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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: October ::
Re: Historical Fact
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0823.  Thursday, 19 October 1995.
 
(1)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 19 Oct 1995 21:42:36 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0816  Re: Historical Fact
 
(2)     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Friday, 20 Oct 1995 12:48:18 GMT
        Subj:   Re: Historical Fact
 
(3)     From:   Joseph M Green <
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        Date:   Friday, 20 Oct 1995 10:48:46 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0816  Re: Historical Fact
 
(4)     From:   Barbara Correll <
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        Date:   Friday, 20 Oct 1995 11:57:27 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   RE: SHK 6.0816  Re: Historical Fact
 
(5)     From:   David Skeele <DBS@SRU.bitne>
        Date:   Friday, 20 Oct 95 11:27:45 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0816  Re: Historical Fact
 
(6)     From:   Marcello Cappuzzo <
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        Date:   Friday, 20 Oct 1995 19:03:42 +0100
        Subj:   Re: Historical Fact
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 19 Oct 1995 21:42:36 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0816  Re: Historical Fact
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0816  Re: Historical Fact
 
John Drakakis says "that there is no 'fact' without value, and that this is
crucial in the study of any form of representation." What does he mean
precisely? That any argument is constructed from selected facts (or data)? That
unvalued pieces of data are not selected for an argument and are therefore not
elevated to "fact"?  So anything we value enough to make into a "fact" is not
valueless? Of course, the value of certain "facts" may not be political.  Or is
all value political?
 
And, no, the quip about breakfast was a kippered herring.
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Friday, 20 Oct 1995 12:48:18 GMT
Subject:        Re: Historical Fact
 
Dear David Lindley, Be fair: you started going on about concrete 'historical
facts', not me. The first one you produce is ' Elizabeth died in 1603 and was
succeeded by a Scottish monarch, James I.' But that's an 'English' fact, matey.
Any Scot will tell you that the only person who was both a Scottish monarch and
James 1 died in 1437 (he also wrote "The Kingis Quair", but nobody's perfect).
Elizabeth's successor was quite a different bloke and the significance of his
'double' standing crucially informs both Macbeth and King Lear. Mightn't your
students might find that interesting? Now, what was your second 'fact'?
 
T. Hawkes
 
P.S. At least you didn't call her 'Elizabeth 1".
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph M Green <
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Date:           Friday, 20 Oct 1995 10:48:46 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 6.0816  Re: Historical Fact
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0816  Re: Historical Fact
 
So it seems that after the New Historicism we will arise, numberless
infinities, husbands and wives to ourselves -- just like the angels. Nothing,
in fact, will have changed except that(what shall we call it) the New
De-Ontology will, perhaps, no longer love a lord.  And, as always, we will be
able to write and write -- because we will still be free to write about what is
not in the text.  The world again all before us.  This seems to me to be just
the Old Dogberryism. Like Dogberry's watch, this method is dedicated to
avoiding all contact with what it is supposed to apprehend.  I suggest that the
surpulus, the remainder, that Robert Appelbaum detects in spite of rigorous
historicizing etc. is Shakespeare -- a plus, an overplus. We might think about
what that might mean "in terms of what is absent."
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Barbara Correll <
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Date:           Friday, 20 Oct 1995 11:57:27 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0816  Re: Historical Fact
Comment:        RE: SHK 6.0816  Re: Historical Fact
 
I think some wisdom on historical fact might be found in the following:
 
Facts are simple and facts are straight. Facts are lazy and facts are late.
Facts all come with points of view. Facts don't do what I want them to. Facts
just twist the truth around. Facts are living turned inside out. Facts are
getting the best of them. Facts are nothing on the face of things. Facts don't
stain the furniture. Facts go out and slam the door. Facts are written all over
your face. Facts continue to change their shape.
 
---"Crosseyed and Painless," by David Byrne and Brian Eno
 
If that's not sufficient, the chorus repeats the line, "I'm still
waiting..."
 
