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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: January ::
Re: Related to Development of Individualism
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0070.  Friday, 26 January 1996.

(1)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Jan 1996 13:11:01 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0060  Re: Development of Individualism

(2)     From:   Chris J. Fassler <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Jan 1996 14:52:11 -0500
        Subj:   Development of Individualism

(3)     From:   Chris J. Fassler <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Jan 1996 15:29:10 -0500
        Subj:   Shakespeare and the Irish

(4)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Jan 1996 16:56:16 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0065  Related to Development of Individualism

(5)     From:   Michael Yogev <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Jan 1996 17:18:28 +0200 (WET)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0055  Re: Development of Individualism


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Jan 1996 13:11:01 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 7.0060  Re: Development of Individualism
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0060  Re: Development of Individualism

I wonder if part of our problem with "individualism" is our assumption -- and I
do believe that it is our unspoken hypothesis -- that the presentation of the
individual has a direct and ascertainble relationship to our perception of
ourselves as individuals. We tend to believe, I suggest, that the presentation
of the individual, say, in 13th century painting has a direct correlation with
the way 13th century people saw themselves.  This seems intuitively correct,
doesn't it?

But I'm not at all sure that this is correct.  Are artist's "periods" really
correlative to the artist's perception of her or his world and her or his self?
 Did Picasso think of himself as a cube?  Did Shakespeare basically think of
his world as comic and historic in the 1590s, tragic at the turn of the
century, and romantic about ten years later?  Do we really believe that
Shakespeare's plays are an index to life as it was experienced from 1590 to
1614? Would you make the the claim for Thomas Pynchon or John Grishman or Anne
Byatt, et al., that she or he is such an index to the 20th century?

There's a basic question here that we can trace back to Aristotle: what is the
relationship of art to life?  Until we come up with a satisfactory answer to
this one, we certainly can't trace the grow of REAL individualism in art.  All
we can trace is the presentation of the individual.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris J. Fassler <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Jan 1996 14:52:11 -0500
Subject:        Development of Individualism

I'm so gratified and embarrassed by the interesting responses to my post on
"methinks" as a possible indication of a self with which we thinkers are not
entirely familiar.  And I've decided to break a personal rule and respond to a
couple of them:

Ron Macdonald graciously corrected my ignorance of grammar and pointed out that
methinks is "an impersonal construction with an unexpressed subject and
indirect object meaning 'it seems to me.'"  I'm glad to have been corrected and
to learn that "methinks" and "I think" are taken to have different origins.
This is interesting in itself.  Still, I think the etymology begs the question:
 to my mind (and what does an expression like that tell about my self?) the
conjunction of "methinks" and "I" remains a remarkable one, as in Bottom's
speech. "Methought I was--there is no man can tell what.  Methought I was--and
methought I had--but man is but a patched fool if he will offer to say what
methought I had."  There remains here what seems a peculiary third person
distance between what "methought" ("it seemed, it appeared *to me*") and that
repetitive first person "I was" and "I had."

Jonathan Sawday adds to my curiosity and uncertainty by pointing out that
Descartes first wrote (probably) "Je pense, donc je suis," before translating
it as "Cogito ergo sum."  I have no idea at this point how to continue this
discussion, but methinks I should have a look at Sawday's shamelessly
self-advertised essay in the forthcoming _The Making of the Modern Self_.

(I am) Yours,
--Chris Fassler

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris J. Fassler <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Jan 1996 15:29:10 -0500
Subject:        Shakespeare and the Irish

Lord help me, I'm clogging your mail twice on the same day *and* appearing to
defend the honor and reputation of Shakespeare at the same time.

Jonathan Sawday (hello again) writes, "the author of _Henry V_ or _Coriolanus_
seems to me to be more than likely to have shared the cultural assumptions of a
contemporary who . . . had argued for a policy of genocide."  While *imagining*
genocide and genocidal leaders is probably necessary for *arguing for* (and
committing) genocide, I would contend that it is not the same thing, nor even
sufficient.  As for _Coriolanus_, North's translation of Plutarch's _Lives_
seems to me much more accepting and promoting of genocidal notions than is the
play that is presumably based on it.  Likely that the play's producers shared
Spenser's genocidal contempt?--yes.  More than likely?--I can't agree.

Chris Ivic presents some indications of "Shakespeare's view of 'Brother
Ireland,'" none of which I would care to dismiss "as nothing more than a
harmless joke."  Still, however distasteful it may be and however necessary for
enabling genocide, imagining and representing anti-Irish feeling is usefully
distinguishable from Spenser's final solution.

That said, I am perfectly willing to entertain an argument that begins from the
proposition that a given early modern English playwright was *likely* to have
shared in the widespread contempt for Ireland and things Irish and that the
same playwright may, as well, have thought genocide a reasonable approach to
the Irish question.  After all, colonialism sucks.

Now I'll try to stay quiet while others engage or delete to their hearts'
content.

--Chris Fassler

(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Jan 1996 16:56:16 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 7.0065  Related to Development of Individualism
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0065  Related to Development of Individualism

Jonathan Sawday writes:

>On the question of Shakespeare and genocide, I don't have that much
>confidence. But the author of _Henry V_ or _Coriolanus_ seems to me to be more
>than likely to have shared the cultural assumptions of a contemporary who,
>quite logically (from the contemporary point of view of the English polity in
>the late 16th cent), had argued for a policy of genocide. What do other people
>think?>

Since *Henry V* is an anti-war and anti-politician play, I don't see how it can
be used to bolster the suggestion that Shakespeare shared any Tudor belief in
genocide.  Regarding *Coriolanus*, I remain puzzled as to how the right wing
ever used this play as a propaganda piece without rewriting it entirely.  At
the beginning of the play, Coriolanus is hardy a character who will lead large
groups of soldiers to perform genocide.  When he finally does get an army
that's willing to follow him (and Aufidius), he is persuaded not to press his
advantage.  And by whom?

Provocatively, Bill Godshalk

(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Yogev <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Jan 1996 17:18:28 +0200 (WET)
Subject: 7.0055  Re: Development of Individualism
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0055  Re: Development of Individualism

This is in response to the very apt comments on Stephanie Hughes's reference to
"stone age communities" by Jonathan Sawday.  I would simply like to add that,
in connection with Shakespeare, Auden's astonishing and penetrating portrait of
Caliban in his "Response to the Audience" from _The Sea and the Mirror_ is a
wry, debunking, and often terrifyingly true response of the so-called subhuman
to the equally so-called civilized and artistic world.  For a more
anthropologically verifiable and hence, for some, more authoritative response,
see Benjamin Franklin's ironic and wonderful essay from 1784, "Remarks
Concerning the Savages of North America"  (Franklin's father married a women
whose father had been a missionary teacher to the American Indians).  What
delights most in this essay is precisely the way the Native Americans regard,
with amused and gentle condescension, the grand offer of the white authorities
to "educate" the young Indian men at schools and colleges. Their respectful
decline of that offer is couched precisely in terms of that enlightened
education's total lack of relevance to their environment and its demands, and
of the absence of the training in the skills and "technologies" that ARE
appropriate to life in the wilderness.  The Indian leaders then kindly return
the offer, arguing that they will gladly take on the task of turning a few of
the white Virginians' sons into "real Men". The rest of the essay is a fine and
ironically-tinged study of cultural relativity.  Worth having a look at.

Michael Yogev
University of Haifa
 

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