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 8.0331.  Saturday, 8 March 1997.

[1]     From:   Joanne Woolway <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 7 Mar 1997 15:13:00 +0000 (GMT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0324 Re: Ideology

[2]     From:   Heather Stephenson <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 7 Mar 1997 09:52:16 U
        Subj:   Ideology

[3]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 7 Mar 1997 12:57:36 -0500
        Subj:   Ideology

[4]     From:   Sean K. Lawrence <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 07 Mar 1997 12:09:42 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0324  Re: Ideology

[5]     From:   Sean K. Lawrence <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 07 Mar 1997 12:13:49 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0324  Re: Ideology

[6]     From:   Paul Hawkins <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 7 Mar 1997 21:54:01 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0324 Re: Ideology


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joanne Woolway <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 7 Mar 1997 15:13:00 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: 8.0324 Re: Ideology
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0324 Re: Ideology

Louis Marder wrote,
 =

> Colleagues:  How about a  movement to" Let Shakespeare Alone"  All the
> late isms, feminist ideas, Afro-American criticism, post this and post
> that and post-post something else is hogwash.  Shakespeare took and mad=
e
> the Moors, self-serving women, bed-tricking women, [ . . . .]  and what=
ever else you may care to name
> because he wanted to write a good play and what he did worked in its
> context.  What you would have done, or what you think he should have
> done, or how his environment affected him is immaterial to the play. =


This is to miss the point. Okay, Shakespeare works dramatically, but
criticism isn't just about appreciating Shakespeare's 'artistry' or
'greatness.' I don't deny that I think it's often there, but that's a
personal opinion, not a "given" of criticism. =


The point is that the plays don't exist in a cultural or historical
vacuum - either when they were first performed or now. This opens up all
kinds of possibilities for writing about Shakespeare that take us beyond
the rather simplistic assertion that "what he did worked." =


Richard II, for example, looks like a very different play in the context
of sixteenth-century debates about divine right than it does taken
simply (if that's possible) as a chronicle of a fourteenth-century king.
Lear's division of the kingdoms isn't so isolated from early
seventeenth-century events that we don't at least consider James'
uniting of England and Scotland in this discussion of power and
nationhood. There are many more examples . . .

As for Shakespeare now - of course his writing intersects at some level
with modern philosophical and ethical concerns. Think especially of the
performance and institutionalized study of Shakespeare in countries like
South Africa and what that says about culture and colonialism. I heard a
story told by a Shakespearean actress about a production of Othello done
recently in South Africa (with an entirely black cast). This caused all
kinds of debate about why Shakespeare should be performed at all in
these circumstances.
 =

> Footnotes clear up the language, but your personal interpretations are
> just that albeit it shows you to be a scholar - which is the true reaso=
n
> that many write.  Write what you please, but let Shakespeare's brains,
> plots, and characters alone.  Shakespeare has inspired many critics,
> but, regardless of what you write,  what you say will not change a jot
> of the plays  =


Who said that we wanted to change them? How do you know what is in
Shakespeare's brains? None of us has a direct line to Shakespeare to ask
him what he "meant."

And even if we did, this wouldn't be the point. This isn't about finding
the "one true meaning" and then discarding any modern critique which
doesn't fit in with the accepted view that our direct line to
Shakespeare has told us must prevail. Surely it's obvious that texts
generate discussion which varies according to the time and place of that
discussion and that this in itself is an interesting phenomenon.
Meanings are generated each time a text is read, taught, or performed.
Not necessarily authorial meanings, though it's hard to make
distinctions given the pleasure we see authors such as Shakespeare and
Spenser taking in ambiguity and ambivalence or language, but still
meanings that have some kind of cultural value and which lead us on to
further debate.

>If this be error and upon me proved...cast your slings and arrows at me.=

>Shakespeare will defend me. =


Clearly, the need to have Shakespeare on the side of one's ideological
position and personal taste prevails today. Isn't this a case of "I am
right, you have an opinion, and they have an ideology?"

Joanne Woolway

 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Heather Stephenson <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 7 Mar 1997 09:52:16 U
Subject:        Ideology

Louis Marder writes:

>"What you would have done, or what you think he should have
>done, or how his environment affected him is immaterial to the play."

Since these are plays and are meant to be PLAYED (still), "what [I]
would have done" and how environment "plays" into this seems to be
perhaps the only truly material thing about the entire situation.

