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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: February ::
Re: Ideology
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0265.  Monday, 24 February 1997.

[1]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Monday, 24 Feb 1997 05:07:24 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 8.0264  Re: Ideology

[2]     From:   Michael Yogev <
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        Date:   Monday, 24 Feb 1997 12:28:12 +0200
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0264  Ideology


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Monday, 24 Feb 1997 05:07:24 -0500
Subject: Re: Ideology
Comment:        SHK 8.0264  Re: Ideology

Paul Hawkins makes my lectures sound rather more exciting than they are.
I only rarely scream 'Colonialist!' at audiences these days, usually
settling for a mere palsied shake of gory locks and clenched mutterings
of 'They hate us youth'.  As for being 'psychotic', or even, as he
implies, 'a pervert', I suspect these qualities require more energy (to
say nothing of prosthetic investment) than I can currently muster. My
capacities in the old 'ideological-critical magic' department apparently
remain the envy of the ungodly, but citizens of the Republic will soon
be able to judge of that for themselves.  I'm scheduled to give a couple
of talks in the USA in March and April. Details are available from the
usual agencies. It's not a pretty sight, of course, and protective
clothing is advised, but I'd be delighted meet - indeed, to scream at -
any list-members who promise not to become hysterical at the prospect.
You can't miss me. I'll be the one with the cloak and fangs.

T. Hawkes

PS: OK, I'll confess. I do occasionally aim to change the way my
students think about literature. We used to call that 'education', guv.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Yogev <
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Date:           Monday, 24 Feb 1997 12:28:12 +0200
Subject: 8.0264  Ideology
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0264  Ideology

This is in response to Paul Hawkins' comments on ideology as distinct
from aesthetics. As will become abundantly clear from my remarks, I
share the suspicions and critiques of the "aesthetic" voiced by Gabriel
Egan and Terence Hawkes, and it seems to me that the two figures invoked
by Hawkins in his defense of the "aesthetic" are perfect exemplars of
why this category is, yes, ideologically over-determined.

Samuel Johnson was steeped in continental neoclassicist views of drama,
and clearly also a child of the conservative response to the English
Revolution.  Both these historical and artistic trends presuppose a
universal standard of "art" based on a problematic assumption of an
equally universal "human nature".  Johnson criticizes Shakespeare for
failing to follow some of the classical unities, while excusing him for
violating some of them and, in effect (like Pope), saying that when
Shakespeare breaks the rules, the rule is that rules should be broken.
But all we really need to do is look at Johnson's definition of
"enthusiasm" in his Dictionary to see how much a product of the
Enlightenment and of its ideological fiction of "general humanity" or
"human nature" he really is.

As for the other authority cited by Hawkins, Camille Paglia ("usually
sensible!?"), I wonder how and why he uses her comments on beauty at
all, for she is the same person who has explained rape as a natural urge
in all men who are driven by sexual needs women should simply learn to
accept as part of our culture.  High fashion models, as those terribly
ideological and anti-aesthetic feminist critics point out, create and
perpetuate a nearly impossible standard of beauty that is destructive
for young women who strive without success to live up to it (see the
statistics on teenage bulemia and anorexia in young women) and for men
who come to expect nothing less but may feel nervous and inadequate when
actually confronted with someone that beautiful. Fashion models
themselves make enough money to allow them to rationalize or ignore the
damage they do, not to mention that done by the "beauty" and fashion
industry itself.

Shakespeare himself recognizes how empty such standards of beauty really
are in his sonnet "My Mistress' Eyes". Now there's an ideological lesson
for you!

I'm surprised that Hawkins will invoke such "authorities" in his
criticism of those "ideological" readers of Shakespeare, but even more
mystified by the fact that he seems to assume that the only true,
complete appreciation of Shakespeare's works comes from its aesthetic
beauty, whatever that might be.  Indeed, there are lines of great poetic
grace and charm in Shakespeare, but why must we assume that students who
"love Shakespeare" will love his works any less if they come to
appreciate the subtle or not so subtle ideological currents his dramas
address, and as Jean Howard and others point out, often subvert or
contest?  Isn't that in fact the role of drama in any society?  The late
Victorian "art for art's sake" movement was itself clearly an
ideological response to abhorrent contemporary social and economic
contexts, not a miraculous discovery of some essential truth about art.
Why cut off Shakespeare from contemporary concerns (his own, and ours)
that threaten to make his works even more relevant that simply worship
of his "greatness" can ever hope to do?

Michael Yogev
Dept. of English
University of Haifa
 

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