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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: March ::
Re: Michaelmas; Boys to Women; Ideology
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0390.  Thursday, 27 March 1997.

[1]     From:   Steve Sohmer <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 26 Mar 1997 12:22:20 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0386 Re: Michaelmas

[2]     From:   Eckart Voigts-Virchow
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Mar 1997 10:20:04 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0385  Re: Boys to Women

[3]     From:   Daniel Lowenstein <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 26 Mar 1997 16:08:30
        Subj:   SHK 8.0379  Re: Ideology


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Sohmer <
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Date:           Wednesday, 26 Mar 1997 12:22:20 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0386 Re: Michaelmas
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0386 Re: Michaelmas

Dear Friends,

Naomi Liebler may be quite correct about the connection between "Julius
Caesar" and Michaelmas. However, the connections between Shakespeare's
Roman tragedy and 21 September 1599 are much more specific.

September 21 was the official-but incorrect date-of the Autumnal
Equinox, which had been observed on 11 September 1599. This error of 10
days was due to a flaw in Caesar's Julian calendar (imposed 1 Jan 45
BC). Pope Gregory XIII had issued a reformed calendar on 24 Feb 1582
which restored the dates of the Equinoxes and Solstices to the radix at
the time of the Council of Nicea (325 AD). Because of maneuvering by
Archbishop Edward Grindal, Elizabeth had been compelled to reject
Gregory's reform, and England continued to live and worship by Caesar's
scientifically-discredited calendar under Lord Chesterfield's act
(1751). By performing "Julius Caesar" on the incorrect date of the
Equinox, the Lord Chamberlain's Men were able to deliver a cheeky
comment on Elizabeth's rejection of a calendar reform which had been
adopted by the Catholic world, and endorsed by Dee (sorta), Digges,
Brahe, et alia.

All the best,
Steve Sohmer

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Eckart Voigts-Virchow
<
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Mar 1997 10:20:04 +0000
Subject: 8.0385  Re: Boys to Women
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0385  Re: Boys to Women

In the published script for Trevor Nunn's 12N, Nunn explains why he set
the play in late Victorian times. He says, 'I wanted this story to
happen in a society where the differences between men and women were the
greatest...'. Consequently he changed  Viola's 'Thou shalt present me as
a eunuch to him' into 'I shall present me as a boy to him'. Not having
seen the movie, I can't pass a judgment on it.  It seems to me, however,
that the entire historicist discussion on 'gender trouble' and the early
modern one-sex model so well described in Thomas Laqueurs *Making Sex*
might be contradicted (or at least: can't be represented) in Nunn's
decidedly 'two-sex'- interpretation.

Apparently *eunuch* was not infrequent as a term for early modern
cross-dressers. Keir Elam (Sh Quarterly 1.96) has recently pointed out
the double effect of (1) a private disembodiment and (2) a public
eroticism.  I wonder if Nunn does justice to Viola's 'small-piped'
troubled gender in his Victorian version, and I am looking forward to
see the movie once it hits the German screens (belatedly).

Phyllis Rackin should have mentioned her own 'Androgyny, Mimesis, and
the Marriage of the Boy Heroine on the English Renaissance Stage', PMLA
102 (1987): 29-41.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Daniel Lowenstein <
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Date:           Wednesday, 26 Mar 1997 16:08:30 PST
Subject: Re: Ideology
Comment:        SHK 8.0379  Re: Ideology

Last week, Gabriel Egan wrote:

"Would you agree that ideas can travel without anyone making a conscious
effort to disseminate them? If all the ideas necessary for the
continuation of modern industrial capitalism had to be intentionally
passed on to the young there would be no time to make anything. A model
of human intercourse which gives individuals complete intellectual
autonomy is as reductive as one which posits none. Surely the partial
self-reflexivity of subjectivity is what accounts for historical change:
individuals are constituted of received ideas upon some of which they
reflect, aren't they?"

I should certainly agree with this statement, with two minor
qualifications.  First, the dynamic Egan is describing is by no means
limited to "the ideas necessary for the continuation of modern
industrial capitalism."  Second, "partial self-reflexivity" is only part
of what accounts for historical change.  But this is merely a quibble.

I should go further than Egan, because I do not believe the phenomenon
he describes is limited to "ideas."  Perhaps even more importantly, the
social environment in which we live conditions our emotions, which
interact with and strongly influence our ideas.

But I do not agree with this statement by Egan in an earlier message:
"Certainly those who believe that social organization, and especially
class relations, are reproduced by the transmission of ideas in ways
that are not immediately obvious-indeed, which must not seem to be doing
the work of reproduction but only the articulation of commonsense-are
likely to be more open-minded than those who don't perceive the
process."

First, it seems to me quite wrong to describe the boundaries to the
ideas that we can hold as doing any "work" at all.  That implies that
the boundaries are set with a conscious intent.  But the only reason
they are boundaries in the first place is that we are not conscious of
them.

Secondly, Egan's general proposition is questionable or worse.

If he intends it as an empirical proposition-that people who hold this
belief happen, in fact, to be more open-minded-it is without support.
If anything, in my experience, I should say that people who hold the
belief Egan refers to tend to be unusually dogmatic and closed-minded.
That is just an impression, and I do not claim that I could demonstrate
it's empirical truth.  But neither can Egan demonstrate the opposite.

More likely, the word "certainly" implies that Egan intends to be making
a logical rather than an empirical claim.  If so, his reasoning is
fallacious.  Those who hold the belief Egan describes are no more exempt
from the boundaries to thought than anyone else.  Even if, as a
theorist, you hold the belief that all ideas held by humans are partial
and reflect a certain kind of social and intellectual conditioning, that
does not mean that when you form your own ideas on, say, social,
political, and economic questions, your ideas are anything other than
partial and reflective of conditioning.  To the contrary, if it did mean
that, your theory would be self-contradictory.

Best,
Dan Lowenstein
UCLA Law School
 

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