1995

Re: Adriana

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0576.  Saturday, 22 July 1995.
 
(1)     From:   David Jackson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 20 Jul 95 14:33:11 est
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0570  Re: Adriana
 
(2)     From:   David Evett <R0870%This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 16:22 ET
        Subj:   Adriana
 
(3)     From:   Roger D. Gross <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 17:15:44 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Adriana
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Jackson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 20 Jul 95 14:33:11 est
Subject: 6.0570  Re: Adriana
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0570  Re: Adriana
 
A word of caution about "not wanting" the character to come across as shrewish.
I agree with the intention, but it's dangerous as an actor to approach a
character from the "not wanting" him or her to be perceived in some way or
other. I remember directing a play not long ago in which one of the actors said
"I'm not going to play my character as dour and lacking humor". I agreed that
these traits were not the only ones that should appear, but they were still
clearly aspects of the character. She went ahead and rehearsed, saying most of
the lines with a forced smile on her face (whenever she remembered that she
didn't want to be "dour"). This gave the effect of someone who was still dour
and humorless, but with a lunatic edge. Eventually I suggested that she play
the character with all the traits she did see in her (and I allowed her to pick
only two moments in the scene in which to smile), and we ended up with a real,
believable character. In other words, if you see certain traits inherent in the
character, don't "play" them or "not play" them; let the whole person come out,
and it won't be a cartoon.
 
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From:           David Evett <R0870%This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 16:22 ET
Subject:        Adriana
 
The current production of _Err_ at Stratford, Ont.  (a terrific show, I think,
if you have any tolerance for post-modern shenanigans) carries over from last
summer a take on Adriana initially forced on the company by carnal imperatives:
the actor playing the role was pregnant.  The idea proved so theatrically
effective that although she has long since given birth to the child, she wears
a fine prosthetic tummy that sustains the image.  It warms her up no end.
 
Gravidly,
Dave Evett
 
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From:           Roger D. Gross <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 17:15:44 -0500 (CDT)
Subject:        Adriana
 
Sarah Cave asks about Adriana in COE.
 
One of the delights of my life is that I've been allowed to direct three
productions of COE, two professional and one university.  My experience has
been consistent: the audience always loves the show and finds Adriana likeable,
pitiful, and extremely funny.
 
This may have something to do with the fact that I've had three of our best
actors in the role (Elizabeth Huddle, Joan Schirle, and Bethany Larson).  A
good enough actor makes every role appealing in one way or another.  (My three
Richard IIIs were all likeable monsters.  The invitation to this kind of
complexity is one of the things which make Shakespeare so appealing to actors.)
 
Adriana does, indeed, behave like a shrew.  She beats her servant, she
complains all the time, she won't stop  talking, etcetera.  But she's not just
a shrew because we see that this behavior isn't constitutional.  The thing that
makes us care so much for her is that her behavior all seems to spring from a
terrible insecurity and hurt.  She has made the self-destructive mistake of
letting others define her worth, particularly  her husband.  When he doesn't
pay attention to her, it must be because her beauty is fading.  She tries to
blame it all on him but it doesn't work; she doesn't even convince herself
fully.  The dominant impression we get from her is of NEED.  She's a
co-dependent ingenue wearing the mask of a brutal shrew.  If Antipholus of
Ephesus (the jerk) would just give her a little loving attention, she'd be
fine.  (Still co-dependent, I'm afraid, but able to enjoy life.)
 
This is an extremely "playable" view of Adriana.  It gives the actress what
actors most need: contrary tensions simultaneously pulling them in different
directions.  And it allows the kind of abrupt changes of mood which are so
opportune in farce.  But the heart of it is "heart."
 
Your roommate is in for a wonderful time (if her director is daring enough to
give her room to play it full tilt).  Best wishes to her.
 
