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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: January ::
Re: Ideology Once Again
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 8.0044.  Monday, 13 January 1997.

(1)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Saturday, 11 Jan 1997 18:09:45 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0037  Re: Ideology Once Again

(2)     From:   Dale Lyles <
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        Date:   Saturday, 11 Jan 1997 18:19:46 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0037 Re: Ideology Once Again


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Saturday, 11 Jan 1997 18:09:45 -0500
Subject: 8.0037  Re: Ideology Once Again
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0037  Re: Ideology Once Again

Gabriel Egan writes:

>You've teased enough out of me...what's your killer retort, Bill? I know you
>don't buy all this leftie stuff.

Thursday night in class, one of my students told me that I have an open mind
and actually ask questions without <italic>knowing</italic> the answers, i.e.,
without having a fixed answer in mind.  He told me that I encourage open
discussions among my students.  So I decided to bring some of that liberal
imagination to discussions on this list!  I don't have any
<italic>killer</italic> retort.

I also do not believe in <italic>innate values</italic>.  Everything is
innately meaningless.  We humans, however, apparently love to impose meanings
and assert values.  Each of us--and I've never met anyone who isn't--is a
meaning-and-value maker.  And, sure, Shakespeare's play scripts are given value
and meaning when they are read and/or acted by humans. Otherwise they have no
value or meaning. They do not lie on the shelves exuding cultural power and
spontaneously "doing cultural work."

And to call human cultural practices <italic>ideology</italic> is to impose
meaning and value on these innately meaningless and valueless practices.  They
are basically random and without coherence. Let me give you an example:

Last year, a young Indian Shakespeare scholar gave me her representation of
what happened to her at the Frankfurt Airport.  A German policeman had been
cruel to her--in an unspecified manner--because she is an Indian woman.  She
told me that this story illustrates <italic>the dark currents of
ideology</italic>.

She gave this occurrence a value and meaning.  Who knows why the German
policeman did what he or she did?  I too have been questioned and searched at
the Frankfurt Airport.  I did not describe (represent) that incident as
ideological.

And so I admit that I have a difficult time creating and imposing
<italic>ideological values and meaning</italic>.

Yours,  Bill Godshalk

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dale Lyles <
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Date:           Saturday, 11 Jan 1997 18:19:46 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0037 Re: Ideology Once Again
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0037 Re: Ideology Once Again

This is one of those naif responses from which Mr. Egan has so recently
cringed, but I have a question:

He says:  "Returning to the list-topic, Shakespearian texts are processed and
fed to school-children in the (easily disrupted) belief that he's good for you
and helps the formation of strong character, moral rectitude, and taste."

Am I correct in interpreting his stance as meaning that my refusal to use
Shakespeare in this way, either at school or in my theatre, is an exercise in
self-delusion, that the language itself will subvert my intentions to its own
Satan-spawned imperialist agenda?  Or is it his point that we must be on alert
against the nature of the language and wrest it to our own purposes?  Or is
none of this pertinent to the discussion?  This is not one of Bill Godshalk's
sly Socratic questions; I am genuinely hopelessly out of my depth, which is
exactly Mr. Egan's complaint.

However, I just had a strange thought: if, as Egan claims, Shakespeare's worth
derives only from his value to the sustaining of the capitalist mode of
production, then would it not follow that alternative modes of production would
have produced an equally "valuable" playwright?  Again, I'm a provincial, but
are there playwrights from socialist modes of production who have transcended
that boundary across the globe in the way that Shakespeare has?  True,
socialist playwrights have been disdained by capitalist society, but that's my
point: all societies seem to have found Shakespeare valuable, despite his lack
of "innate worth."  I keep trying to follow the "inherent capitalism" argument
to its logical conclusion, and while it is obvious that we cannot help but be
products/prisoners of our own language, at some point I lose the point.  The
extension of the argument does not hold for me.  I am willing to listen to
correction.

Dale Lyles
Newnan Community Theatre Company
 

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