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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: December ::
Re: Politics: Marxists, Elitism, and Texts
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0910.  Wednesday, 4 December 1996.

(1)     From:   Jane A Thompson <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Dec 1996 10:24:58 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0895 Re: Politics: Marxists, Elitism

(2)     From:   Andrew Walker White <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Dec 1996 15:24:47 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Marxism, Elitism

(3)     From:   Paul Hawkins <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Dec 1996 15:34:14 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0902 Re: Politics


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jane A Thompson <
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Date:           Tuesday, 3 Dec 1996 10:24:58 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 7.0895 Re: Politics: Marxists, Elitism
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0895 Re: Politics: Marxists, Elitism

It's the "little cattle-town idyll" kind of non-argument, of course, whch gets
Marxists and other university and U.S.-coastal types despised to begin with.
Can we not talk about each other's postings without resorting to casual
put-downs?

                --Jane

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Walker White <
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Date:           Tuesday, 3 Dec 1996 15:24:47 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Marxism, Elitism

To correct the many bad impressions I have created here, let me stress that
when I decided to produce Hamlet in Sidney, it was because I regard it as a
good play.  I had hopes of sharing my joy in Shakespeare, and certainly didn't
entertain any ridiculous notions of cultural superiority.

What's interesting to me is that the responses I have received off-line seem to
indicate a cultural divide, between the UK and the USA.  The UK comments were
almost universally cynical, and the USA comments were encouraging -- moreover,
the Yanks didn't suspect my motives for putting on the play in the first place.

Perhaps a useful way out of the debate I've helped set off  would be for us to
examine the differences we have on either side of the puddle. Clearly,
Americans view Marxism with distrust, seeing it to be an elitist philosophy
(steeped in Platonism, if I do say so myself).  Our fellows in the UK, however,
have come to regard it as a legitimate (if not the only legitimate) lense
through which to view our times.

My chief concern is that when we define the arts as elitist, we are in fact
practicing a sort of elitism, pretending to know the minds of total strangers
whose only offense is that they enjoy performing and directing Shakespeare.

My other concern is that Marxism/Leninism, and its Chinese incarnation as well,
have succeeded in killing the arts and have almost succeeded in destroying
centuries of cultural heritage.  That is why I bristle at the notion that I am
an elitist -- it implies that if our Marxist brethren had it their way, I'd be
off to Siberia.  At least I'd be in good company, Meyerhold et al considered.

Besides, here in America it's the capitalists who hate the arts and call them
elitist.  We have to put up with a lot of bigoted rhetoric from our opinion
writers and politicians, who say that all Yanks should just pay for their Cable
TV channels, buy the latest trash from Warner Brothers or Disney, or shut up
and stay at home.  When we try to arrange for free concerts, free theatre, we
are called elitist in spite of the fact that we're trying to share our passion
for the arts and do it with all of the people in mind.

Why is it that the human spirit is always suspect?  Why is it that we are only
regarded as material beings, with solely material motivations?  Is it possible
that Marxism and Capitalism converge on the notion that the typical human being
is spiritless, and only good as a worker or consumer?

Andy White
Urbana, IL

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul Hawkins <
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Date:           Tuesday, 3 Dec 1996 15:34:14 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 7.0902 Re: Politics
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0902 Re: Politics

Trust John Drakakis, or any of the ideologues, to leap to the conclusion that
to speak of the texts as "scripts" implies some belief in a recoverable
"original" or pure meaning, or more, a privileging of that original.  It does
not.

The texts have a certain undeniable cultural capital as literature, it is true,
and they also have a certain undeniable aesthetic power.  Those two things
about the texts are quite separate.  But a knee-jerk ideological decision to
always and everywhere privilege one of those "meanings" is one way of
responding to Shakespeare's complexity.

Paul Hawkins
 

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