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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: October ::
Re: Politics
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0757.  Monday, 21 October 1996.

(1)     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Oct 96 20:30:25 BST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0754  Re: Politics

(2)     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Oct 96 17:58:58 EST
        Subj:   Re: Politics

(3)     From:   Dale Lyles <
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        Date:   Saturday, 19 Oct 1996 20:11:22 -0400
        Subj:   Turtle and Politics


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Oct 96 20:30:25 BST
Subject: 7.0754  Re: Politics
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0754  Re: Politics

Thomas Bishop writes

>The fact that English uses phonemic stress whereas
>French does not, or that languages that shift stress
>routinely onto first syllables tend to develop alliterative
>meters, or even that all known human societies practise
>the composition and exchange of narratives: these are
>not in any useful sense "political" facts by themselves.

These are only 'facts' within a framework of interest in such features. Their
status as 'facts' relies upon an acceptance of the independent validity of such
concepts as 'phoneme', 'syllable', and 'alliteration'.

>But they are facts relevant, and even necessary, to the study of
>poetry or, if you prefer, "literature".  And one can get quite far indeed with
>such facts before running full tilt into "politics."

My theory class today practiced using Vladimir Propp's 31 'functions' as a way
of describing a narrative. Propp isn't the slightest bit interested in the
'facts' that Thomas Bishop says are 'relevant, and even necessary, to the study
of poetry or, if you prefer, "literature"'.

My students wanted to know about the academic milieu that valued the Propp
approach, which they found to be very unlike the way they had previously been
trained to analyse text. Their 'facts' (much like Bishop's) were not Propp's,
but they had heard of structuralism and were aware that it was historically
located as a practice with English studies. Hence it's on the syllabus of the
theory course.

There's no point giving one's own set of 'facts' about text and asserting that
these are un-political. What happens to different models of textuality, and why
different models are valued at different times, is the deeply political matter
that students must be able to address.

Gabriel Egan

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Oct 96 17:58:58 EST
Subject:        Re: Politics

I confess that Terence Hawkes would be right to call my "distinction" between
"entertainment" and "politics" factitious, if indeed it were mine, which it is
not.  In the first place, I was piggy-backing on Frank Whigham (though I don't
mean to pass on the fault to him, either).  In the second, the rest of my
posting went on to call attention to a highly politicizable and very
entertaining piece of stage business that occurred in a not very overtly
political place--that is, in that temple of haut bourgeois high cultural
respectability, the Festival Theatre in Stratford, Ontario, and thus explicitly
("entertainment" that "happened to condense and focus a lot of socio-economic
reality") denied any ineluctable "distinction"; if I were guilty of anything,
it would be self-contradiction.

But I think it is not factitious to talk about a range of critical
emphasis--that is, within spoken or written discourse about drama, as distinct
from the full complexity of spectators' or readers' responses to drama--between
something like undiluted "politics" at one end and something like undiluted
"entertainment" at the other. And, with an eye on that range, to say (seconding
Tom Bishop's earlier rejoinder to Hawkes) that concentrating exclusively on
politics (which is what Gabriel Egan's remark about "filling students up with
politics" strongly implies) leaves stuff out.

I used the word "fun"--responding, I think, to something Gradgrindish and
hectoring in Egan's characteristic assumption of moral and epistemological and
pedagogical superiority.  That is, given the truth that all dramatic texts
themselves (_Twelfth Night_, for instance), and all the details of their
realization on stage or film, and the reactions of all their readers and
audiences, are inevitably implicated in, and implicate, what Tom calls
"questions of human sociality"--given that truth, will there therefore be no
more cakes and ale?

To put it another way, it has seemed to me that the discourse of cultural
materialism, much of which I have found illuminating, even tonic, and which has
altered my reading and teaching and writing, has not dealt very effectively--I
think because it can't--with the _dulce_ part of the old Horatian formula, with
the questions about how particular features of texts and stage practices give
readers and spectators pleasure.  (Whence, even, the undoubted pleasure that
arises from pulling the smiler's cloak aside and finding the knife?)  I agree
with Tom that approaches to these questions need to pass through the discourses
of biology, psychology, maybe even metaphysics.

I think they are important to students in themselves.  They ought to be
important to Gabriel Egan's students because they bear on the determination of
just how and how well particular productions produce their political effects.
At this stage in my own history I can't deny that the wriggle of pleasure I
felt when I first read Hamlet's "Well said, old mole! Canst work i'th'earth so
fast?  A worthy pioner" had in it the frisson that followed some not-yet-
conscious recognition of the ways the speech undermines (wink) patriarchy.  But
also the frisson provoked by the image of the ghost plunging through earth and
stone, by the change in dictional and syntactic register, by the alliteration
of "well" and "said," "old" and "mole", by an American's encounter with
"pioneer" in a new and surprising usage (including perhaps a not-yet-conscious
recognition that its military associations pick up the Ghost's history and
armor), maybe even by some blurred recollection of _The Wind in the Willows_.
I don't know that any merely political analysis of _Hamlet_ can effectively
deal with the play's wild and whirling comedy.

Maybe, to be sure, I am just ignorant, and there are things out there I ought
to read.  If so, I hope Mssrs. Drakakis and Egan and Hawkes will direct me to
them.

Ready to set it down,
Dave Evett

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dale Lyles <
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Date:           Saturday, 19 Oct 1996 20:11:22 -0400
Subject:        Turtle and Politics

I, like Bill Godshalk, am confused by the "all-politics" thing.  [Unlike him, I
suspect, I am *always* confused by the "all-politics" thing.]  I am not a
political theorist in any way, which is probably why I lean more towards the
previous post about some things simply not being worth the time and effort to
discover the undergarments of politics beneath the frills and furbelows of
theme and universality.

However, I would like to share this story with the list, having already shared
it with Bill.   [He, btw, says that he knows that everything is *not*
political; it's *sexual*, he says, so there.]


        A renowned astrophysicist was doing a community lecture.  He was asked
what held the earth up in space, and he gave a complete picture of orbits
space/time gravity, etc.
        From the back of the room there was a disturbance, and he finally
called  on a little old lady who was waving her umbrella around violently.
"Yes, madam?"
     "Rubbish! "
     "I beg your pardon?"
     "Rubbish!  Everything you said was rubbish!  The earth is held up in
space by a giant turtle!"
     He smiled indulgently.  "But madam, in that case, on what does the
turtle rest?"
     "Ha!  You can't fool me, young man!  It's turtles all the way down!"

That's what always comes to my mind when we get the "all-politics" postings.

Dale Lyles <---now waiting patiently to hear what Mr. Hawkes actually means
Newnan  Community Theatre Company
 

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