By saying that Shakespeare did what he did for the purposes of his
plots, you are placing more import on his intentions and environment
than the most devout New Historian.  Yes -- trials and plays are media
events.  They are entertainment.  But they are entertaining in a context
-- a  context which now includes this arguing over ideology, this search
for material influence, this interpreting and "post-post something
else"-ing. =

 =


I don't think that this ideology discussion is seeking to answer "why"
Shakespeare did what he did.  The value of this discussion is rather to
ferret out why WE do what we do with Shakespeare.  Thank god Hamlet =

didn't kill Claudius earlier -- it leaves us many more acts in which to
seek out and insert ideological interpretations.

I, for one, would find this world of words and plays (especially this
list) an incredibly dull place if we were all to let Shakespeare's
"brains, plots and characters" alone.  What do you propose we discuss
instead?

Cheers,
Heather Stephenson

PS -- Mr. Egan, et al:  the "Ideology" digest is easily my favorite part
of this list (and as a "former" scholar recently thrust into the
business world, a welcome part of my otherwise non-theoretical day...) =

As one who generally "skulks" silently on this list, I have truly
enjoyed the debates.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 7 Mar 1997 12:57:36 -0500
Subject:        Ideology

Paul Hawkins refers darkly to a 'sinful interpretation of a work of
literature'. Is it true that in Canada such efforts normally receive the
grade 'S', inscribed in scarlet?  =


T. Hawkes =


[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean K. Lawrence <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 07 Mar 1997 12:09:42 -0800
Subject: 8.0324  Re: Ideology
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0324  Re: Ideology

> Several respondents defend the right of students to develop racist,
> sexist, disablist, or homophobic arguments.
> =

> Sean Lawrence writes
> =

> > 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.
> =

> Certainly at the level of  'dialogue coming into being' one has to
> prevent racist, sexist, disablist and homophobic opinions being accorde=
d
> equal status with other ideas in the classroom. If not people who are
> routinely discriminated against outside the classroom will find that th=
e
> same goes on inside and that they are still marginalized. Both my
> employer and my trade union have clear guidelines about this sort of
> thing, which cannot be circumvented by claiming that the ideas are part=

> of an individual's "aesthetic response".

This is quite a different matter you're raising.  Hiding a racist
response behind the mask of aesthetics is quite different and more
complex from saying "Shakespeare is beautiful," which, I think, is
closer to the case which Paul was hypostatizing. In the case that
someone said that "Shakespeare hates Jews, therefore is beautiful," more
than one principle applies:  the respect for another's views that should
allow for an aesthetic response, and the need to limit certain points of
view in order to allow discourse to come into beingness.  Since my goal
in "respecting" students is to allow dialogue to come into being, then I
would have to foreclose discussion, or give the student a chance to
rephrase their question in a way which would more constructively engage
the rest of the class.  =


This is a simple matter of classic social contract theory:  all freedom
is no freedom, but anarchy, so freedom can exist only within a framework
of the rule of law (or control of class discussion, as the case may
be).  This is how we avoid either entertaining fascist ideas, or
becoming what Professor Drakakis unfortunately terms a "liberal
Stalinist."

In fact, I would say that the way in which you've managed to direct this
thread is all more or less tertiary.  The rest of us are discussing
whether aesthetic responses ought to be tolerated in a classroom. =

You're making an unnecessary association from "aesthetic" to "racist" in
order to displace the issue.  Even were we to unanimously agree that
racism should be wholly banned, by law of the state or by fiat of the
instructor, we would still not necessarily agree that no-one should
express an interest in beauty.

I'm sure Paul can answer for himself, but I can't resist the following:

> Wouldn't a Jewish student who found The Merchant of Venice offensive,
> and found that other students in the room expressed the view that it wa=
s
> an accurate portrayal of Jewish greed, feel distinctly reluctant to hav=
e
> "a good class discussion" if the blatantly racist view was accorded
> equal status by the teacher?

Actually, no, I wouldn't say that.  Getting offended is what motivates
one to wish to enter into discourse.  I spent a few months when I should
have been working on my thesis challenging extremely right-wing views on
the newsgroup alt.politics.org.un.  I would not have bothered had the
forum been less inflammatory.  So where to draw the line in order to
encourage discussion is not a matter that one can decide except
contingently and in a particular situation.

> Unless racist, homophobic, sexist, and disablist views are challenged i=
n
> the classroom, conversation does not continue since the victims of
> discrimination and abuse are unlikely to feel empowered to challenge th=
e
> received ideas.

