Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: March ::
Re: Ideology
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.037.  Wednesday, 5 March 1997.

[1]     From:   Sean K. Lawrence <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 04 Mar 1997 21:45:17 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0315 Ideology

[2]     From:   Harry Hill <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 05 Mar 1997 08:02:09 +0000 (HELP)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0315 Ideology

[3]     From:   Paul Hawkins <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 5 Mar 1997 11:59:05 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Ideology


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean K. Lawrence <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 04 Mar 1997 21:45:17 -0800
Subject: 8.0315 Ideology
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0315 Ideology

> Paul Hawkins's comment was that he merely enabled students to form their
> own ideas about literary texts.  As Lawrence notes, the existence of a
> course presumes that there is value in commenting, and signing up for
> the course indicates acceptance of this proposition, which is itself an
> idea about literary texts.

Right.  So Paul and his students, like I and mine, form a certain
community of the like-minded.  We respect at least that much about each
other.  Respecting one's students' opinions was Paul's original issue.
In fact, I'd say that this is a necessary condition of all true
dialogues.  Like ours, for instance.  I've certainly changed my mind on
things after reading your posts, and my student's views are also capable
of changing my mind.

> But it would be nothing more, and so would not attract high marks.

Not necessarily.  It might take the form of a sophisticated critique of
written language as such, or a radical medieval nominalism uncannily
reproducing the works of Ockham, which would certainly merit high
marks.  Or a complex defense of literalism, as dizzyingly brilliant as
that of certain seventeenth-century Protestant hermeneutics.

> > I would even say that all teaching, even lecturing, is
> > a sort of dialectic between my concerns and those of
> > my students, in which their responses condition me as
> > much as mine conditions them.
>
> Really "as much as"?

Perhaps I exaggerate, but I would certainly consider that their
interests and the direction in which they would like to take discussion
ought to be represented on the syllabus and in the content of lectures.
I've certainly given up on pursuing certain lines of argument because
they did not engage.

The students know you are paid to be there, for
> which they might expect a certain amount of guiding. If you're pointing
> them away from blind alleys (such as the temptation to treat a play as
> merely a poem) and towards the richer pastures, you're conditioning them
> more than they are conditioning you.

But likewise, if they direct me towards engaging with the plot (which I
would otherwise take as read), to renew my interest in the poetic
qualities of the verse, or to question my assumptions about what is
worthy of discussion, then I must certainly give them a hearing.  And
this would, indeed, lead me to question my own priorities. You might
say, they subvert me.

> Paul Hawkins maintains the position that 'anything goes':

> > I tell my students that in my class and in
> > their papers, any response is in order, as long as it
> > can be developed and argued.
>
> Sexist, disablist, racist, and homophobic attitudes can all be developed
> and argued by students in their essays.  Might these be "in order", or
> should they be noted and refuted? (I don't mean statements that suggest
> that texts contain these attitudes, but rather statements which are
> themselves offensive. "The English win the war because the French, then
> as now, are too effeminate" might be an example.)

The statement above would not be capable of being developed and argued,
because it does not make reference to the textual basis (widely
understood, including the broadest possible background on the historical
location) on which argument can be reasonably based.  In fact, I would
be forced to mark down naive sexism for the same reasons that I would be
forced to mark down naive feminism.  Nevertheless, I would engage with
it, and in so doing, I would have to open myself to the possibility of
it changing me.

Besides, we're not necessarily talking about sexist or homophobic
arguments, unless you believe that all statements that something is
beautiful are by definition sexist or homophobic.  Even if I were to
concede that _certain_ limits have to be placed on student interests in
order to allow the class as dialogue to come into beingness, this is not
to say that aesthetic responses are not to be respected, as a part of
the project of engaging with and respecting other people.  To do
otherwise would be to show a fundamental disrespect for my students, on
an ethical par with sexist, racist, disablist or homophobic readings.

Cheers,
Sean.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Hill <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 05 Mar 1997 08:02:09 +0000 (HELP)
Subject: 8.0315 Ideology
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0315 Ideology

EFFEMINATE FRENCHMEN, SWISHY ANGLOS, AFRO-AMERICAN STUDS & ARTSY
CANADIANS

Gabriel Egan and Paul Hawkins are having quite a civil set-to between a
pc yeah-sayer in one corner and an aesthetic free-thinker in the other.
If we can tolerate Shakespeare's characters kicking servants and
convicting Abraham's descendants for trading in pounds of flesh because
in the plays these things are artistically well done, then surely it is
our pedagogical duty to accept well wrought arguments about, say, the
perceived alternative lifestyles of the French, the perceived thick lips
of many non-whites, and other "rascist" or "homophobic" views that we
momentarily, in our present charity, think we despise?

        Harry Hill

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul Hawkins <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 5 Mar 1997 11:59:05 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Ideology

The short answer to Gabriel Egan's first question is "Yes."

A sinful interpretation of a work of literature that is logically
developed and argued in relation to the details of the work-"anything
goes" within these limits-would have to be tolerated.  It could even be
the basis of a good class discussion.  The teacher and other students
are free to oppose it.  The conversation continues.  Of course,
Gabriel's sample sentence would not seem to lend itself to such
development.

Since I was once accused of being misogynist by a teacher because I
could not agree that Pope's "Epistle II. To a Lady:  Of the Characters
of Women" was misogynist, I am suspicious of educators who would set
themselves up to correct their students' moral failings.
But Gabriel continues, by focusing on these things, to flee the question
of an individual's aesthetic response.

Paul Hawkins
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.