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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: January ::
Re: Development of Individualism
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0018. Monday, 8 January 1996.

(1)     From:   David Reed <
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        Date:   Sunday, 7 Jan 1996 12:14:51 -0800
        Subj:   SHK 7.0002  Re: Development of Individualism

(2)     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Monday, 8 Jan 1996 09:17:40 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: Development of Individualism


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Reed <
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Date:           Sunday, 7 Jan 1996 12:14:51 -0800
Subject: Re: Development of Individualism
Comment:        SHK 7.0002  Re: Development of Individualism

In response to Jesus Cora

You probably have already come across Meredith Anne Skura's "Shakespeare the
Actor and the Purposes of Playing", but if you havn't, this might prove
interesting.  A review of it is printed in Shakespeare Quarterly 46:3 by
Coppelia Kahn.

Also, I am interested in your comment that "soliloquies "must need" reflect the
interest in self-consciousness and inner-life of individuals that developed in
early modern England."  It may also be interesting to think about the way in
which Soliloquies (and like theatrical conventions) served to create that
interest and instruct it in its form(ul)ation.

Yours,
d.reed

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Monday, 8 Jan 1996 09:17:40 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Re: Development of Individualism

Jesus et al:

Bill Godshalk's questioning of the "rise" of self-awareness in renaissance
times is thought provoking. It seems to me that the awareness of the self as a
being separate from the matrix of one's community is a state of mind that
arises with the rise of what we call "civilization". Rural, agrarian
communities depend on the unique contributions of their members for survival,
thus a man or woman will function as a necessary organ (eyes, hands, legs) of
the body politic, and will take their identity as much from that as from their
own ideosyncratic persona. As a society becomes more complex, more mechanized,
with more individuals to draw from for increasingly specialized functions,
individuals are forced to find their value in their uniqueness. John, son of
Andrew, or John Who Lives By the River are no longer sufficient identification
when the community gets larger than a certain size or so mobile that members
change. Today we are not only identified by a system of naming that came into
use (more or less) during the renaissance and rise of the middle class, but
also by our social security number. Thus we will find self-identification,
self-consciousness, self-awareness, from ancient times to now, in communities
that were highly "civilized". The middle ages in Europe saw a loss of
"civilization", a return to a more rural/agrarian lifestyle, and thus less
self-identification. The Church had a lot to do with this in my view; in its
efforts to eliminate "worldliness" it gave its members new names, nuns took the
names of male saints, and v.v.. Works were done for the glory of God. Signing
one's name would be vanity. Etc.

This is a large and interesting subject which connects with themes of modern
existential loneliness. It seems clear to me that Shakespeare was expressing an
early version of this loneliness in his sililoques, which seem to me clearly to
be meant as an "aside" by the protagonist to himself, overheard by the audience
in the same way that an aside would be overheard if spoken to another
character. The protagonist no longer has God to consult with, nor any human
close enough to understand. He is alone.

A marvelous book on the subject of modern existential loneliness is Philip
Slater's "The Pursuit of Loneliness," an inspired insight into the
psychological mechanisms of modern American culture.

Stephanie Hughes
 

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