Roger Gross
Univ. of Arkansas

Re: *Cym.* Masque; Teaching *Lr.*

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0575.  Saturday, 22 July 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Sean Lawrence <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 11:23:46 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0569 Re: *Cym.* Masque
 
(2)     From:   Victor Gallerano <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 21 Jul 1995 09:34:42 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Teaching *Lear*
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 11:23:46 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 6.0569 Re: *Cym.* Masque
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0569 Re: *Cym.* Masque
 
Hello.
 
The one production I've seen of Cymbeline was a student effort at the
University of King's College in Halifax.  The space was a black area called
"the pit," underneath the chapel.
 
They had one of Posthumous's guards act the role of Jupiter and be wheeled on
in a wheelbarrow to take advantage of Posthumous's naivety. It worked fairly
well as farce.
 
Cheerio,
Sean.
 
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From:           Victor Gallerano <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 21 Jul 1995 09:34:42 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Teaching *Lear*
 
John Keogh,
 
I'm not sure I can help you enjoy King Lear, but one way I have found to rouse
and awaken college freshmen to some of its beauties is to read/teach it after
reading/teaching The Tempest.  The most difficult thing for students to see is
the very surface of Lear.  Comparing the surface of the comedy to the surface
of the tragedy not only makes the surface of Lear apparent to students (who
come to class full of and all too ready to apply cliches about "disfunctional
families") but opens into the depths of a question like "What is the difference
between fathers and kings?"
 
I won't burden you with more interpretation than suggestion, but I will add
that this comparison has always been the occassion for some very good, quite
engaged student writing.
 
Vic Gallerano

Re: Othello, A & C, Branagh

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0573.  Saturday, 22 July 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Rick Jones <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 10:31:15 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0568 Re: Ant. & Cleo.
 
(2)     From:   Stephanie Hughes <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 13:24:21 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0568  Re: Ant. & Cleo.
 
(3)     From:   Jeff Martinek <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 12:48:24 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0568 Re: Ant. & Cleo.; Branagh
 
(4)     From:   Ron Macdonald <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 21 Jul 1995 15:09:36 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Onstage Shills
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rick Jones <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 10:31:15 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 6.0568 Re: Ant. & Cleo.
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0568 Re: Ant. & Cleo.
 
Jan Stirm's comments on race and casting in *Othello* and *A&C* are
interesting, and I can see a reasonable rationale.  But I can't concur.  It
seems to me that a white Othello, for example, might actually serve to
emphasize the racial element of the play: he is clearly the victim of prejudice
from Iago and others, but he would seem for all the world just like everyone
else.  Isn't that the true essence of prejudice, that apparently insignificant
differences between people are magnified?  I'm not advocating this choice, but
I'd buy a ticket to see what happened in the production.
 
Nor can I see too many audiences being "offended" by virtually any casting
choice (or maybe it's that I'm difficult to offend in such ways, and I am
projecting my own views as those of audiences at large).  I would object to
blackface or its equivalent, but I'd be happy to see Emma Thompson play
Cleopatra with or without a wig.  Ah, well...
 
Rick Jones
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
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From:           Stephanie Hughes <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 13:24:21 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0568  Re: Ant. & Cleo.
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0568  Re: Ant. & Cleo.
 
Jan Stirm and Brian Corrigan;
 
Sorry about the mistake in Cleopatra's age. My math skills, never very
good, have got me in hot water again. On second thought you are all
right about her age. As for her color, or rather, Shakespeare's
perception of her color, all the Elizabethans referred to brunettes as
"black". They meant no more by that than dark brown hair. Shakespeare
has Helena in MSND call Hermia "tawny". Rosaline in LLL has "pitchball
eyes", and then there's the dark lady. He's not the only one who calls
brunettes "black". They all did. Not that I hold any brief against
casting a black actress in the role, I just don't think it's all that
p.c.. My original point was a desire to see Branagh and Thompson give us
a roaring good version of A and C.
 
