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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: October ::
Re: Shakespeare, Literature, and Importance
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0801.  Tuesday, 17 October 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Monday, 16 Oct 1995 12:56:32 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0795  Shakespeare and "Literature"
 
(2)     From:   An Sonjae <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 17 Oct 1995 09:49:08 +0900 (KST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0795 Shakespeare and "Literature"
 
(3)     From:   David Skeele <DBS@SRU.bitnet>
        Date:   Monday, 16 Oct 95 13:06:54 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0787  Re: Importance of Shakespeare and Related Issues
 
(4)     From:   Michael Harrawood <
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        Date:   Monday, 16 Oct 1995 15:09:49 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0787 Re: Importance of Shakespeare and Related Issues
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Monday, 16 Oct 1995 12:56:32 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0795  Shakespeare and "Literature"
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0795  Shakespeare and "Literature"
 
Ed Gieskes,
 
Thanks for the post regarding what is literature and what isn't. I still don't
understand, however, why we should interpret what Shakespeare wrote, or Donne,
or Moliere, or Dante, or Jane Austen, with sixteenth century terminology. What
are we to call the great written works that have been penned since the
classical period? Why not literature? To know how the term was used in
Shakespeare's day is interesting, but it seems more important to find an agreed
upon term for here and now. Can anyone think of a better one?
 
Stephanie Hughes
 
It is of interest of course to know what Shakespeare himself thought he was
writing, but what do we think he wrote? I think he wrote great literature. I
can't think of any other way to say it.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           An Sonjae <
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Date:           Tuesday, 17 Oct 1995 09:49:08 +0900 (KST)
Subject: 6.0795 Shakespeare and "Literature"
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0795 Shakespeare and "Literature"
 
For some helpful ideas on the early use (Shakespeare - Restoration) of the term
Literature, see Gerald MacLean's opening essay in -Culture and Society in the
Stuart Restoration- Cambridge UP 1995 ISBN 0-521-47566-X which points out that
Shakespeare only once uses any form of the word literature, in -Henry V-
(4.7.153-54) where Fluellen ways "Gower is a good captain, and is good
knowledge, and literatured in the wars" and develops the connection bewteen
being "literatured" and being part of a society's culture, following Raymond
Williams.
 
Anthony, An Sonjae, Sogang University, Seoul, Korea

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(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           <DBS@SRU.bitnet>
Date:           Monday, 16 Oct 95 13:06:54 EDT
Subject: 6.0787  Re: Importance of Shakespeare and Related Issues
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0787  Re: Importance of Shakespeare and Related Issues
 
I am not sure if my referring to Gary Taylor's "Reinventing Shakespeare" as
"the bible" was one of the things that set Joseph Green off on his anti-Taylor
crusade.  The last chapter of Taylor's book--"Singularity"--has angered a lot
of people (occasionally myself included), who find many of his assertions
questionable.  However, in Taylor's defense, I should remind Dr. Green and
others that Taylor would be the last person to set himself up as some kind of
unchallengable authority or (God forbid) unbiased, nonideological interpreter
of history.  In that same chapter, he cheerfully invites readers to examine
"evidence which I have suppressed or ignored in writing this narrative" (I
don't have my copy with me, but it's something like that).
 
My glowing recommendation of his book was in direct response to a query
regarding good texts on Shakespeare and the early Modern period, and I maintain
that his chapter on this period (entitled "Goodbye to All That") is one of the
finest analyses of early Modern Shakespeare criticism that one could find.  It
is lively, insightful, humorous, infuriating and thought-provoking.  Rather
like the Bible.
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Harrawood <
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Date:           Monday, 16 Oct 1995 15:09:49 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 6.0787 Re: Importance of Shakespeare and Related Issues
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0787 Re: Importance of Shakespeare and Related Issues
 
Joseph M. Green writes about "the cultural relativity of Ascham's xenophobia,"
and then chastizes those (I think he means me) who would "demonize England" by
accusing English xenophobia of being different from everybody else's;
Stephanie Hughes writes about Carlyle's and English's "hypocrisy" and then
warns against throwing the baby out with the bath water when making moral or
cultural judgments.  None of this is what my post was about, and so, with
apologies in advance to Mr. Sawday, I thought I'd take another run at it.
 
First, Ascham was not being xenophobic in his plug for Hoby's _Courtier_ (that
one year's serious study was of more value to an English student than three
years in Italy).  I don't think I was suggesting he was. Ascham was an
Italophile, and was deeply committed to Italianizing English culture (though
not the language).  Also, Italy was not Babylon but home to much of England's
Protestant aristocracy during the Marian exile.  Hoby lived there for eight
years, and Ascham's teacher, John Cheke, was lecturer in classics at Padua for
several years.  There is a great deal of complexity to be teased out of English
attitudes toward the Continent at this time, as there is also out of Ascham's
comment.
 
Similarly, instead of imagining Carlyle's hypocrisy, I think it much more
intriguing (and more difficult!) to imagine a learned and reflective (even if
somewhat hysterically polemical) man writing something that made absolute sense
to him at the time.  The hypocrisy -- if that's what it is -- comes from our
perspective, not his.
 
If we can come to think about how Ascham and Carlyle (and many others) were
able to think the way they did about English, then we'll have a purchase on the
history of our own thinking about it, and why the discussion here has taken its
present shape -- including the flames, the mobilization of the usual pieties on
both sides, and so forth.  The real question seems to me not to be how English
self-perception (or xenophobia if you want the talk to stay at a certain level
of fervor) is just like everybody else's, but how, instead it is particular and
unique.  Maybe the writers of histories of other modern languages have chosen
titles like the one R. F. Jones chose for his history of English: The Triumph
of Pharsee, The Triumph of Finnish.  But if not, maybe we ought to ask
ourselves why the notion of "triumph" gets applied to English, and what that
means to our present discussion.
 
Michael Harrawood
 

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