> (whatever that word means)  has nothing to do with how the human brain works.
 
Whenever someone refers to what babies do I can be sure they are on the run.
The premise is that by reference to what babies do we can remove the effect
of environment and study what 'Man' really is. By this means we can discover
that 'Man' really is: a starved-to-death baby.
 
The infant brain works only if the infant stomach is filled, and that
requires that somebody other than the baby gets it together to supply food.
And that requires organization of some kind. And that requires 'culture'. "A
tending of natural growth" I think Raymond Williams said. Very apt.
 
Gabriel Egan

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(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Imtiaz Habib <
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Date:           Monday, 10 Apr 1995 21:29:02 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 6.0282 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0282 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
Does Bill Godshalk wish to suggest that there is no such thing as subjectivity
or that it is not anything that could be considered historically significant?
It's interesting to speculate why he or Pat Buckridge would like to argue such
a position--to preserve the status quo of a particular Eurocentric world view
and all the privileges that such a world view affords to certain groups and
their particular ideological constructions? The apparent plea for a serene
universalist sameness across history that Bill Godshalk has been articulating
(over the last several years (!) on SHAKSPER), is a transparent attempt to
preserve the power relations of a dominant ideology.
 
If subjectivism is the site of the individual's resistence to the writing of
his/her dominant history, it is understandable why Bill Godshalk is unhappy
with such a hermeneutic modality. For him to insist that people (early modern
or non-European, i.e. in different times or in different places) feel the same
way about the same phenomena is to FIX people in one one way. Feelings are
life, subjectivity is the terrain of history, it is what allows history to be
contestable, i.e. to be open to everbody. We don't live in our bodies, we live
in our feelings about our bodies. We understand the world through our feelings,
and as we understand the world so we do well in it. Those who privilege
difference and subjectivity in effect privilege freedom. I will insist on my
right to feel/describe/ memorialize/inscribe hunger subjectively and
differently from my community or my world.
                                                        Imtiaz Habib
                                                        English Department
                                                        UNLV, Las Vegas.
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Monday, 10 Apr 1995 22:35:10 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 6.0282 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0282 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
I'm with David Lindley on this one.  The whole debate is moving increasingly
into the abstract.  I can't help but find the movement to theory in the modern
university rather regrettable, since it means that we (English) have no real
advantage over philosophy anymore.  Anyone who would enjoy a modern English
department would enjoy a modern philosophy department even more.
 
Furthermore, the whole debate seems to be taking on the ugly shape of the
religious disputes to which David alludes.  Two discourses refuse to
communicate, or even honour each other with the assumption of
comprehendibility.  The differences between the disputants seem to be
essentially matters of faith:  just as Augustine explains all loves in terms of
the gravity of logos, Drakakis wants to explain all urges in terms of
culturally conditioned ideology, Godshalk wants to explain decisions in terms
of free agents, Marx in terms of economics, Freud in terms of sex, and Plato in
terms of the eternal yearning for the Good.
 
These are not issues we are likely to settle soon in the realm of literary
criticism, or perhaps ever on the face of the earth.  I'm going back to reading
Shakespeare.
 
Cheerio,
Sean.
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bob Gingher <
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Date:           Tuesday, 11 Apr 1995 04:51:39 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0282 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0282 Re: Early Modern Subjectivity
 
What David Lindley calls "our fundamental emotional identity with the problem
itself" (or lack thereof) interests me most in this debate. Isn't--this side of
Conrad's grandiloquent, hollow Kurz or Swift's unmoored Laputans--the issue of
fellow feeling (author's, reader's, AND commentator's) crucial to this
discussion? Is shared inquiry into "early modern subjectivity" possible via
smoke-and-mirrors rhetoric or the changing "wisdoms" of fashionable criticism?
(Nope.)
 

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