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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: November ::
Re: Politics
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0789.  Wednesday, 6 November 1996.

(1)     From:   Andrew Walker White <
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        Date:   Friday, 1 Nov 1996 21:55:54 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0782 Re: Politics

(2)     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 06 Nov 1996 13:01:47 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0778 Re: Politics


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Walker White <
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Date:           Friday, 1 Nov 1996 21:55:54 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 7.0782 Re: Politics
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0782 Re: Politics

As far as the assertion that works in the canon are political, the only thing
that would disturb me would be the assumption that the political context was
simple, and the values of the play easily discovered and categorized.

It is useful, to my mind, to discuss the ways in which the Earl of Essex was
eulogized (and his enemies damned) in Hamlet, but to say that the Dane was
purely a political protest play would be difficult if not impossible to
maintain.

The same thing could be said of the Great Dionysia of Athens.  We can come up
with any number of instances in the Tragedies in which civic virtue and Athens
as the beacon of liberty are themes.  But we can just as easily see some of the
basic civic values questioned (some of Sophocles and Euripides comes to mind).

So, is it the assertion of politics, or the assertion of specific, possibly
narrow politically based interpretation we are really talking about?

Andy White
Urbana, IL

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Wednesday, 06 Nov 1996 13:01:47 -0800
Subject: 7.0778 Re: Politics
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0778 Re: Politics

Tom Bishop writes

> I profoundly agree that students should be encouraged to engage in
> criticism of their own intellectual heritage. But Mr. Egan's account
> of his class seems to show that what they are being taught to do
> there is to "Ask Mr. Egan" to explain the history and politics of
> the readings for this week. Are they researching for themselves "why
> different models are valued at different times"?

Well, no, they are not "researching", they are at the 'being taught' stage.
But...

> Is there, in fact, agreement about this? Or merely dogma? What might
> help us reach agreement? What relevant "facts" might there be in the
>question?

That's the sort of thing being discussed, yes.

> But Mr. Egan seems to me to be making a further claim, which I am
> inclined to dispute. He seems to be claiming that "facts" can only
> ever exist in relation to some framework of knowledge that
> constitutes them, and not otherwise, that is that they have -no-
> independent existence.

Yep. That's where I stand.

> To make...[a]... claim ...[to be]...a historical discipline, it
> [Marxism] must be able to argue cogently that oppression
> exists, that it can be identified and explained. Otherwise,
> it can have no basis for imagining what might consitute an
> improvement and hence developing a politics in the first place.
> It must have a vision of human need, of how that need has been
> and is being violated, and how it could better be answered.

Absolutely not. The most inappropriate terms in this statement are: "vision",
"human need", and "violated". Even "oppression" is a difficult one. There is a
class war going on, and the rich have had some spectacular successes lately.
These terms ("vision", "human need", and "violated") imply a perspective from
within some neutral, non-combatant, class of thinkers. Many in the academy
believe themselves to be in such a class, but it is a delusion.

> I note that Mr. Egan does -not- dispute my claim that "all known
> human societies practise the composition and exchange of narratives".

I was toying with this response:

What would constitute evidence for the existence of a human society that did
not practice the composition and exchange of narrative? To say 'my child was
eaten by a woolly mammoth' is to exchange a narrative, so your claim is that
"all known human societies practise language". Since we don't confer the status
of 'social' on non-communicators, this is a tautology, not a fact. If only that
word "known" wasn't in there, we'd have an unproblematic tautology. But how am
I suppose to validate what other people might know about things? No, we're
definitely back into the realms of the contestable here.

Is that a reasonable answer?

Gabriel Egan
 

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