Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: September ::
Re: Old Criticism; State of Profession/Criticism
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0690.  Tuesday, 24 September 1996.

(1)     From:   Tom Bishop <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 23 Sep 1996 15:49:06 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0680  Re: Old Criticism

(2)     From:   Thomas Ruddick <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 23 Sep 96 15:34:13 EST
        Subj:   State of Profession/Criticism


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Bishop <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 23 Sep 1996 15:49:06 -0400
Subject: 7.0680  Re: Old Criticism
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0680  Re: Old Criticism

>It is interesting, and symptomatic, that Dana Barnes should want to construct a
>reading list which excludes material published before 1950 (though even this is
>generous compared with many who would exclude anything since 1984).  Is there
>no place for the criticism and, especially, the scholarship of the earlier part
>of the century? It's often humbling to go back and realise that our forbears
>were there before us. Perhaps members of the list would care to nominate
>pre-1950 books that they still find significant and important in their thinking
>about Shakespeare and his period?

David Lindley's challenge seems to me a useful exercise in mental hygiene, so
here's my response. These are off the top of my head or off the shelf, and
sticking only to the present century.

Chambers and Bradley, Shaw and Empson.  Early work of Bradbrook, Wilson Knight,
F.P. Wilson, Rossiter and Harbage.  Louis B. Wright's invaluable book on
Middle-Class Culture, Baldwin on Elizabethan schooling, Boas on University
Drama, Hillebrand on the boy companies, Baskerville on the Jig and Welsford on
the Fool, and Kernodle's "From Art to Theatre" also come to mind. Also Francis
Fergusson's "Idea of a Theater". I find Basil Willey's "Seventeenth Century
Background" a very valuable book to refer students to. And for sparking
discussion, Lytton Strachey's "Elizabeth and Essex".

I note that many of these are "old historicist" empiricist histories. I admire
the application and thoroughness of these workers in the vineyard, and am
deeply grateful to them for saving me from having to do that sort of archival
hoeing and harrowing myself.  Sometimes I feel they get too little credit for
it, since so much that we do now depends on their having done what they did,
and done it mostly well.

I'm sure I've left off some vital things, but that's all I can get from a swift
look around my shelves and through my mental files.  I'll be interested to see
how others respond. I guess this is rather like Bill Godshalk's question about
the State of the Profession, "through a glass darkly".

Tom Bishop

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Ruddick <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 23 Sep 96 15:34:13 EST
Subject:        State of Profession/Criticism

This seemed to me relevant to the ongoing discussion of the state of the
profession on this list (which I take to mean literary scholars and not
performers nor dilletants).

On 17 Sept. Douglas Abel responded to those who took umbrage at his unkind
comments toward some actors (particularly myself, since his comments are
written to mirror mine):

> It seems that a lot of people on this list, no matter what camp they put
> themselves in, have trouble with criticism, period.  It's getting rather
> boring.

I've been unable to respond promptly, and I've seen no one else take issue with
this statement.  Further I think it speaks to more widespread problems in the
profession of literary scholarship.  So I'll assume that there's general
acceptance of his statement as innocuous, and I'll take it on from that angle--

Douglas, from your comments I see you fail to differentiate between criticism
and opinion.  Opinion is the personal reaction you might have to your
experiences, and yours is just as valid as anyone's (that includes any high
school dropouts you might encounter, so don't take that as praise). Criticism,
on the other hand, is characterized by an informed analysis of the experience,
undertaken with the intent to assist the artist in improving future efforts or
to improve the understanding and appreciation of the audience.

Your personal opinion of Michael Keaton's performance, when presented,
encourages others to trumpet their dissenting opinions as they wish.  I
trumpeted mine--indulging in just a little criticism by pointing out that I saw
some echoes of Kemp (as I understand him to have been--historical accounts
being imperfect) in that performance.

I was heartened to see that my embryonic criticism inspired someone else to
question my assumptions (apologies to someone else for not having recorded your
name), and to assert merrily that Keaton was more in the tradition of the Three
Stooges--who themselves might be seen as in the tradition of Kemp.

Thus criticism and opinion can be seen yielding different results.  Opinions
lead to disagreement--criticism invites scholarly argument where (in the best
cases) something is learned.

From my secure perspective outside the profession of literary scholarship, I
wonder if some of the problems of the profession--relevance, demand--have to do
with too many lecturers and researchers who devote themselves to promoting
personal opinions rather than engaging in rigorous criticism.
 

Other Messages In This Thread

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.