Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: July ::
Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0582.  Tuesday, 25 July 1995.
 
(1)     From:   W.L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 24 Jul 1995 13:38:56 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0578  Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
 
(2)     From:   Rick Jones <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 24 Jul 1995 12:42:36 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0578 Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
 
(3)     From:   Gabriel Egan <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 24 Jul 1995 22:43:53 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0578  Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
 
(4)     From:   David Lindley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 25 Jul 1995 09:08:35 GMT
        Subj:   Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W.L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 24 Jul 1995 13:38:56 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0578  Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0578  Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
 
I am surprised to be able to agree completely with Gabriel Egan about criteria
and judgment. Of course, a teacher should inform her students up front as to
how the course is graded, the expectations that the teacher has, what the
teacher wants the student to learn, and so on.  Over the years, my syllabus has
gotten longer and longer and more detailed.
 
But one of the criteria may be a sound knowledge of the plays being studied. Of
course, even "sound knowledge" has to be defined.  You have to tell your
students what you want them to remember. Testing in a vacuum is unfair.
 
As to the word "culture," I would like to draw your attention to Marshall
Sahlins comments in his essay "How 'Natives' Think" in the TLS June 2, 1995, p.
13: "Just when so many people are announcing the existence of their culture,
advanced anthropologists are denying it.  . . . [I]nside the academy, word
[culture] has altogether escaped anthropolical control . . . and fallen into
the hands of those who write liberally about 'the culture of addiction,' 'the
culture of sensibility,' 'the culture of autobiography.' 'Culture,' it seems,
is in the twilight of its career, and anthropology with it."  Extreme? You bet.
But right on target.  "Culture" for the 90s is comparable to "image" in the
60s: overused and used to define the wrong things.
 
Sometime ago, Melissa Aaron gave as an anthropological definition of "culture."
No one commented, and no one, as I recall, answered my question: how are we --
the present group -- using "culture"? If anthropological culture includes
"genes" as Melissa's definition suggests, then we might say that culture is
anything that homo sapiens does, including reproduction of the species.
(Husband to wife: "Honey, would you like to do some cultural work tonight?")
 
Also, while I'm on this harangue, let me point to K. Anthony Appiah stringent
comments on "culture" in MULTICULTURALISM (Princeton U.P., 1994) 156:
"collective identities disciplined by historical knowledge and philosophical
reflection would be radically unlike the identities that now parade before us
for recognition." What he means is that everything that calls itself a culture
is NOT a culture.
 
The assertion that all acts are political acts is a translation from the Greek,
where it means -- in ancient Greek -- "all acts pertain to the polis."  Maybe
it should be translated: "All human acts pertain to the human community." This
may or may not be true. Words are fairly cheap. Freud probably said one night
over his cups, "All human acts are sexual acts." Einstein probably replied:
"No, all human acts are relative." Wilde disagreed: "All human acts are
esthetic acts." I'm sure there's a logical fallacy involved here.
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rick Jones <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 24 Jul 1995 12:42:36 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 6.0578 Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0578 Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
 
Garbriel Egan writes:
 
> The students know that
> you and your colleagues mark their work and decide who gets the degree and who
> doesn't, and they KNOW that protestations of neutrality are bogus. Be honest
> and tell me them your criteria. In reality Humanities work is graded according
> to its closeness of fit with the marker's own views (just as in Science), but
> some people don't like to admit this.
 
I'm sorry, but protestations on either side of this debate are ultimately
pointless.  There are faculty who DO grade in the cynical manner Gabriel
(equally cynically) describes.  There are also those who do not.  I have long
told students that agreeing with me for the right reasons might earn as much as
a B+.  A's are reserved for those who disagree for the right reasons.  Am I the
arbiter of what qualifies as "the right reasons"? Yep.  Am I "objective"?
Largely but not completely, in all probability. Am I repentant?  Nope.  Am I a
hypocrite?  Maybe... but I have definitely been a hypokrites (Greek for
"actor").  Might we move on?
 
Rick Jones

 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 24 Jul 1995 22:43:53 +0100
Subject: 6.0578  Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0578  Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
 
Sean Lawrence wonders if I
 
"eschew faith itself in your rejection of all other forms of scholarship except
the political and "tangible empirical knowledge."
 
I neither accept nor reject "forms of scholarship", but I see competition
between different activities. There is shared faith underlying both politically
engaged criticism and objective 'tangible empirical' work, at the very least
the shared empiricism demanded of workers in education. But politically engaged
criticism of the left acknowledges determination (in the sense of 'having
limits set upon') whereas politically engaged criticism of the right claims an
entirely spurious freedom. There is only struggle between competing meanings,
on SHAKSPER as everywhere else.
 
Gabriel Egan
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 25 Jul 1995 09:08:35 GMT
Subject:        Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
 
The debate on 'Shakespeare as Cultural Construct' is significant not only for
its implications for the study of Shakespeare, but for the self-definition of
literary study itself at the present time.  It's for this reason that I find
Gabriel Egan's claim that assertions of impartiality in assessing the work of
students is 'bogus' deeply depressing.
 
It may be, of course, that I have been kidding myself for the last twenty years
or so as a teacher (and as a reviewer of books) in believing that I can
distinguish between mere approval of arguments which replicate or extend my own
ideas and beliefs and the evaluation of coherent, persuasive accounts that
derive from other presuppositions. But if I didn't believe that this were
possible then I would be unable to defend the study of English literature as a
worthwhile activity.
 
This is not to deny that, as a teacher, one does - and should - project one's
own standpoint with conviction, but this does not mean that one doesn't alert
students, through the secondary reading one suggests for them for example, that
there are other possibilities.
 
I suppose the real worry I have is that Gabriel Egan's beliefs might in fact be
widely shared, and that all too many teachers do indeed act as if they were
true. At a purely practical level it is possible that the nearly universal
adoption in the UK of double-marking of student work guards against some of the
dangers of such attitudes insofar as they affect individual students, but that
it is necessary to make a stand for  principles of  intellectual openness and
toleration is a regrettable fact of life in the current academic world.
 
David Lindley
University of Leeds
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.