Stephanie Hughes
 
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From:           Jeff Martinek <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 12:48:24 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0568 Re: Ant. & Cleo.; Branagh
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0568 Re: Ant. & Cleo.; Branagh
 
My final comment on the Branagh imbroglio:
 
It's been interesting and sometimes edifying to read the criticisms of Mr.
Branagh's work.  He's been picked apart, second-guessed, disabused of notions
he never knew he held, and accused of crimes ranging from dumming down the bard
for the mall megaplex crowd to outright treason against his
culturally-tyrannized homeland.  This is all very well and certainly in the
spirit of free debate that such forums encourage.  What struck me, however, and
continues to strike me, is Mr. Morgan-Russell's original proposal that somehow
all these crimes of wrong-thinking interpretation ought to be enough to have
Mr. Branagh banned from messing with the bard.  I realize that he has since
claimed that such a suggestion was tongue-in-cheek, or something like that, but
the net WAS cast and what an interesting load of fish it brought in!
 
What this exchange has taught me, I pretty much already knew: that snobbism,
haughty superiority and ressentiment are some of the prime occupational hazards
of academia.  How different is Matthew Arnold's deploring the newspapers and
their "Wragg is in custody" (1864) from the currents condescentions of ivory
tower marxists who code their hypocritical platitudes of noblesse oblige in
fashionable Parisian jargon:  they too know very well that what the people
THINK they want is merely a result of mis-education, a failure to remove--as
the keepers of critical theory have--the distorting glasses of ideology.  What
leaps and summersaults they must perform to stave off the unthinkable:  that
the very education in critical reading, structuralist bricolage,
deconstruction, Foucauldian genealogy, etc. etc. etc. that has allowed them to
claim the right re-educate us all is about as far away from the old notions of
"taste" and "connoisseurship" as is Constantinople from Istanbul.  It would be,
if not enlightening, at least refreshing, to see such flame-keepers step forth,
finally, and admit that they speak for an enlightened, cultivated minority who
lost hope a long time ago of sharing what they treasure with those who watch
"Hee-Haw" and consider Walmart a right friendly neighbor.  Admit also that,
like the Nietzschean--read aristocratic--hero of "The Fountainhead", they'd
rather see Shakepeare's works hunted down and burned than leave them in the
hands of preening movie stars and colonialist running-dog lackeys.  Amen
 
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From:           Ron Macdonald <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 21 Jul 1995 15:09:36 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Onstage Shills
 
David Jackson's remarks about Branagh's MAAN and what Jackson justly calls "a
very tired and overused method of injecting humor," that is, "walking
laughtracks," the device of having characters laugh or roll their eyes at quips
that are otherwise incomprehensible, reminds me of a skit in the original
"Beyond the Fringe."  This was thirty years ago and more, but I remember a
hilarious parody of a history play consisting of a scene of aristocratic
exchange in blank verse, full of empty sonorities and lists of people and
places (places sounding pretty much like people and vice versa), followed by a
scene of lowlife, two artisanal types, a Master Snot and a Master Puke, as I
recall, engaged in energetic banter.  Remarks on the order of, "Well, Master
Snot, you'll be to Finsbury Fair before you wear out shoe leather, I'll wager,"
produced unrestrained merriment onstage and puzzled silence off, or, rather,
laughter of a very different order.  Somewhere, I believe, there's an LP
recording of that performance, and I may just find it one day.
 
                                     --Ron Macdonald
                                       <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Re: "To be or not . . ." Speech

 
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0574.  Saturday, 22 July 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Stephen Schultz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 20 Jul 95 11:24:57 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0571  Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
 
(2)     From:   Rick Jones <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 11:44:10 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0571 Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
 
(3)     From:   Chris Stroffolino <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 13:21:39 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0571  Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
 
(4)     From:   Dawn Massey <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 21 Jul 95 11:22:13 BST
Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0571  Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
 
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen Schultz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 20 Jul 95 11:24:57 EDT
Subject: 6.0571  Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0571  Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
 
Several years ago I directed a production of *Hamlet* for a semi-professional
theatre in Louisville which included "To be or not . . ." as performance ranted
at Ophelia but intended to demonstrate to Claudius and Polonius that Hamlet is
raving mad.
 
