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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: March ::
Re: London & Death; Ideology
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0364.  Monday, 17 March 1997.

[1]     From:   Patrick Gillespie <
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        Date:   Sunday, 16 Mar 1997 14:31:14 -0500
        Subj:   London & Death

[2]     From:   Paul Hawkins <
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        Date:   Sunday, 16 Mar 1997 20:03:04 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0357 Re: Ideology


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Patrick Gillespie <
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Date:           Sunday, 16 Mar 1997 14:31:14 -0500
Subject:        London & Death

>>I need support from you people. I need you to tell me what a wimp I am;
that I need to get off my butt and on the plane! Threaten to ban me from
the board; tell me that you'll seek me out and have me tarred and
feathered if you have to!>>

There's always Shakespeare's contention:

Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear,
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.

Then there are a couple of little fables I'm sure you've heard:

A man was told that he would be killed on a certain date by an object
falling on his head. He at once determined that he would spend that date
with nothing whatsoever over his head, so off he went to the sea shore.
He lay down in the sand, in the warmth of the sun, and fell asleep,
content in the knowledge that he would successfully avoid death. A
seagull passing overhead with an oyster in its mouth, mistook the
sleeping man's head for a rock and let the oyster go. And that was the
end of the poor man.

Another fellow was shopping at a market place when he abruptly spotted
death, also shopping at the market place. The look of surprise on the
poor fellow's face was one thing, but death seemed even more perplexed.
The man turned at once and ran without looking back. He quickly managed
to trade all his goods for the fastest horse alive and, wasting no
good-byes, he fled from the city. He rode all that day and all that
night until, having covered a nearly impossible distance and having
almost brought the horse itself to death, he arrived at a city well over
a hundred miles distant. Exhausted and hungry, he at once went to the
nearest Inn and sat to dinner. It wasn't ten minutes until death also
walked into the same Inn. The poor man was white with shock but death
was even more so.

"How did you find me?" asked the man.

"Why," said death, "this is where I thought to meet you all along!

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul Hawkins <
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Date:           Sunday, 16 Mar 1997 20:03:04 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0357 Re: Ideology
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0357 Re: Ideology

Eliot's judgment of Hamlet is just one of the handful I had mentioned,
and that handful merely a few examples from the vast history of
criticism.  Is any critic or reader reading any work of art and
responding to it and recording their response simply grinding an
ideological axe?  And does the grinding of that axe control the reading
and everything about it from the very large to the very small?  Or do we
attain a measure (a small one?  a large one?) of freedom from our
ideologies when we experience a work of literature in a solitary
conversation with our deepest selves?  I think the second position the
more reasonable, but let's explore some of the implications of the
alternative.

What do we think, as ideologically enlightened souls, of the great
tradition of criticism and of great traditions of world art?  Were
critics before, say, 1970, who may have been oblivious to the
determining power of ideology, labouring under a grand and centuries-old
delusion that the things they were reading and that moved them actually
had value?  And now that we have come into the light, and recognize
aesthetic value as merely a bourgeois illusion, what do we do not only
with the works of literature, but with the wonderful and stirring
criticism that the literature inspired?  Do we even find it stirring?
Do we pity poor Keats - or scorn him - or spending so much of his short
life on his misbegotten letters - such a waste that such effort was
invested in the elaboration of an illusion.  And do we scorn the effort
that was invested in creating the poetry?  Do we scorn all who have been
poets, playwrights, critics, or artists in any medium for their
ill-spent hours?

What does this kind of thinking bring us but scorn and contempt?  Is the
arrogance implicit in a dogmatically ideological view of the world not
appalling? And does it really have any intellectual foundation, or is it
not just idle talk?

Paul Hawkins
 

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