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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: October ::
What is this list for, exactly?
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0789.  Sunday, 15 October 1995.
 
From:           J.H. Sawday <
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Date:           Friday, 13 Oct 1995 17:42:19 +0100 (BST)
Subject:        What is this list for, exactly?
 
I'm at a loss to understand what this list is for, or what it thinks it is
doing. I joined (as I recall) because I had a professional interest in
Shakespeare studies and Renaissance culture. I'm a Shakespeare editor, and I
try to write and think about Early Modern European culture. I teach (and have
taught) the plays, texts, images, philosophy, politics, and science of that era
to undergraduates and postgraduates here in the UK, and in Ireland, and in the
US. Working at a British provincial University, E-mail and discussion lists
seemed like a gift to an academic such as myself: a way of keeping oneself
informed, of trying out ideas, of chancing one's arm (perhaps) in ways that
formal publication doesn't allow. To make such a forum work, however, a degree
of self-restraint (judgement?) seems a prerequisite.
 
But one of the first tasks I now get out of the way when I come into my office,
having switched on the computer and lit up the first fag of the day, is to scan
through all the messages from `Hardy M. Cook' with my finger hovering over the
`D' key on the keyboard. What am I deleting? More often than not: personal
responses to a group of late 16th and 17th cent. plays which pretend to
universal significance, an absurd devotion to having one's name spelt
correctly, a line of reasoning which will allow one respondent to accuse
another of neo-fascism, which prompts the co-respondent to artlessly sneer at
his accuser for preferring the German to the Polish spelling of a concentration
camp, a desire to claim for oneself the status of `victim of history' by
appropriating the histories of others (whether `related' or `unrelated'), the
right to pronounce on other cultures whilst freely acknowledging that this
other culture is a closed book due to (an absence of) linguistic competence,
and, of course, day after day, like Macbeth's line of kings, a
`message-from-Godshalk'.
 
I feel sorry for Mr Cook. We have never met, but I have come to associate his
name (when it flashes up on my computer) with more messages from the egoists of
the ether. So may I now pose the question: What, exactly, does this list think
it is for? My guess would be that it no longer has an intellectual rationale,
and that it should disband itself forthwith. But perhaps I am wrong?
 
Jonathan Sawday
Department of English,
University of Southampton,
Southampton S017 1BJ
UK
 

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