Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: October ::
Re: De-Canonization
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0849.  Saturday, 29 October 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Shirley Kagan <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 26 Oct 1995 16:14:48 -1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0844 Re: De-Canonization
 
(2)     From:   Simon Morgan-Russell <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 27 Oct 1995 11:30:00 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0844 Re: De-Canonization
 
(3)     From:   Greg Maillet <057295@UOTTAWA>
        Date:   Friday, 27 Oct 95 07:08:55 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0837   De-Canonization (was "Importance)
 
(4)     From:   Michael Yogev <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 27 Oct 1995 17:59:59 +0300 (WET)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0844 Re: De-Canonization
 
(5)     From:   Thomas G. Bishop <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 27 Oct 1995 15:45:23 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0844  Re: De-Canonization
 
(6)     From:   Scott Crozier <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Saturday, 28 Oct 1995 09:26:45 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0844  Re: De-Canonization
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Shirley Kagan <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 26 Oct 1995 16:14:48 -1000
Subject: 6.0844 Re: De-Canonization
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0844 Re: De-Canonization
 
Dr. Dwelle:
 
De-canonization is important and useful in as far as it helps put our own
perception of "historical significance" into a more "universal perspective,"
whatever that might be.  Still, it begins to be ridiculous when culture eats
itself.  What are your fellow faculty members proposing to substitue the
Shakespeare and Homer courses with?  Surely that is an issue.  As any good
anti-cannonist will tell you, there needs to be a cannon to go against, and
that may be a good line of reasoning for keeping your very important courses.
Let the students know what it is they are "up against"; give those who are on
the receiving side of the educational log the chance to judge what it is they
should be "fighting against".  I also wonder whether you might be able to
support your argument for retaining your courses by turning to the student
body.  I find it hard to believe that the students want these courses
disbanded. I wouldn't.
 
With Crossed Fingers,
Shirley Kagan.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Simon Morgan-Russell <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 27 Oct 1995 11:30:00 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0844 Re: De-Canonization
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0844 Re: De-Canonization
 
I've been following this debate on the Importance of (Being) Shakespeare and
De-Canonisation with a mixture of rage and despair, and, to be honest, I don't
believe my participation in it is going to make me feel any better.  But Vic
Gallerano's comments finally drove me to respond. Is Shakespeare important to
me?  Yes, in cynical terms:  if my dept. took away Shakespeare as a requirement
I'd no doubt be forced to teach something I wouldn't like.  Since I'm always
introduced with the suffix of "Shakespeare professor" I'd lose my sense
identity perhaps?  I like Shakespeare well enough (well enough, apparently, to
want a career that probably necessitates my teaching his plays every year), but
my sense of identity is NOT dependent on him.  No, I don't have a button that
reads "Will Power" on the lapel of my jacket.  Or a tote bag printed with the
Droeshout portrait.  Or an overpriced stuffed toy wearing a ruff dubbed
"William Shakesbear."  Or an "appropriate" coffee-mug.  But he has not made me
a better "human being" (whatever that might mean -- I defy Vic Gallerano to
define such a concept without recourse to his glib "cf. Plato") either, and if
I thought, for even one instant, that when I was teaching Shakespeare's plays I
was teaching my students to be "better and brave and more like human beings" as
Vic Gallerano suggests, I'd quit. I'd like to think my students learn to think
for themselves in my classes, to challenge their assumptions about culture, to
take responsibility for their own actions and thoughts: in this respects
Shakespeare's plays serve my purpose as well as many non-canonical texts.  What
does Shakespeare teach me about "myself?"  Not a whole lot. We were born, after
all, over 400 years apart.  Why would that surprise anybody?
 
I'd also like to register my deep reservation at Gallerano's snipe that "except
for the truly lazy (those bound for grad school, alas) young students have an
aboriginal disdain for theory."  It's fortunate, isn't it Mr. Gallerano, that
the "young students" who followed the thought of Plato turned out to be
"slack-arses" -- or the "aboriginal disdain for theory" might have prevented
the transmission and development of the ideas that you claim support your
argument.
 
Simon.
Department of English
Bowling Green State University
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Greg Maillet <057295@UOTTAWA>
Date:           Friday, 27 Oct 95 07:08:55 EST
Subject: 6.0837   De-Canonization (was "Importance)
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0837   De-Canonization (was "Importance)
 
Dear Ronald: Dont say Uncle!! I think there are a few good arguments which even
those who have never experienced first hand Shakespeare`s power to convey
truth, beauty, and goodness (or who dont believe in such
categories) may still take seriously:
 1) Shakespeare`s powerful influence on subsequent creative writers (eg, for
 starters, Milton, Pope, Johnson, Coleridge, Keats, Joyce) whom your colleagues
 still presumably want to teach. Do your colleagues want their students to have
 the capacity to understand the Shakespearean influence and allusions in such
 writers on their own, or only by postmodern fiat?
 2) Shakespeare`s profound influence on modern English, which is still explicit
 today in the numerous quotations made throughout all areas of our culture. Do
 your colleagues want their students to be able to watch Star Trek and be able
 to get not only the jokes, but also the ideas that shape the story lines?
 3) Shakespeare remains, as even a brief glance at the North American
 Shakespeare  Festivals (cf. summer or spring issues of the Shakespeare
 Newsletter for listings) will suggest, by far the most oft performed playwright
 in the world. Do your colleagues want their students to be able to attend such
 festivals and understand the plays they are hearing in the enriched way that
 education should allow?
 
