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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: November ::
Re: De-Canonization
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0672.  Monday, 6 November 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Joseph M Green <
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        Date:   Friday, 3 Nov 1995 15:48:38 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0864  Re: De-Canonization
 
(2)     From:   Joseph M Green <
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        Date:   Friday, 3 Nov 1995 15:48:38 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0864  Re: De-Canonization
 
(3)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Friday, 03 Nov 1995 23:11:41 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0864  Re: De-Canonization
 
(4)     From:   Andrea McRobbie <
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        Date:   Monday, 6 Nov 1995 10:08:26 +1100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0864  Re: De-Canonization
 
(5)     From:   Milla Riggio <
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        Date:   Saturday, 04 Nov 1995 10:59:24 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0864  Re: De-Canonization
 
(6)     From:   Tom Clayton <
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        Date:   Monday, 06 Nov 1995 12:58:22 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0864.6 De-Canonization
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph M Green <
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Date:           Friday, 3 Nov 1995 15:48:38 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 6.0864  Re: De-Canonization
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0864  Re: De-Canonization
 
Terence Hawkes finds me calling Brian Vickers from the vasty deep and assumes
that I am calling him to denounce the cultural materialist claim that
Shakespeare can be used for political ends.  Of course, I did no such thing.
Of course, Shakespeare can and has been used for political ends -- as Terence
Hawkes does, as the Bonnie Prince does, as has always been done.  I mentioned
the dreaded Vickers to acknowledge my debt to him for the phrase "Show me their
graves" which Vickers uses as he imagines confronting I forget what type of
ideologue making the claim that, ere the clouds parted and Terry Eagleton or
his ilk at last enlightened us all, Shakespeare criticism was wholly given over
to fellows determined to be as simple-minded and chauvinistic as possible -- a
useful myth for fellows who again and again bring Tillyard and Leavis to the
smoking altar to make way for youth.  In fact, when Vickers was invoked, I
wasn't even talking about this but was answering the absurd claim that "we"
were and are somehow convinced that only Shakespeare is big enough to be
worried in an ample way about "eternal" questions.  I merely pointed out that
no-one I knew or have read makes this claim for Shakespeare -- casting Dante,
Homer etc etc into the pit... All of this was part of an effort to show that no
matter how nuanced and how informed a response made here is it will be reduced
to a caricature if the reducers sense that it is somehow questioning this or
that orthodoxy.  Stating that reading Shakespeare in a certain way, questioning
Shakespeare, being questioned back could make for persons who are "better and
braver and more like human beings" at once triggers the assumption that what is
really intended is some sort of right-wing, or essentialist, or elitist
brainwashing. I mention Brian Vickers.  At once Terence Hawkes is on the line
wagging a cultural materialist finger at me satirically implicating me with all
those fellows (where are they?) who claim Shakespeare cannot be used for
political ends.  Robert Appelbaum, seeing the word "better" wags his fingers
and reminds us that there are probably better fellows than any of us singing
the Folsom Prison Blues. This might be relevant if anyone had claimed that
reading Shakespeare in that certain way was a necessary or even sufficient
condition for becoming "better, braver etc." but, since no-one has done this,
the reminder is completely irrelevant -- no matter how pious. It hardly
enforces the view that the argument anent "better" is ridiculous -- it has
nothing to say to the argument.  There are, I would guess, lots of ways to
become "better etc" -- sitting under the Bodhi tree, meekly listening to
someone else, riding one's bicycle to work, bathing regularly, taking a course
in logic...who knows...but the fact that this is true has no bearing on the
point made.
 
And, in fact, "becoming better" ( I need to state this again) is absolutely the
justification used by the many many advocates of the New, of de-mystification
and so on.  Terence Hawke's criticism, for example, is a moral criticism: we
will be de-mystified when we learn that "Shakespeare" is merely a site of
contending ideologies. We will want to speak strongly to Prince Charles.  It is
an eminently Victorian criticism carried out by an eminent Shakespearean (I
wish he had chosen that title) and its object is to produce better persons and
it does so by using Shakespeare, his revenant. The objection is to what it is
suspected that "better" might imply: it is always taken to imply the worst.
 
Of course, since "literature" and the "literary" are assumed to be
mystifications created by wily ideologues, it is impossible that an attempt to
avoid all this by invoking these terms would not be rejected out of hand.  But
this is what is happening and many a wight sick unto death of the Clash of the
Titans in a Parklike Setting is discovering poetry, the drama etc. once again
and yearning for a way out of, for example, the myth of the myth of
Shakespeare, the simplicities of current theories (one longs for the days when
they were complex), and the requirement that the beauty, complexity,
strangeness, and essential inexhaustibility of the literary be reduced to
slogans.
 