'Nuf said.
Barbara Correll, Cornell Univ. (
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(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Skeele <DBS@SRU.bitne>
Date:           Friday, 20 Oct 95 11:27:45 EDT
Subject: 6.0816  Re: Historical Fact
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0816  Re: Historical Fact
 
I believe the questions Dr. Green raises regarding critical standards of
student papers are worth discussing.  Certainly current critical methodologies
(can they still be called "current?"), with the creative latitude they allow
and the unapologetic subjectivity they necessitate, can make critical standards
seem less concrete and definable than in the past.  However, critical standards
have never been entirely concrete.  The question of what constitutes valid
Shakespeare criticism has always been in flux, has always been in
negotiation--it is just that that fact is more clearly apparent now than ever
before.  This does not, however, mean that anyone is advocating the abolition
of standards.  I certainly was not arguing that by admitting one's biases, one
can blissfully cast off any obligation to construct tight arguments, provide
adequate documentation, write clear and elegant prose, etc.  My response was to
your implication that Taylor's arguments were coming from the same sense of
righteous moral certainty from which some of your thinking seems to emanate.
 
Now for my own righteous moral certainty: I was rather taken aback by your
assertion that "not everybody reinvents Shakespeare."  Perhaps I have
misunderstood you here, but it would seem that by now it is the truest of
truisms for even the most reactionary of reactionaries that _absolutely_
everybody reinvents Shakespeare all the time.  If this is not true, then what
is the alternative?  Is there some sacrosanct original meaning of the playtexts
to which only old historicists are privy?
 
                                                Respectfully,
                                                David Skeele
                                                Slippery Rock University
 
(6)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marcello Cappuzzo <
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Date:           Friday, 20 Oct 1995 19:03:42 +0100
Subject:        Re: Historical Fact
 
I'll try to answer Professor Godshalk's most recent question.
 
As regards, for instance, the relation between our earth and the sun -- writes
Professor Godshalk -- there was a time when it was "intersubjectively" true
that the latter "circled" [being Italian, I'd prefer "courted"] the former;
today it is "intersubjectively" true that it is the earth [feminism!] that does
all the work.  What does this mean -- asks our colleague;  it means, he adds,
that perhaps there is "a truth that transcends intersubjective agreement.  The
problem is, since we all apprehend reality subjectively, how can we verify
'objective,' 'real' truth."
 
Now, I'd start saying that Copernicus did not delete [apple-D] Ptolemy, he
simply (so to say) established new logical relationships among certain terms of
the scientific tradition.  Ptolemy's truth is *still* a scientific truth:
certainly, it has been superseded by other, more recent truths, but though no
longer credible [but who knows?], it is indelibly written in the book of
mankind's scientific search and findings -- a register that, presumably, will
never be brought to an end [just like these papers on my desk!].
 
What I mean is that the problem of scientific truth and objectivity has NOTHING
to do with what things are "in themselves" (whatever this may mean). That
problem implies primarily, on the one hand, a precise individuation of the
different, concrete ways in which human knowledge has historically developed,
and on the other hand an equally precise recognition of the characteristics
typical of each of these ways.  In other words, and to get straight to the
point:  science is nothing but one of the ways in which we human beings
intellectualize/rationalize ourselves, what we do, and what is around us;  a
given scientific "truth" (e.g., a "fact," an event in its technical-historical
description) is NOT "more objective" than -- say -- a poetical "truth", the
relation between "truth" and "reality" (i.e. things, matter) being in both
cases of exactly the same, intellectual, *logical* nature;  the difference
between the two "truths" -- because they *are* different -- lies somewhere
else:  it lies, I think, in the peculiarity of the (divergent) *semantic*
characteristics of the two texts concerned. But this opens other problems, that
I can't even attempt to hint at here. However, I think I've somehow answered
Professor Godshalk's question:  in my opinion, the objectivity (or validity) of
a "truth" is to be looked for in the text that expresses it, certainly not in
the so-called material "reality".
 
Marcello Cappuzzo
University of Palermo
 

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