To ignore the above three arguments, which are all I can think of at 7:15 on a
Friday morning, your colleagues must have a determined ideological agenda, so
perhaps you and I are wasting our time. Still, by forcing them to respond to
the above arguments, you may at least make that agenda open rather than hid
behind some ludicrous babble about the irrelevance of Shakespeare.
 
Good luck,
Greg Maillet (Ottawa U Dept of English)
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Yogev <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 27 Oct 1995 17:59:59 +0300 (WET)
Subject: 6.0844 Re: De-Canonization
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0844 Re: De-Canonization
 
Vic Gallerano opens his impassioned defense of the canon with a claim that
Shakespeare and Homer before him are themselves "de-cannonizers". While I
rather like the slip of an extra "n" there, Blake does a similar misspelling
with deliberate intent when he writes of forces "warshipp'd" in one of his
prophetic poems.  The point is that canons involve cannons--some sort of
authoritative decision that Shakespeare and Homer have indeed written about
"things that last" like power structures, murderous ambition, or the
dehumanization of colonials and women throughout history into our own age of
rising European and American zenophobia and the backlash against feminism.
 
The problem with Gallerano's defense is, therefore, its indefensible reliance
on the "power" of Shakespeare's works to address the "most obvious things" like
"the differences between men and women" without ever himself addressing what
that "power" IS, how it is constituted and then presented as "culture" to the
world.  This is indeed a theoretical question of the first order, a touchy and
complex one at that, but Gallerano prefers his students' "aboriginal disdain"
for theory over that of the "truly lazy" students (mainly headed for
"grad-school, alas"). All one can conclude from this is that Gallerano shares a
disdain for the aborigines which is one of the topics of _The Tempest_, and
that we ought perhaps to aspire to the status of Bottoms rather than
Berownes--things would remain "most obvious" then.
 
Even his reference to the de-canonizer's sonnet, and the "lords and owners of
their faces" raises, alas, a theoretical question of who was allowed to be a
lord and owner in Shakespeare's time--or for that matter, in our own day.  My
own experience of teaching Shakespeare in Israel to a very mixed group of
native Sabras, immigrant Russians, Palestinians and Israeli Arabs has led me to
realize that "the most obvious things" are not so at all.  It has also made me
a firm believer that Shakespeare does not need to be "required" or officially
"cannonized"--the works will appeal and attract attentive, critical readers and
viewers on their own. The final point in this response to Gallerano's response
is his rather remarkable invocation of Plato as the authority to whom he would
refer all who question whether Homer and Shakespeare make us "better and braver
and more like human beings."  The Plato I read in _The Republic_ was not at all
interested in better and braver human beings, but in all human beings staying
put in their properly determined place.  To that end he of course banished all
but the most jingoistic and state-sanctioned poets or poetry.  And in _The
Phaedrus_ he also writes against the very act of writing itself as potentially
subversive.  A more telling "authority" to invoke we "theory" buffs could not
have requested from Mr. Gallerano.
 
Unabashedly and emphatically theoretically yours,
Michael Yogev

 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas G. Bishop <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 27 Oct 1995 15:45:23 -0400
Subject: 6.0844  Re: De-Canonization
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0844  Re: De-Canonization
 
Jim Schaefer writes:
 
> Against the charge that these works, and particularly Shakespeare, are not
>relevant, I heard a piece on All Things Considered some time in the past few
>years (maybe someone out there will remember it too) by a black woman writer
>whose name I do not remember (maybe _you_ are out there?) about her experience
>of falling in love with Shakespeare as a young student.  Her justification for
>her love was startling, at first, to this white male:  it was perfectly clear
>to her that Shakespeare was a black woman!  She must have been, to speak so
>clearly to her (this then-young writer's) experience.  This was a real, not an
>apocryphal, story.  If anyone knows who that writer was, perhaps this could be
>added to your evidence.
 
I believe this was Maya Angelou, whom I have heard to express a similar
opinion in another forum.
 
Cheers,
Tom
 
(6)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Crozier <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 28 Oct 1995 09:26:45 +1000
Subject: 6.0844  Re: De-Canonization
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0844  Re: De-Canonization
 
Surely the "fact" oops! that there are more productions of Shakespeare on the
professional stage in English (and other) speaking countries than any other
playwright is reason enough to suggest that the study of Shakespeare's play
scripts is no more studying the classics than, say, Stoppard or Churchill!
 
The concept of relevance is irrelevant. If the plays are performed by
professional, non-establishment companies; and the occupancy is above 65% which
generally makes the production profitable; then the plays must be popular. If
they are popular then they should, like Stappard et al (and dare I add The
Simpsons), be studied.
 
Don't let them drop the course - they will lose by it!
 
Regards,
Scott Crozier
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.