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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: August ::
Re: Teaching Feelings
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0625.  Saturday, 19 August 1995.
 
(1)     From:   John Boni <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Aug 1995 15:17:53 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0623 Re: Teaching Feelings
 
(2)     From:   Gregory McSweeney <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Aug 1995 17:36:56 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Teaching Feeling.
 
(3)     From:   Michael Best <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Aug 1995 17:04:36 -0700
        Subj:   Feelings
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Boni <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Aug 1995 15:17:53 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 6.0623 Re: Teaching Feelings
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0623 Re: Teaching Feelings
 
Feelings.  It isn't easy.  I've taught several seminars on comedy with a
similar problem: to simply repeat the joke fails; to explain it eliminates the
laughter (the "sudden glory," as I think Hobbes said).  So I try to put it into
a larger context for comedy.
 
Similarly, in *Lear* I try to develop the empathy students may feel for the
predicament of  a.) Cordelia in Act I;  b.) Lear in Act II, when he has been
denouncing Goneril to Regan and Goneril appears, and the two then proceed to
strip him of his precious hundred knights; c.) Lear in his lucid mad raving;
d.) the audience (they themselves) as we, they, all of us are taken through
this pain, suffering, and grim humor.
 
As with humor, you can't create a feeling by describing it, but perhaps we can
enlarge our empathy in experiencing *Lear*.  I know that, for all his fault and
stupidity, etc., I still cry for Lear (and Othello, and Hamlet, and...).
 
John M. Boni
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gregory McSweeney <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Aug 1995 17:36:56 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Teaching Feeling.
 
To add to Professor Hill's recent insightful comments on the teachability of
_Lear_ in relation to _R&J_, it seems to me that the two plays can benefit by
adjacency in the curriculum. Both deal with the alienation of parent and
teenager or adolescent child, but in opposite ways:  _Romeo and Juliet_
presents the youthful impulse towards love and personal fulfilment as an
innocent and salutary foil to the adult world of politicking and arbitrary
social alliances and feuds; _Lear_, which exploits the darker and more complex
facets of all parties concerned, gives the adolescent reader a victim/heroine
in the person of Cordelia, as well as a marginalized, demonized, anarchic son
in Edmund. And surely Regan and Goneril are every teenage boy's occasional
image of his own elder sisters.
 
_Lear_ is jarringly current; it documents the primordial dysfunctional family
in English drama - and as if that weren't enough, it reflects the modern
"extended" family: Lear's Fool, as the invited child, has the license and
limitations that provisional family members still enjoy - and suffer: freedom
from censure, and freedom from being taken seriously.
 
_Romeo and Juliet_ succeeds in its project, but since its goal is so modest, so
less revelatory of the species than is that of _Lear_, the reader's payoff is
proportionally smaller. *That* is what should be communicated to students, I
think.
 
It might be interesting to students that Shakespeare so often framed his
conflicts in intergenerational acrimony and betrayal (I'm thinking of _Hamlet_
and the two _Henry IV_s); there is no under-representation of the
disenfranchised and the undesireable in Shakespeare - nor are these miscreants
dismissed as mere social irritants: their psychologies and motivations are as
clear and subjectively justifiable as are those of the putative heroes.
 
James Dean could have played Edmund - and Edmund, ultimately, was a rebel
without a cause.
 
                                                Greg McSweeney
                                                Montreal
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Best <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Aug 1995 17:04:36 -0700
Subject:        Feelings
 
"The first few bars should not be played. Only felt." Then there is the classic
Hoffnung Music Festival where an intellectual analyst discusses the atonal
music of the great Harlheinz Jaja: of one note on the violas he explains "They
must not *play* this note; only *think* it."
 
(Gerard Hoffnung was an utterly delightful cartoonist of the world of classical
music; I am the proud possessor of a couple of very ancient vinyl recordings of
the annual parodic concerts in his honour.)
 

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