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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: February ::
Re: MM Sins; Woman/Hamlet; Ideology; Dover Cliff
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0264.  Sunday, 23 February 1997.

[1]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Saturday, 22 Feb 1997 15:36:28 GMT
        Subj:   RE: Sins in MM

[2]     From:   Lisa S. Starks <
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        Date:   Saturday, 22 Feb 1997 17:31:18 GMT
        Subj:   Woman as Hamlet

[3]     From:   Paul Hawkins <
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        Date:   Saturday, 22 Feb 1997 14:14:27 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Ideology

[4]     From:   Paul Worley <
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        Date:   Saturday, 22 Feb 1997 21:49:44 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0142 Re: Edgar, Gloucester, and "Dover Cliff"


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Saturday, 22 Feb 1997 15:36:28 GMT
Subject:        RE: Sins in MM

Daniel Lowenstein digresses

> When Gabriel Egan stops theorizing and starts engaging
> in what old-fashioned people like myself regard as
> literary criticism, his comments on this listserver
> are almost invariably insightful.

As you might expect, I consider 'literary criticism' to be a highly
politicized theoretical construct, the creation and sustaining of which
requires constant effort. (After all, 'drama' isn't obviously 'literary'
until worked on to make it so.)

Charles Ross is

> curious to know precisely at what point Gabriel
> Egan feels sorry for Satan in Paradise Lost. I thought
> we were past that.

When he takes the existential decision to fight a battle he knows he
can't win. (Book 1 esp. lines 157-270) I'll try to catch up with the
others who've got past that response.

Gabriel Egan

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lisa S. Starks <
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Date:           Saturday, 22 Feb 1997 17:31:18 GMT
Subject:        Woman as Hamlet

On Asta Nielsen as Hamlet, see also J. Lawrence Guntner (Technische
Universitat Braunschweig), "Expressionist _Hamlet_: The Gade/Nielsen
_Hamlet_ (1920) and the History of Shakespeare on Film" in "Shakespeare
and Film," a Special Double Issue of _Post Script: Essays in Film and
the Humanities_, guest ed. Lisa S. Starks (forthcoming).

Lisa S. Starks
Texas A&M University-Commerce

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul Hawkins <
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Date:           Saturday, 22 Feb 1997 14:14:27 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Ideology

Daniel Lowenstein is right to place the stress in my sentence on
"imperatives."  Also important were the words "in very large degree."

I certainly never meant to suggest that the works of Shakespeare or
works of art, generally, are not made of political, economic, and
historical material.  They are, of course.  This being recognized, I
think three questions are raised.

One question is, are the works of Shakespeare or any other writer
*reducible to* the history they contain, or the economic conditions or
political systems they represent?  I hope that the answer is "of course
not" and that we can profitably distinguish between the history in the
work, the history of the work, and the transformation of that material
into something that is aesthetically powerful.  Because I think that
what makes great works great-and certainly this would be true of those
Daniel Lowenstein mentions-is not the history, economics, and politics
they contain per se, but the qualities of the representation and
transformation of that material.

Another question, touching the uses made of imaginative literature
throughout history, is, are the works of Shakespeare *reducible to*
their various appropriations?  It's been repeated several times on this
list recently by different contributors that value is not inherent in a
work, but assigned by readers, and the question is only, is that value
assigned for ideological reasons, or for cultural reasons that are not
necessarily the same thing as ideological ones?  But as it's been
expressed on this list, this view, which certainly expresses a
truth-that value is an experience in an interaction between text and
reader-seems to edge towards the absurd proposition that there's nothing
there in the text in the first place until it's been used or
appropriated.  But what's there in the text is the record-a complex and
conflicting and partial record, of course-of a remarkable human
achievement, whether it's the achievement of a man, Shakespeare, or of
some other individual or group of individuals.  So is Shakespeare
*reducible to* the uses we make of him?  Of course not.
A third question touches the experience of the text by any individual
reader in the late twentieth or any other century, and the experience of
Shakespeare by the individuals who have written the great criticism of
Shakespeare's works.  Are these responses *reducible to* the consciously
or unconsciously espoused ideological positions of the critics or
individuals who have them?  Or does aesthetic response transcend
ideology to the extent that the response is full, complete, and
engaged?  Is Samuel Johnson, when he asserts the general truth of
Shakespeare's plays, simply writing the propaganda of colonialism?  Or
is he trying, with the power of his intellect and imagination, to touch
and elaborate something that he believes is there in the plays, capable
of being experienced by any reader at any time, contributing to their
power as he experiences it?
While aesthetics and politics and economics, and history, and biology,
and all else are connected in important ways, these three sets of
questions and my answers to them suppose simply that the aesthetic can
meaningfully be distinguished from these other areas-as they can from
it, unless we'd like to hold that economics, politics, and history are
reducible to the aesthetic-and at times should be so distinguished.
I have a question for Professor Hawkes that I think summarizes these
issues:  what does he do when students enter his classroom with a
sincere love of the works of Shakespeare?  Surely such students still
exist.  Does Professor Hawkes scream "Colonialist!" at them, and does he
try, by working his ideological-critical magic, to convert them from
their belief?  Or can a love of the literature coexist with a capacity
to criticize its appropriations?  If the answer to the second question
is "yes," then the only point that I would seek to make about the
separability of the aesthetic from the ideological is, I think, made.
If not, if to learn from Professor Hawkes a student must renounce her
love of the literature, and if Professor Hawkes undertakes the challenge
and sets out to destroy that love, then I would suggest that Professor
Hawkes's way of looking at things is psychotic.  I am reminded of a
piece of extraordinary good sense from the usually sensible Camille
Paglia in a lecture she gave at MIT.  She described her horror when a
feminist critic was describing some gorgeous high-fashion pictures of
women with rhetoric about "strangulation," "bondage," "decapitation."
Her horror increased when she thought of the students in the audience
who might be uncritically accepting this rhetoric and prevented from
experiencing the beauty of these pictures or of other (to some)
ideologically problematic depictions of men, women, children, or
whomever or whatever.  Paglia concludes, "when you destroy young
people's ability to take pleasure in beauty, you are a pervert."

Paul Hawkins

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul Worley <
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Date:           Saturday, 22 Feb 1997 21:49:44 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0142 Re: Edgar, Gloucester, and "Dover Cliff"
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0142 Re: Edgar, Gloucester, and "Dover Cliff"

<< As Derek Wood writes, "too much truth" is problematic.  "Speak what
we feel, not what we ought to say."

 John M. Boni, >>

Surely "what we ought to say" is the lie, and "what we feel" is speaking
the truth.

Edgar, even more than Albany, is full of faith in the heavens "the gods
are just/ the dark and vicious place where thee he got, cost him his
eyes" and "look up, my lord" to Lear at the end where Kent, who has
shared Edgar's optimism till now, says to let him die. Albany's a
bungler at best.

Paul Worley
 

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