But likewise, couldn't the racist feel shut out enough to simply label
the entire forum "PC" (to borrow an unfortunate phrase) and not be
challenged by it any longer?  In other words, couldn't the experience of
censorship merely deepen racist convictions?

On the whole, I found Professor Drakakis's to be a welcome insertion
into our discourse, but I disagreed on a few points:

> I think Paul Hawkins' contribution raises a crucial point: when, and
> under what conditions, does, and/or should, the "liberal" teacher stop
> being liberal?  The difficulty is that the issue can't simply be
> sidestepped by invoking "aesthetics" as an escape hatch.  I don't mean
> to suggest that aesthetics is simply ideology in disguise, but it is th=
e
> case that the two are linked.

I would have to say that the situation is the inverse of that which you
have described:  when, and if, should a "liberal" instructor deny his or
her students the right to express interest in the beauty of a work?  The
difficulty of the issue can't simply be sidestepped as invoking "racism"
as an escape hatch.  Yes, we should at least partially control racist
discourse.  No, we should not delimit a students' interest in the
aesthetic. Yes, these two principles may come into conflict in some
situations.  But so what?  The study of ethics consists of negotiating
between conflicting principles.

> Also Gabriel Egan's and Sean Lawrence's suggestions that teachers take
> heed of the paying customers (what used to be called "students"), and
> that in Lawrence's case, their "wishes" should be "respected" (whatever=

> that means), seems to me equally to be caught in ideology.  What both
> Hawkins and Lawrence and Egan seem to want to argue for is a third
> position: in one case outside politics and ideology (Hawkins) where the=

> formal questions of aesthetics override any other considerations; in th=
e
> other (Egan, and possibly Lawrence) the third position, that of critiqu=
e
> which implies that they can get out of ideology but no-one else can.
> This is a residually Atlthusserian position which emanates from the
> assertion that there is a value-free "science" of, say, the literary
> text, which is accessible to critique.  But unfortunately Lawrence give=
s
> the game away when he invokes "respect" for the wishes of his students
> within what is a capitalist economy of knowledge exchange.

I don't see the connection you are trying to make between "respect" and
a "capitalist economy of knowledge exchange".  I respect you and
Gabriel, but I am paying neither of you.  I think that the UNHCR should
"respect" the wish of people not to return to their homes, although
they're not paying customers.  I don't get it, frankly.

I presume, on the basis of
> what he has just said, that if it was argued with sufficient passion an=
d
> conviction then Lawrence would change his own view?  If he tells me tha=
t
> it would not, then I would have to ask him to divulge the criteria upon=

> which his resistance might be based.  =


The criteria would be that the views expressed threaten the liberal
construct within which, and only within which, ideology can be discussed
at all.  My wish to allow discussion and to limit those views which
would threaten it are at one.

Cheers,
Sean.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean K. Lawrence <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 07 Mar 1997 12:13:49 -0800
Subject: 8.0324  Re: Ideology
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0324  Re: Ideology

> Please, by all means, do tell, what exactly is "naive feminism"?

I had no particular point of view in mind when I made that statement,
merely wishing to indicate that I would fault naivet=E9 even if it was
associated with a point of view with which I personally agree.  =


My use of the phrase is not meant to assert that feminism is by
definition naive, but merely that it is as liable as any other view to
an expression which is also naive.

Cheers,
Sean.

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul Hawkins <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 7 Mar 1997 21:54:01 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0324 Re: Ideology
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0324 Re: Ideology

Gabriel Egan writes, "the question was about `response' as something
separate from the power structure of mediation of texts which we call
English Studies.  I hope my comments have indicated that I find the
separation specious."

The simple question that I asked cannot be glossed in this way. =

Instead, it was as follows: can an individual student "love" Shakespeare
(by which I mean appreciate what that individual might take to be the
aesthetic power of the texts, allowing that the experience is
individual, and the precise meaning of the experience as variable as
there are individuals) and perform ideological criticism; or would their
love of the literature have to be lost as they acquired skill in the
other art?

I assume that it is possible to do both (love literature and be an
ideological critic).  If so, then I have no argument with my learned
opponents.  John Drakakis writes, "I don't mean to suggest that
aesthetics is simply ideology, but *it is the case that the two are
linked*" (italics mine). What I am saying is that *it is the case that
the two are not linked*, but this doesn't mean we necessarily
disagree.   The two are linked in some way, and the two are not linked
in some way.

Paul Hawkins
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.