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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: October ::
Re: Historical Fact
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0808. Wednesday, 18 October 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 17 Oct 1995 22:44:58 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0800   Re: Historical Fact
 
(2)     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 18 Oct 1995 09:33:54 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0800   Re: Historical Fact
 
(3)     From:   Ed Pechter <PECHTER@CONU2.BITNET>
        Date:   Wednesday, 18 Oct 1995 11:51:12 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0800   Re: Historical Fact
 
(4)     From:   Nick Ranson <R1NR@AKRONVM>
        Date:   Wednesday, 18 Oct 95 12:07:50 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0793  Re: Historical Fact
 
(5)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 18 Oct 1995 13:46:59 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0800   Re: Historical Fact
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Tuesday, 17 Oct 1995 22:44:58 +0100
Subject: 6.0800   Re: Historical Fact
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0800   Re: Historical Fact
 
I take issue with David Lindley:
 
>The empirical discovery [by Orrell] of the actual
>document materially and irrevocably changed the framework for interpretation.
 
I know this sounds pedantic but the discovery of the evidence changed nothing
other than the contents of the hands of the discoverer. It being even
recognised as material evidence was an interpretative step.
 
>Gabriel Egan is right, of
>course, that what was once treated as 'fact' may turn out to be mistaken - but
>this doesn't seem to me to render the notion of factuality totally untenable.
>Some things are, as he accepts, incontrovertible - and  some things are
>entirely a matter of opinion or interpretation.
 
I said no such thing. I thoroughly reject this view. BECAUSE what we call facts
keep being overturned we need to abandon the term. Nothing is incontrovertible.
 
Let's get this straight: there are no facts.
 
Gabriel Egan
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Wednesday, 18 Oct 1995 09:33:54 GMT
Subject: 6.0800   Re: Historical Fact
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0800   Re: Historical Fact
 
In reply to Terence Hawkes: James was Scottish, and at the moment of his
succession to Elizabeth he became James I;  I could, of course have said that
'James VI of Scotland became James I of England in 1603' - and perhaps should
have done - but I'd like, in all openness, to ask Prof. Hawkes this:  In his
entertaining essay on 'Coriolanus' in 'Meaning by Shakespeare' he makes witty
play with Victor Sylvester's membership of a first-world war firing squad.
Does he feel that it would make any difference to the persuasiveness of his
argument if it were to be conclusively demonstrated that the dance-band leader
had actually not been so involved?  If not, why not?
 
David Lindley
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Pechter <PECHTER@CONU2.BITNET>
Date:           Wednesday, 18 Oct 1995 11:51:12 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0800   Re: Historical Fact
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0800   Re: Historical Fact
 
The debate about historical facts reminds me of Peter Laslett in The World We
Have Lost.  "This is not true," he said, commenting about Juliet and Miranda's
early marriages.
 
I take it Robert Appelbaum's point is the same as Laslett's, though in reverse.
If Laslett was saying that you can't infer the social from the theatrical,
Appelbaum says you can't determine the theatrical by the social.  At least I
think he is. Is he?  Are you?
 
Anyway, I think it's a good point, but where does this leave us? Do we jettison
cultural studies and all those other cultural isms that are supposed to save us
from whatever we need to be saved from?
 
Do we go back to formalism?  If you say MV is a fairytale, that's another way
of saying it's a romantic comedy, no?  So then, all those life-is-real
materialist concepts like Early Capitalism, and all those idealist concepts
that animated the old discussion, like Mercy & Justice and the Old Law and New
Law--all these, both sides, are meaningful only within generic frames?
 
O Northrop Frye, where art thou at this hour?
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nick Ranson <R1NR@AKRONVM>
Date:           Wednesday, 18 Oct 95 12:07:50 EDT
Subject: 6.0793  Re: Historical Fact
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0793  Re: Historical Fact
 
On the question of 'fact' I have found Michael Stanford's The Nature of
Hostorical Knowledge (Blackwell 1986) quite useful, and its attempt to
distinguish between historical facts and our knowledge of them. He raises the
distinction between "history-as-events" (res gestae) = history(1) and
"history-as-story" (historia rerum gestae) = history (2), which goes back to
Hegel at least, I think.
 
The brief section in his book on "Facts" (71-74) may help clarify the status of
the term facts. It seems crucial to determine whether facts belong to the world
of things or the world of ideas, or partake of elements of both, and to what
degree.  I hope this doesn't sound like a little lecture . . . .
 
Could John Drakakis explain his last comment: "Even F. R. Leavis knew there is
a value implicit in the realizing." I see John is gesturing towards something,
but could he explain it for me? Cheers.
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Wednesday, 18 Oct 1995 13:46:59 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0800   Re: Historical Fact
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0800   Re: Historical Fact
 
In discussing historical "fact" and/or "data," we seem to be questioning the
nature of "truth."  How do we determine what's "truth"?  One answer is that
what we can all agree on is "true" (the intersubjective answer).  Perhaps we
all agree on the "fact" that the earth circles the sun.
 
But what happens to this "truth" when we consider a time when most people
believed that the sun circled the earth? Intersubjectively, it was then "true"
that the earth was stationary.
 
So there does seem to be -- appear to be -- a truth that transcends
intersubjective agreement.  The problem is, since we all apprehend reality
subjectively, how can we verify "objective," "real" truth.
 
Nevertheless, as David Lindley suggests, it's damn hard to eat your breakfast
if you can't bring yourself to believe that it exists! Is it possible to be
too, too skeptical? Maybe Queen Elizabeth I really did die in 1603.
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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