Some audience members hated it.  Some loved it.  Most didn't seem to recognize
that they were seeing anything unusual or "radical."
 
As I remember, I was led toward this approach by an argument in *What Happens
in 'Hamlet'* that there is some warrant in one of the Qs for an early entrance
by Hamlet which would allow him to overhear the plotting of Claudius and
Polonius.  (My production used the structure of Q1 combined with the language
of F1, and maybe that somehow influenced my reading of the scene.)
 
Thus emboldened, I then added an undetected entrance by Gertrude so that she
could overhear the Claudius-Laertes plotting for the duel.  So she knew about
the poisoned chalice when she drank it and did so defying Claudius to stop her
and thus reveal his guilt.
 
Again, I had the impression that the audience didn't notice anything unusual.
And a reviewer sent to the production by SQ rather liked the Gertrude touch, so
how much more validation can you get than that?
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rick Jones <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 11:44:10 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 6.0571 Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0571 Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
 
In partial answer to Edna Boris's question about the "to be or not to be"
speech.  No, I can't recall a production which plays the speech with Hamlet
aware of the presence of Claudius and Polonius.  Mine will, when I do it
*sometime*.  More to the point, David Ball insists on such a reading in his
excellent little book *Backwards and Forwards* (which I have used,
incidentally, as a text in acting classes).
 
Hope this helps, however minimally.
 
Rick Jones
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Stroffolino <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 13:21:39 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0571  Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0571  Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
 
Dear Edna Boris---Thanks for your question on "To Be Or Not..." My question for
you is to wonder why we need to limit the dramaturgical options of that speech
to either a)personal reflections on suicide or b) calculated performance. For
it seems possible, though granted this is VERY HARD to pull off in a
production, that the speech itself navigates so many modulations of mood. In
fact, I am increasingly drawn to those productions in which the "ponderousness"
of Hamlet's thinking becomes more important. For, in one reading, the "To Be Or
Not To Be" soliloguy actually ends on a note that can serve as a DEFENSE of the
contemplative lifestyle by NEGATING the "great enterprises of pit(c)h and
moment"---Sure, the actor playing hamlet must no doubt ask "If you hate
yourself for rejecting an act of violence, did you REALLY reject it"--and, yes,
I think you;re right to question the conventional "authority" and
"authenticity" afforded to soliloquys, but I keep thinking of the Nietzsche
quote in this connexion (something like "thoughts of suicide get one through
many a night") and that one need not have Polonious or Ophelia couched in an
arras overhearing to effectively breath more life back into the "To BE"
soliloquy than the reading which claims Hamlet is on the verge of suicide does.
Thanks (I look forward to hearing others on this), Chris Stroffolino
 
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From:           Dawn Massey <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 21 Jul 95 11:22:13 BST
Subject: 6.0571  Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0571  Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
 
A colleague recalls that Sarah Bernhardt overhears Polonius' plans to use
Ophelia, but cannot recall how Bernhardt handles the soliloquy.

Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0572.  Saturday, 22 July 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Ellen Edgerton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 20 Jul 95 11:22 EDT
        Subj:   What is political?
 
(2)     From:   Robert Appelbaum <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 11:38:53 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Cultural constructions
 
(3)     From:   Gabriel Egan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 21 Jul 1995 00:15:05 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0567  Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
 
(4)     From:   Moray McConnachie <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 21 Jul 1995 11:47:48 +0100 (BST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0563 Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
 
(5)     From:   Moray McConnachie <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 21 Jul 1995 13:22:59 +0100 (BST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0567 Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
 
(6)     From:   Stephanie Hughes <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 21 Jul 1995 21:26:44 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0567  Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ellen Edgerton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 20 Jul 95 11:22 EDT
Subject:        What is political?
 
Following this recent discussion with interest, I find I must meekly ask for a
decent definition of the word "political" as it relates to the way everyone
seems to be throwing it around here.
 
