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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: October ::
Re: Historical Fact
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0834.  Tuesday, 24 October 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Joseph M Green <
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        Date:   Monday, 23 Oct 1995 11:11:46 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0826  Re: Historical Fact
 
(2)     From:   David Skeele <DBS@SRU.bitnet>
        Date:   Monday, 23 Oct 95 12:17:28 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0826  Re: Historical Fact
 
(3)     From:   Joseph M Green <
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        Date:   Monday, 23 Oct 1995 12:38:52 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0832  Re: Facts, Purpose of List, Italy, Jews
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph M Green <
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Date:           Monday, 23 Oct 1995 11:11:46 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 6.0826  Re: Historical Fact
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0826  Re: Historical Fact
 
It is easy to believe that everyone reinvents Shakespeare if you believe, as
Gary Taylor seems to, that interpretation equals reinvention, that, anyway,
Shakespeare is beyond the event horizon, a black hole who admits no light and
warps "literary space time," and that, because the authorized version is not
available, no interpretation can possibly tell anything like the truth about
Shakespeare.  This is an odd point of view, I think.  Change the title of
Taylor's book to "Shakespeare Reinventing" and leave everything else the same
and we could talk about how Shakespeare writes Taylor -- how, for example, his
drama here and there shows how persons reinvent the self to avoid an encounter
with something outside the self that might force the self to change in ways
feared, not wanted, not comfortable.  The belief that, because the absolute
truth is not available, only fictions are available is familar enough -- it
demonstates nostalgia for a theology, a nostalgia that must have God or
nothing.  There is no place for partial truths, partial insights --all are
condemned as simply versions of the self.  With God dead there is no truth. In
the spirit of Taylor another version of Shakespeare criticism might be given:
Stage 1:  Shakespeare is God.  Stage 2: Shakespeare is God but is away paring
his nails somewhere (a deist version -- Wimsatt removes intentions, the New
Criticism struggles on).  Stage 3: God/Shakespeare is Dead/ We are gods(nervous
or self-delighting).
 
These versions only partial, of course. The history of Shakespeare criticism is
actually much more complex.  There always have been a fair field of folk who
did not believe that Shakespeare was God, who, even though they lived through a
period now called modernism did not believe in a modernist Shakespeare, who,
don't believe that either Alan Bloom or Terry Eagleton bestride the world, who,
even if they believe every "fact" is also a value are careful not to take a
degree away and assume that all there are are arbitrary and ideological values
and the materiality of a complex work of art necessarily has to disappear into
the will of the interpreter. Who, for example, allow "facts" (whatever they are
after the fact/value dichotomy collapses) to resist their wills.  (God, I am
proud that, so far I have not punned on Will).
 
In fact, the attempt to interpret Shakespeare without reinventing him --
possible if one believes that a truth need not always comprehend the whole
because the whole is a work of art whose complexity eludes reduction -- has
continued even after Terry Eagleton threw Matthew Arnold off the cliff at Dover
and the Blatant Beast that was Leavis has been slain by the doughty Knights of
Ghosts and Shadows.  After all, the facts/value question has not, at last, been
conclusively settled and the heavens have not opened up to endorse the placing
of Will beyond the event horizon -- not that they would have to, of course.
Reinventing is the Pickwickian sense of interpretation -- all one has to do is
simply not join the club.  One misses, of course, the jolly rides in
comfortable coaches, the sweetmeats, the cozy conversation, the sense that
everything means something when it happens to you but one can, while resting
one's cheek against one's garret window, watch the snow, note that snow is
general all over, and not swoon.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Skeele <DBS@SRU.bitnet>
Date:           Monday, 23 Oct 95 12:17:28 EDT
Subject: 6.0826  Re: Historical Fact
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0826  Re: Historical Fact
 
My apologies to Dr. Green if I have misinterpreted him or misread his posting.
The "historical fact" argument has been well-covered by now, so I see no need
to reopen it (other than to say if I have oversimplified Dr. Green's viewpoint
then surely Dr. Hawkins oversimplifies the New Historicist/Cultural Materialist
viewpoint by dismissing it as "blather").  Perhaps if I hear a better example
of how Taylor has so grossly misrepresented "facts" I'll be more convinced.
The original example concerning Dryden will not do.  Whether or not Dryden
would have approved of Beaumont and Fletcher being more popular than
Shakespeare is absolutely irrelevant to the argument that they were.  The idea
that Dryden's opinion has more historical relevance than the theatre-going
public's is a bias--decidedly not a "fact"--and provides a prime example of the
way in which the most supposedly "objective" critics shade facts in order to
make them fit their view of the world.  I guess one man's fact is another man's
blather.  At any rate, if Drs. Green or Hawkins has a better example, I will
certainly be willing to listen to it. I am curious--is there anybody out there
who likes Taylor?
 
David Skeele
Slippery Rock University
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph M Green <
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 >
Date:           Monday, 23 Oct 1995 12:38:52 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 6.0832  Re: Facts, Purpose of List, Italy, Jews
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0832  Re: Facts, Purpose of List, Italy, Jews
 
I agree with Martin Greene but can't help noticing that the fact of the
abolition of fact is a guide to manners and not to conduct.  After all, even
Schopenhauer, whose world was will and representation, slept with a pistol
under his pillow and even Sinfield who, in his essay on Macbeth wants to prove
that all kings are equally evil and Duncan was probably just as bad as Macbeth
attempts, at least in the beginning of the essay, to establsih this from the
text before conceding that the whole play can't be made to support this --
giving away something just there.  And one notices that, in spite of the odd
"alas" prefacing a reference to fact that, in many postings here, facts are
wanted, are seen as good things if only one is polite and calls them something
else.  New Historicists often begin their essays with a mannerly exposition of
just how impossible it is to ever do anything but interpret from within the
current paradigm and provide quite scary descriptions of the inevitable gulf
between the Now and the rest of history.  Once this bow is made, however, they
go right ahead with marching their facts up the hill, pulling their factual
swords the scabbard from, and laying about enthusiastically -- and when one
inquires whether they, in fact, believe their own theory they will not, as
Stephen Daedelus does, simply say "No" but point to the facts of the case.  An
odd position.  One imagines that this position is somewhat like that of the
Duke of York in
 
"The good old Duke of York.
He had ten thousand men.
He marched them up the hill.
Then marched them down again.
 
And when you're up, your're up.
And when you're down, your down.
But when you're only halfway up.
You're neither up nor down."
 
Another fact.  Posters have called me "Dr. Green."  I am not -- but may be --
right now I am neither up nor down.
 

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