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Simon Morgan-Russell <
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Date:           Friday, 3 Nov 1995 23:02:05 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0864 Re: De-CanonizationFrom:                 Joseph M Green
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0864 Re: De-CanonizationFrom:                 Joseph M Green
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Date:           Friday, 3 Nov 1995 15:48:38 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 6.0864  Re: De-Canonization
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0864  Re: De-Canonization
 
At the risk of sounding like a Restoration gossip . . . In response to Terence
Hawkes's exclamation about the current Royal family promoting the Bard, I heard
an interesting story recently about Sir Robert Stevens performance as Falstaff
at the National(?), which, apparently, our very own dear Prince of Wales saw.
He approached Sir Robert after the performance to congratulate him and to
express the wish that he had been mentored as a budding Prince as Hal had been
mentored by Falstaff (!!).  It was also suggested that Sir Robert and Charles
perform some scenes together as Falstaff and Hal, though whether this would be
a public spectacle or simply "up at the Palace" I don't know. (My source for
this information is a relative of Sir Robert).  All this could be apocryphal,
but I guess I'd *like* to believe it.  How clever and far-sighted of our
monarch-would-be to draw attention to the performance inherent in the
continuation of the monarchy . . . Simon.
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Friday, 03 Nov 1995 23:11:41 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0864  Re: De-Canonization
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0864  Re: De-Canonization
 
I'm sure that Terry Hawkes finds it annoying to be a subject of a monarch, and
that he would much rather be a citizen of a democratic republic.  In a
democratic republic, political leaders must never admit to reading and/or
enjoying Shakespeare's plays on pain of losing their political positions. In
fact, leaders like Jesse Helms and his peers go even further and decry anything
that smacks of "art" -- including intelligent conversation.  In the U.S., Terry
would be able to see the true subversive nature of Shakespeare's words. A mere
passing allusion to the Bard can be the end of a powerful politician.
 
Beward the Bard that bites!
 
Yours, Bill the Wise
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrea McRobbie <
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Date:           Monday, 6 Nov 1995 10:08:26 +1100
Subject: 6.0864  Re: De-Canonization
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0864  Re: De-Canonization
 
Hello all,
 
Terence Hawkes responds to Joseph Green's detailed arguments and queries with
jocularity, the last joke of which which I assume relates to Prince Charles'
recent comments on the teaching of Shakespeare in British schools. Given the
propensity of the heir to the throne to say what he thinks on any number of
issues without seeming to take much account of political sensitivity and his
oft-expressed interest in the theatrical, I wonder, being a naive colonial
lass, if Terence Hawkes has any actual evidence that the Prince's views
represent more a cynical, politically motivated manipulation of public opinion
than the simple beliefs of a fellow who just happens to be a Prince.
 
Andrea McRobbie
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Milla Riggio <
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Date:           Saturday, 04 Nov 1995 10:59:24 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0864  Re: De-Canonization
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0864  Re: De-Canonization
 
Dear Stephanie Hughes:
 
Can you tell us more about the "Juliet letters"?  Where do people write to
Juliet, and who knows about it?  How could one get information on this odd Ms.
Lonelyhearts phenomenon?
 
Thanks.
Milla Riggio
 
(6)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Clayton <
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Date:           Monday, 06 Nov 1995 12:58:22 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 6.0864.6 De-Canonization
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0864.6 De-Canonization
 
Terence Hawkes's perfunctory dismissal of Joseph M Green's detailed and
thoughtful comments was gratuitous, but it refutes nothing in condemning Green
by association with Hawkes's canonical demons Brian Vickers and the Royal
Family; or by stating the obvious, that Shakespeare "might be used for
political [or other extraneous] ends." There needs no cultural materialist come
from the grave to tell us this; Aristotle says as much in the Rhetoric, as if
even that reminder were necessary.
 
Shakespeare's works speak well for themselves and about a lot of us, if allowed
an unencumbered hearing. All that is needed is more Shakespeare--than is
typically allowed even by quotation in programmatic detractions--and an
audience intelligent and/or educated well enough to understand the language and
free enough of ideologically hostile indoctrination to take it as it comes,
whether on page or stage, preferably both, in that order.
 
A good reason for Shakespeare to be required is that in our culture many would
*not* come to his works as a matter of course, sometimes on account of sheer
unfamiliarity or a name poisoned as "high culture"; and might well be categori-
cally deterred by the often persuasive rhetoric or downright power of his
detractors. The various benefits of reading, hearing and seeing, and studying
his works are worth cur- ricular support. If they are not, what is?
 
   Cheers,
   Tom
 

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