Aren't we just quibbling over terms here?  Of course everything is "political"
if you slap that label onto every aspect of human affairs. Is embarrassment
political?
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert Appelbaum <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 11:38:53 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:        Cultural constructions
 
To say that plays, poems, etc. are cultural constructs isn't an "explanation"
of them and, so far as I know, has never been used to serve as an explanation.
It is rather the beginning of a strategy of explanation.  The force of that
strategy immediately appears as soon as one compares it with other traditional
strategies, e.g., that which follows from the idea that plays, poems, etc., are
"expressions" of the author's psychology or feelings or genius.  Obviously the
different strategies are looking at the same things from different angles, and
perhaps not exactly at the *same* things, even though the strategies need not
be mutually exclusive.
 
But do any consequences necessarily follow from adoption of the "cultural
construct" position?  I don't think so.  If you look at culturalist criticism
you will NOT find a whole lot of consensus, though you might find a lot of
fellow feeling. For that reason alone I think it is hard to conclude that the
culturalist perspective is reductive.
 
And is the "cultural construct" position blind to its own assumptions, its
exponents failing to see that they too are speaking from within the confines of
constructs?  Actually, it is just this point, it is just their self-reflexivity
with regard to their own interpretative assumptions and strategies, that has
marked out culturalist criticism from earlier forms of criticism.  T.S. Eliot
thought that he could sit at the banquet with Dante.  Culturalists know they
cannot.  The hard Marxist position, still maintained by people like Terry
Eagleton, not to mention certain members of this list, is based on the idea
that materialist criticism is itself the product of historical forces, that one
could not be a cultural materialist of a certain kind until a certain moment in
time, and that one of the chief virtues of cultural materialist criticism is
that it *knows* this.  Culturalist criticism is *supposed* to be a form of
*self-consciousness*; and if it reflects on an historical artifact it always
also reflects on its own historicity with respect to both itself and its
artifact.
 
A softer position -- usually thought of as new historicism -- isn't so
confident of its own transparency to itself, or of the logic of its historical
position, but it too is based on the idea that criticism is as historically
situated as its objects, and that historical-cultural artifacts cannot
therefore be *reduced* to the explanatory parameters of any single given model,
since all models are constructs, etc., etc. Which is why this form of criticism
so often steps backward into autobiography and what Leah Marcus calls "local
knowledge" -- trying to be very precise about its epistemological limits, and
conscious of "where it's coming from."
 
But all this is common knowledge.  Perhaps what is really at issue here is not
the culturalist position(s), but the rhetoric used by culturalists against
non-culturalists, and vice versa.  Some of you out there are cringing every
time you hear the word "culture," even though you probably share a lot of
culturalist assumptions yourselves.  And there are those of us in love with
art, in love with the beautiful and the sublime and all that, who absolutely
cringe when we hear other people *invoking* these things, as if they were gods.
-- Robert Appelbaum
 
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From:           Gabriel Egan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 21 Jul 1995 00:15:05 +0100
Subject: 6.0567  Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0567  Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
 
A common theme runs through some of the postings in this thread, which can be
summed up thus:
 
'If everything is culturally constructed then the act of noticing this is too,
and we are caught in a endless chain of indetermine meanings.'
 
Two examples of how this has been expressed:
 
Jim Helfers: "The "insight" that all texts are determined by cultural forces is
itself a text determined by cultural forces.  In what way can such a phenomenon
be explanatory?  What do we mean by "explanatory" in this sense? I'm caught in
the house of mirrors and I think I'm beginning to look a bit thin"
 
Sean Lawrence: "Mr. Egan argues that there are only two forms of true
criticism: political or empirical, which are both political anyway, since
everything is political. Leaving aside the argument that a definition of the
political broad enough to encompass everything would rob the term of meaning,
isn't such a position narrow?"
 
