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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: October ::
Re: The State of the Profession
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0722.  Saturday, 5 October 1996.

(1)     From:   Framji Minwalla <
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        Date:   Thursday, 3 Oct 1996 10:46:50 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0716  Re: The State of the Profession

(2)     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Thursday, 3 Oct 96 21:41:24 BST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0716  Re: The State of the Profession

(3)     From:   Edward T Bonahue <
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        Date:   Thursday, 3 Oct 1996 17:44:32 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0716  Re: The State of the Profession

(4)     From:   Kezia Sproat <
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        Date:   Friday, 4 Oct 1996 10:53:52 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0716 Re: The State of the Profession


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Framji Minwalla <
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Date:           Thursday, 3 Oct 1996 10:46:50 -0400
Subject: 7.0716  Re: The State of the Profession
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0716  Re: The State of the Profession

Daniel Lowenstein's broadside against Gabriel Egan is the kind of deplorable
thinking most people in this country are saddled with. While it is unfortunate
that so many literature courses advance secondary at the expense of primary
texts, this clearly does not mean we should ignore the powerful implications
theoretical readings suggest about the sociopolitical climates in which these
texts were conceived and disseminated.  Teaching undergraduates and graduates
that literature was made in a cultural vacuum would be like teaching law
students about the constitution without considering when or how it was written.

And the reason Mr. Lowenstein is paying an excessive amount to send his
children to school clearly is because we have no socialist "tyranny" in this
country. The state of the profession is actually the state of the university
under siege from a capitalist society that consistently denigrates teachers.
As Rudy Giuliani put it, teachers should get second jobs if they feel they're
not making enough money--after all, they only work a ten-hour week.

Mr. Lowenstein might serve himself, and his students, better by paying more
mind to the inequities rampant in the world, and less attention to
party-political hype that claims the US spends so much helping the rest of the
world.  It actually doesn't--less than 10% of the budget goes to foreign aid.
Even less than that to education.

Framji Minwalla
(
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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Thursday, 3 Oct 96 21:41:24 BST
Subject: 7.0716  Re: The State of the Profession
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0716  Re: The State of the Profession

David Knauer writes

>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...

Okay, I'll grant that.

>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?

None of this is to do with superstructure. Discussion of where my computer was
made concerns only the base. I live and work in affluent western Europe and my
rate of consumption of the world's resources could not be sustained without the
third world's massive contribution. If the west gives a little back in the form
of aid, it's made conditional upon economic re-organization which renders the
recipients even less able to resist the systematic removal of their resources.

It's a bit sly to bring in Williams to suggest my simple model of movement of
resources is inadequate when you know that it's base/superstructure relations
he's concerned with.

I imagine Kezia Sproat thinks that the Shakespeare texts plays no part in all
this, but the ongoing education of young middle-class persons is essential to
the maintenance of the system of removal of resources westwards and northwards.
One can choose to teach the texts as a remedy to the misery of the world, but
only if you believe that it's all a terrible misunderstanding that can be
sorted out over the domestic chores. If you think that economic structures, and
especially notions of property, are the problem, you'd probably look in the
texts for moments when economic structures and notions of property are made
apparent and, as so often happens, problematized. You might also want to
discuss the uses to which the texts have been put in an effort to draw
attention away from economic and political processes (as Terry Hawkes commented
upon earlier, concerning Granville-Barker's Old Vic _King Lear_).

Gabriel Egan

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edward T Bonahue <
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Date:           Thursday, 3 Oct 1996 17:44:32 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 7.0716  Re: The State of the Profession
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0716  Re: The State of the Profession

I'm sure Gabriel Egan's zeal for filling students full of politics will receive
a chorus of raucous responses, especially on our side of the Atlantic.  (Quite
ironic, actually, considering the MLA's usual docket of causes, most of which,
incidentally, I agree with.)

But if I might ask Gabriel a question, one materialist to another: would you
make a distinction in any way between (1) teaching literture as a process of
recognizing that all writers and readers have "political positions" (even if
they don't know it or won't admit it), _without_ necessarily endorsing one or
another position; and (2) teaching literature as a means of stuffing students
with personal political views, for which most of us have no mandate and in
which students have little interest. Or do you think the first should always
lead to the second?

A sophomore from my Brit Lit survey, reading over my shoulder, offers another
relevant question: "Why does he teach English instead of political science or
philosophy, if that's what really interests him?"

Thanks in advance,

Ed Bonahue
University of Florida

(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kezia Sproat <
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Date:           Friday, 4 Oct 1996 10:53:52 -0400
Subject: 7.0716 Re: The State of the Profession
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0716 Re: The State of the Profession

My post on the value of spending years studying Shakespeare and widely sharing
the fruits of that study has been misread, and that's partly my responsibility
for having dealt with too many ideas in a short space, having let go and
written as if I were talking to friends or kindred souls, in an effort to
encourage the many PhDs who will not be employed in academia. The principal
misreading, by Egan, is that I said Shakespeare can save the world. Certainly
Shakespeare is dead, and I was referencing people who study Shakespeare's
works---for a long time and seriously. Egan had to stretch what I wrote, at
several points and in several directions, before he could show how ridiculous I
was, and softens at the end of his tirade at the memory of Joe Hill (as do I).
As a lifelong student of Shakespeare and teacher of nonviolence, I am most
interested in what drives people who appear to be established Shakespeareans to
feel the need to misrepresent the ideas of others by reducing them to
absurdity. Defensiveness is usually exhibited among those who feel insecure.
Perhaps all those whose economic health derives from the study of Shakespeare's
texts feel insecure, academic appointments or no? I find the study of
Shakespeare a pleasure, and believe pleasure makes me and others more sturdy of
soul, more able to withstand tribulation, less willing to cause distress to
others. Take heart, Egan. If you lose your job, you will still have the
pleasure of Shakespeare, and that can be a source of strength.

My little rhapsody did intend to suggest that---assuming, (wrongly as it turns
out) that Shakespeareans are good at reading carefully statements made by a
huge assortment of characters---the oversupply of PhDs may employ themselves
happily across the planet, sans academic positions, because they have developed
essential, increasingly rare, and much-needed skills, to wit: listening
intently, reproducing accurately what another has said, and saying what one
means oneself very clearly. Without those skills there is no peace.
[<------Repeat that sentence about 1000 times, apply to families, departments,
listservs, cities, nations]. I stand by every word in the rhapsody. To respond
fully to Prof. Egan's put-down will take (and has inspired an outline for)
another book. Prof. Egan may attend my nonviolence classes at Highbank Farm
Peace Education Center tuition free. In fact, so may any PhD in Shakespeare who
wants to come to Chillicothe. Then we can start another new "school" of
Shakespeare study: Nonviolence. This quite old but very new area of study may
provide the long and full answer to Prof. Egan's distress about his computer,
etc.

I may have prompted Egan's verbal violence with the violent language I
addressed at deans and university presidents. That violence begets violence is
a major tenet of nonviolence studies.
 

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