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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: October ::
Re: Historical Fact
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0816.  Thursday, 19 October 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Robert Appelbaum <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 18 Oct 1995 14:25:34 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0808 Re: Historical Fact
 
(2)     From:   John Drakakis <
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        Date:   Thursday, 19 Oct 1995 10:59:29 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 6.0808 Re: Historical Fact
 
(3)     From:   Ben Schneider <
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        Date:   Thursday, 19 Oct 1995 11:52:46 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0808  Re: Historical Fact
 
(4)     From:   Michael E. Cohen <
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        Date:   Thursday, 19 Oct 1995 08:15:22 -0800
        Subj:   Re: Historical Fact
 
(5)     From:   Keith Ghormley <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 18 Oct 1995 21:08:19 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 6.0808  Re: Historical Fact
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert Appelbaum <
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Date:           Wednesday, 18 Oct 1995 14:25:34 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 6.0808 Re: Historical Fact
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0808 Re: Historical Fact
 
Ed Pechter asks whether, if it is true that the social does not "determine" the
theatrical, we are not left with formalism, and Northrop Frye.  I certainly
hope not, and I know of at least two ways of getting beyond the impasse.  The
first is the concept of "structural determinism" -- Althusser and Jameson.  By
this definition instead of the social (or the material) being the cause, and
the theatrical being the effect, the two spheres operate simultaneously within
(sorry, Bruce Young) a larger totality, and each in effect "determines" the
other.  The second is Greenblatt's concept of negotiation.  We can find the
social and the theatrical negotiating with one another.  In this case what we
most want to do (and this is what I find most good culturalist criticism doing)
is assess the exchanges being made from one sphere to another, and especially
the cultural-political-economic interstices where the exchanges are being made.
 The merit of the Althusserian approach, I think, is that it forces us to try
to come up with a picture of the whole.  The merit of Greenblatt's approach
(though its apparent lack of a "picture of the whole" has raised a lot hackles)
is that it is non-reductive.
 
By saying the *MV* is a fairy tale I was alluding to such ideas as that form,
after all, matters, that unconscious intentions (and the Unconscious itself)
after all matter, that none of our *grandes histoires* are yet capable of
explaining (or explaining away) theatrical experience, that after all our
rigorous historicizing and psychologizing moves there always seems nevertheless
to be a remainder, a surplus of energies, and that it is dogmatic, whatever
one's ideological affiliation, to pretend that there isn't.  By saying that
*MV* is a fairy tale I am also, however, saying the opposite of what Ed Pechter
fears I am saying, i.e. that *MV* is harmless.  Fairy tales can be dangerous
things; certainly they are usually efforts to contain rather dangerous things.
 
While I think it is wrong to suggest that *MV* is in part a response to a
"rising tide" of Puritanism (taking my thesis, alas, from what I am taking to
be a "historical fact," i.e. that there is no evidence that something like
"Puritanism" was "rising" during the 1590s) I do accept the obvious idea that
*MV* has a number of anxieties built into it, and that one of those anxieties
has to do with the possibility of something like Puritanism.
 
Old historicism in its positivist forms wanted Shakespeare's plays to "express"
underlying historical realities.  Both dialectical materialism and new
historicism, however, provide ways of seeing that plays *as* historical
realities, operating in complex ways in relation to other historical realities.
Unfortunately, as soon as you move away from the fact/expression or
sub-structure/super-structure ontology you lose your ontological grip on "the
real," on the incontrovertible "fact" or "historical condition," out of which
the play has sprung.  But it is the work of critics, I think, to work (read,
interpret, assess) the sphere of indeterminacy that results from
de-ontologization, the interstices of cultural production where everything is
in fact (!) a "construction."
 
Puritanism aside, one of the things that *MV* seems to tell us is that although
there were no Jews in England to speak of in the 1590s (there's our "fact"),
nevertheless there were "Jews."  Another is that although there was little in
the way of a merchant marine in England yet, nevertheless there was an
"Argosy."  These are the things of fairy tales ... Laslett would't have
anything to do with things like these, but Laslett was a positivist.
 
Robert Appelbaum
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Drakakis <
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Date:           Thursday, 19 Oct 1995 10:59:29 +0100
Subject: Re: Historical Fact
Comment:        SHK 6.0808 Re: Historical Fact
 
Nick Ranson asks about my (I think accurate) quotation from F.R.Leavis. I think
it is an interesting response to the assertion that there are such things as
neutral facts which merely lie there to be discovered.  The act of discovery
itself is imbued with value judgements, and this is something that even a
stridently anti-theoretical critic such as F.R.Leavis was prepared to concede.
I don't have the full context of the quotation to hand, but if my memory serves
me correctly Leavis was talking about the impact of poetic imagery. My concern
is not to collapse "history" into just another narrative, a la Hayden White,
but to try to recognize that there is no "fact" without value, and that this is
crucial in the study of any form of representation. To this extent I'm
sympathetic to Gabriel Egan's position.
 
This, of course, has nothing whatsoever to do with eating your breakfast. That
is, if I may coin a phrase, a red herring. It has to do with how we construct
knowledges, and reconstruct the past, and under what conditions
 
Cheers,
John Drakakis
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ben Schneider <
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Date:           Thursday, 19 Oct 1995 11:52:46 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 6.0808  Re: Historical Fact
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0808  Re: Historical Fact
 
Nietzsche, whose name I can't spell  said something like "truth is whatever
hasn't been disproved."  This dialog is working backward, wasting time
discussing whether there is such a thing as fact.  Of course not.  What we do
is chop away at error.  This is   absolute incontrovertible non fact and has a
tendency to stay that way.
 
Fact is what's left  at the end of the day, and some of it has been left for a
great many days.  But we have  a great backlog of nonfact to whittle away at.
 
Yours ever,
BEN SCHNEIDER
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael E. Cohen <
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Date:           Thursday, 19 Oct 1995 08:15:22 -0800
Subject:        Re: Historical Fact
 
Gabriel Egan <
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>Let's get this straight: there are no facts.
 
Is that a fact or an opinion?
 
Michael Cohen
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Keith Ghormley <
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Date:           Wednesday, 18 Oct 1995 21:08:19 -0500
Subject: 6.0808  Re: Historical Fact
Comment:        RE: SHK 6.0808  Re: Historical Fact
 
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
 
-----------
Gabriel Egan said facts are everywhere.  Gabriel Egan said there are no facts.
Both of these statements are true.  Therefore Gabriel Egan believes in facts,
the concept of fact, and endorses all forms of factual knowledge. There being
no possibility of any fact to the contrary, we may place any meaning we wish on
his statements.
 
Keith Ghormley
 

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