Let's suppose God is the reason for everything...does saying so rob the term
'God' of its meaning? Dealing with things in the absence of a God, or any other
transcendent meaning, or even stable terms with which to signify our intentions
is precisely the problem of post-Saussure, post-Einstein (add your own
modernist favourites) epistemology. Complaining that you want your stable
meanings back won't help you.
 
I don't relate 'tangible-empirical' evidence back to politics, as Brian
Corrigan claims, because I mean by 'tangible-empirical' those things we can all
agree on the criteria for (like "did the Globe have 20 or 24 sides?"). We
generally don't argue over the criteria by which such things are judged, but we
do argue over the criteria for what texts mean. This is not a difference of
kind, only of degree. Empiricism is a form of faith too, but the consensus on
it is so great that we agree not to argue about it. Lefty critics sometimes
feel that there is enough consensus amongst themselves that they don't bother
trying to convince their peers except by dropping hints. Perhaps you do the
same when confronted by those who believe in astrology - it's too tiring to go
the full distance every time so you just drop wee hints.
 
Some lefties carry on doing their overt (instead of covert) political
criticism, and I think this is fine. As a career choice I prefer the
'tangible-empiricals' just at the moment, but then I'm not being paid to teach
anyone yet. When I do I expect that in discussions of meaning (which is what
undergrads are supposed to do in English degrees in the UK) 'Marxist
existentialism' will be the commonest words in my mouth.
 
By the way, could Brian Corrigan please let us know what "simple beauty" is?
Kenneth Clark says that "feminine beauty was discovered in Egypt in the second
millenium BC" (_Feminine Beauty_ 1980 p8). My best friend is doing a PhD on the
subject, so a definition would be a great help, thanks.
 
Gabriel Egan
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Moray McConnachie <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 21 Jul 1995 11:47:48 +0100 (BST)
Subject: 6.0563 Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0563 Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
 
I should like to join in what I expect will be a long-running debate. I have
enjoyed many approaches from what might be described as culturally
reconstructed scholars, as I have from culturally unreconstructed ones. What I
suppose I object to is the determination from each side to insist that they are
right. Gabriel Egan writes that when we discuss what the plays mean, we find
ourselves talking politics.  Fine - but we are not discussing only politics,
but truth, beauty and other absolutes.
 
But those who maintain that the "cultural construct" approach is the only way
of approaching Shakespeare proceed by defining meaning as a political act. Even
if we believe (and many don't) that language is wholly socially defined, yet we
seek in language to talk about what isn't. And certainly Shakespeare did.
Taking a position in which we hypothesise that the plays look at absolute
values, and then discussing those values, seems to me perfectly reasonable.
Certainly neither I nor Shakespeare can avoid being read politically, but I
defend my and Shakespeare's right to think, or even to pretend to think,
apolitically.
 
Yours,
Moray McConnachie
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Moray McConnachie <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 21 Jul 1995 13:22:59 +0100 (BST)
Subject: 6.0567 Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0567 Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
 
I must say also that I agree with other correspondents who find Gabriel's
picture of the academic sitting down with a student and convincing him in an
"intense" session that political analysis is the proper procedure a frightening
one. The *job* of an educator, a teacher, is not to *convince* a student of
anything, but to provide him/her with the intellectual tools, and a little
empirical knowledge, to convince himself/herself.
 
Give me a student at the age of eighteen, and I will make a cultural
materialist of him? I hope not.
 
Moray McConnachie
 
(6)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 21 Jul 1995 21:26:44 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0567  Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0567  Re: Shakespeare as Cultural Construct
 
Brian Corrigan;
 
Ah, beware the frenzied feministi! "Dame Poetry is undoubtedly man-made";
however, since "Man" Himself is "undoubtedly" woman-made, we'll let that pass.
No need to cavil over details. As for the abstract "Man/he", I've found that
"Humanity/it" generally does the job pretty well, and with no loss of meaning.
True, "Mankind" is a lovely word; it really is too bad it's so wretchedly
unfair to half the world's population.
 
Stephanie Hughes

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