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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: October ::
Re: Historical Fact
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0793.  Monday, 16 October 1995.
 
(1)     From:   John Drakakis <
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        Date:   Sunday, 15 Oct 1995 20:08:47 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 6.0788 Historical Fact
 
(2)     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Sunday, 15 Oct 1995 21:07:21 +0100
        Subj:   Re: Historical Fact
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Drakakis <
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Date:           Sunday, 15 Oct 1995 20:08:47 +0100
Subject: Historical Fact
Comment:        SHK 6.0788 Historical Fact
 
If David Lindley thinks that "history" is constructed (by whom, under what
conditions, and for what purposes?), and "relies upon traces that are always
mediated through text", how can he persist in his thoroughly empiricist belief
in the integrity of "fact"?  Moreover, how can he then proceed to assert that
Macbeth, Lear or Measure For Measure have as "a significant constituent of
their preoccupations" the "fact" of Elizabeth's death in 1603 and her
succession by James I, without himself constructing a narrative?
 
The movement here from "fact" to "crypto-fact" to use Lindley's own tendentious
expression, seems palpable.
 
Perhaps instead of lecturing others he might like to ponder a little more
seriously than his inadequate digestion of fashionable positions seems to have
permitted, the philosophical horns of his own dilemma. That might require a
little less self-righteousness, and a greater willingness to examine his own
clearly faulty assumptions, particularly those which depend upon his reluctance
to acknowledge the interconnections between "fact" and interpretation. Even
F.R.Leavis knew that there is a value implicit in the realizing.
 
Best wishes
John Drakakis
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Sunday, 15 Oct 1995 21:07:21 +0100
Subject:        Re: Historical Fact
 
David Lindley offers two 'facts':
 
>1) Elizabeth died in 1603 and was succeeded by a Scottish monarch, James I.
 
I've never encountered a serious argument to the contrary. It is generally
accepted without gainsay.
 
>2. For a long time it was assumed that Jonson's masque, Golden Age Restored,
>was performed in 1615. 'Factual' evidence - the ambassadorial reports
>discovered by John Orrell - demonstrates incontrovertibly that this is wrong,
>and that the masque was performed in 1616.
 
This issue clearly is one about which conflict has arisen. Orrell put forward
some documents in an effort to change what gets said about the subject.
 
Lindley has chosen a good pair of examples of why the notion 'fact' is not very
useful to describe such disparate cases. In the latter example I guess (I have
no knowledge of the particular case) that before Orrell's work the earlier view
was presented as 'fact'. If not, there are plenty of other examples: the
flatness of the world is a good one.
 
The phenomena do not divide themselves up into two categories, 'fact' and
'opinion'. Rather we do the dividing when we find an example of the latter so
compelling and apparently incontrovertible that we promote it to the former
category. Lindley's notion of 'fact' requires that these unchangeable,
unchallangeable statements must be available for periodic alteration. The
category 'fact' undoes itself.
 
Gabriel Egan
 

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