Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0755. Thursday, 5 October 1995.
Date: Thursday, 5 Oct 1995 09:32:03 -0700
Subject: Re: universal human experience (was Qs: Food Imagery)
In his posting on Sep 28, Roland Nipps makes the following request:
|I am presently working on my graduate thesis at the University of Rhode Island.
|The work involves studying Shakespeare's use of food imagery in the
|Bollingbroke tetralogy. I hope to show how a study of this imagery compliments
|existing scholarship on how man, as a microcosm, reflects the communal
|ordering of human experience. I would appreciate hearing from anyone with
|relevant materials. Thank you, Roland Nipps.
The question he raises in my mind is what exactly he means by "communal
ordering of human experience." What people generally mean by this is the
experience of (male) Western Europeans and Americans. Unlike some New
Historicists, though, I would not make the blanket generalization that *all*
human experience is culturally-based. Although I understand the sentiment,
since what American and British scholars in the past century or so have called
universal aspects of human experience (all humans want love, all humans need a
God or God-like figure to believe in) are decidedly Western characteristics, I
would still have to say that some universal characteristics of human nature do
exist. They just may not be the same aspects as those proposed by Western
critics. My reasoning is this: within the time frame we are talking
about--say, 5000 years or so-- biological evolution of the human species is
negligible, and, therefore, based on the fact that we are still the same animal
as we were 5000 years ago and that humans from different cultures can still
reproduce with each other (for the time period we generally look at) there must
be some aspects of human nature which are constant through that time. However,
to determine what those universal aspects are, we would have to study Asian,
African, and Latin American cultures, not merely an array of Western European
Any thoughts on the matter?
University of California at Berkeley
P.S. Thanks to everyone who helped out with my request a couple of months ago
regarding advice on PhD programs. The application process is continuing, and
I'm indebted to all the postings on the subject I received. Thanks again for
all your help.