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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: February ::
Re: Minimal Civility; Difficult Texts
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 8.0165.  Monday, 3 February 1997.

(1)     From:   Diana E. Smith <
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        Date:   Saturday, 1 Feb 1997 14:35:00 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0157  Minimal Civility

(2)     From:   Joanne Walen <
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        Date:   Sunday, 2 Feb 1997 12:33:42 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0163 Re: Civility, Iago, Fonts

(3)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Saturday, 01 Feb 1997 15:32:31 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0163  Re: Civility, Iago, Fonts


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Diana E. Smith <
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Date:           Saturday, 1 Feb 1997 14:35:00 -0500
Subject: 8.0157  Minimal Civility
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0157  Minimal Civility

No, you are not the only one.

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joanne Walen <
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Date:           Sunday, 2 Feb 1997 12:33:42 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0163 Re: Civility, Iago, Fonts
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0163 Re: Civility, Iago, Fonts

Add yet another vote for "minimal civility," or, perhaps, audience- and
place-appropriate language choices (public, professional discourse).

Joanne Walen

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Saturday, 01 Feb 1997 15:32:31 -0500
Subject: 8.0163  Re: Civility, Iago, Fonts
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0163  Re: Civility, Iago, Fonts

Peter Paul Schnierer writes:

>Take a source text that is sufficiently old and
>difficult (*Othello*, the *Nicomachean Ethics*, whatever), discuss a de rigueur
>interpretation of it (Branagh's film, your fellow monks' anatomy of passions,
>and so on), emphasize what that interpretation could do if it were what it
>isn't (explicit homosexual acts, Christian virtues extolled to the detriment of
>others), and locate that in the original. There you are. Aristotle is now a
>Church Father, and Shakespeare "queer rather than gay".

How can we be absolutely certain what a difficult text "isn't"?  We read from
the present; we read everything from the present, including history and
literature. So when he make an historical judgment, e.g., "They wouldn't have
thought that way in the sixteenth century," we make that judgment according to
our interpretation of past douments and/or archaeological sites. And we may be
utterly wrong.

I'm not trying to say that Renaissance texts mean whatever we now want them to
mean, but there are historical limitations to our knowledge of the past.  We
may be able to draw a circle of limits around a disputed passage, e.g., "This
is not about Martians," but we can only guess at the range of readings that may
have been given to that passage by Renaissance people.

Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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