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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: December ::
Re: Politics and Ossified Art
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0951.  Sunday, 15 December 1996.

(1)     From:   Ben Schneider <
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        Date:   Saturday, 14 Dec 1996 14:43:38 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0934  Re: Politics

(2)     From:   Mason West <
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        Date:   Saturday, 14 Dec 1996 15:19:29 -0200
        Subj:   Ossified Art


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ben Schneider <
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Date:           Saturday, 14 Dec 1996 14:43:38 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 7.0934  Re: Politics
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0934  Re: Politics

The most important document I have recently read on the subject of mixing
politics and literature is Frank Lentricchia's recent contribution to the
magazine *Lingua Franca*.  Once the "Dirty Harry" of literary theory," he has
stopped teaching graduate students at Duke and retreated to the undergraduate
classroom where he can share his love of the books themselves.  He now thinks
it is the height of arrogance for English teachers to use their classrooms to
teach politics and sociology when there are whole departments assigned to that
task.

It's as if Robespierre had suddenly revealed that he was a nobleman, repudiated
the French Revolution, and assumed his true nature.

Yours ever
BEN SCHNEIDER

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mason West <
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Date:           Saturday, 14 Dec 1996 15:19:29 -0200
Subject:        Ossified Art

Andy White's comment --

    And I find it particularly heartening that in times of
    despotism, Shakespeare has been used frequently to get around
    the authorities and hold real protests against the regime.

-- struck me, not only because I too find it heartening that art I like so much
might also have such vital practical use, but also because it sheds light upon
things I learned in the course of an old debate over whether The Merchant of
Venice is inherently anti-Jewish.

Shakespeare's intentions in Merchant are at least debatable, and if one views
Shakespeare's plays as a whole, there is ample evidence that the bard found the
humanity in his characters despite their color and creed. If Merchant is
ambiguous, it could well be because Jews were banished from Elizabethan England
and it required well-written soft-spoken words to breach the despotism of the
time.

I realize that Andy White's point addressed how modern performances can address
contemporary injustices, but might Shakespeare have had such plans in mind when
he wrote Merchant or even, say, the Bollingbroke cycle?

--- Mason West <
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 >            www.pobox.com/~mason
 

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