Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: October ::
Re: The State of the Profession
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0716.  Thursday, 3 October 1996.

(1)     From:   Daniel Lowenstein <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 1 Oct 1996 12:31:34 PST
        Subj:   State of the Profession

(2)     From:   Gabriel Egan <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 2 Oct 96 11:35:02 BST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0714  Re:  State of Profession

(3)     From:   David Knauer <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 2 Oct 1996 10:13:23 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   The State of the Profession, World


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Daniel Lowenstein <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 1 Oct 1996 12:31:34 PST
Subject:        State of the Profession

A contributor to this list suggests that there is much to be learned from
Shakespeare's plays by reason of the sparkling variety of characters they
contain.  Gabriel Egan believes he undermines this suggestion by pointing to a
category--non-aristocratic women who are not prostitutes--that he believes is
underrepresented in Shakespeare's plays.  Egan also claims that the northern
and western nations of the world have "condemned" the majority of the world's
population to misery.  Is that because the billions of dollars in aid provided
by northern and western nations have failed to overcome the effects of
socialism and related forms of tyrrany that the southern and eastern nations
have inflicted upon themselves?

Bill Godshalk reports the abysmal news that at his university, Ph.D. candidates
in English are offered far more courses in "theory" than in literature and that
even seminars in literature are required to be "theory-driven."

I am paying dearly for the undergraduate education my two children are
currently receiving.  If they want to learn something about politics and
economics, I'd like them to learn it from people who know something about such
matters.  They MIGHT find such people in departments such as political science,
history, and economics, but they are surely unlikely to find them in
departments of literature. There are a number of things about life and their
fellow human creatures they will not learn from social scientists, but that
they could learn from serious and intelligently-guided reading of the plays of
Shakespeare.  (And, to make sure we cover enough non- aristocratic women, let
us say the novels of Defoe, or Austen, or the Brontes, or Trollope, or what you
will.)

I believe it is a social problem worth deploring that instead of intelligent
guiding through works of literature, what they are likely to receive from the
graduates of the "theory-driven" courses described by Godshalk is the fatuous
nonsense of people like Egan.

                                Best,
                                Dan Lowenstein
                                UCLA Law School

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 2 Oct 96 11:35:02 BST
Subject: 7.0714  Re:  State of Profession
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0714  Re:  State of Profession

William Godshalk picks up on a tension within my position:

>I think we have to make a distinction here between inert scripts and active
>humans.  It is possible that certain humans who read Shakespeare's scripts or
>see his scripts acted may be thus motivated to take certain humanitarian
>actions.

Quite. Kezia Sproat's posting suggested that merely reading the scripts makes
one a better person, and that as Shakespeareans we should just go around
promoting the reading of the scripts, inside or outside academia. (It doesn't
really matter which, Kezia suggests). I don't doubt that Hitler could read and
find value in Shakespeare scripts, so really it's the politically engaged
position one takes in relation to the scripts that matters.

Of course I consider "humanitarian actions" to be a rather woolly and
patronizing way of looking at it. The poor are not simply misfortunates to be
helped, but part of an economic process in which we are all located.

>I doubt if Shakespeare's scripts or Marx's books will
>radicalize the masses.  I certainly would be surprised if they did.

But you'd have to accept that Marx's books did, at certain times, do just that.
My objection is to the passive model of consumption of books like they were
medicine. And that's why theory courses should be compulsory (to draw in your
line from another thread). How else am I going to fill students full of
politics?

Gabriel Egan

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Knauer <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 2 Oct 1996 10:13:23 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        The State of the Profession, World

It seems that Gabriel Egan may be unwittingly giving aid and comfort to Kezia
Sproat's Shakespeare-saves-the-world cheerleading/cultural imperialism when he
asserts that his computer was built by a slave-child manacled to a workbench.
If only the cogs in global capitalism were so easy to isolate, we could mail
them their Shakespeare Care Packages directly. Truth be told, Egan's computer
was most likely built in several contradictory places, both by happy
technicians in white coats and by de facto slaves, which attenuates
considerably the blunt relationship he imagines between academic material
privilege and world labor suffering. Reading Raymond Williams isn't as
stirring, but didn't he problematize the exchanges between base and
superstructure sufficiently to show just how complex and therefore immune to
reductive rhetoric such socio-economic formations are?

David Knauer
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.