1997

Re: Ideology

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0376.  Thursday, 20 March 1997.

[1]     From:   Sean K. Lawrence <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Mar 1997 13:12:46 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0366  Re: Ideology

[2]     From:   Sean K. Lawrence <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Mar 1997 16:19:04 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0369  Re: Ideology

[3]     From:   Paul Hawkins <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 20 Mar 1997 08:52:23 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0369 Re: Ideology


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean K. Lawrence <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 19 Mar 1997 13:12:46 -0800
Subject: 8.0366  Re: Ideology
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0366  Re: Ideology

Gabe asks whether,

The phrase "freedom from our ideologies"
>> suggests that once again this useful word 'ideology' is being taken in the un-Marxist sense of 'conscious dogma'. Those who've disagreed with  Paul might reject this usage. <<

True enough. But I would say that the opposite, broad use of ideology as
a sort of ontological function, the constitution of being as such, lies
at the bottom of the difference between those open to aesthetic
considerations, and those who are not. Unfortunately, raising ideology
to this totalizing sort of function is unprovable, and can be achieved
only by the sort of ad-hominem argument (you say you just love the work,
but you *really* are motivated by an ideological unconscious) which
could just as easily be turned around to defend aesthetics (you say that
you are making an ideological decision, but you *really* are motivated
by an unconscious aesthetic attraction to certain positions).

I've no idea what solitary conversation
>> is, and I don't have a deep self to talk to, so I'm unable to comment on the last sentence other than to note that it implies certain debatable theoretical notions concerning subjectivity.<<

As do yours, one might add.  The only difference is that yours are being
used to foreclose argument on aesthetics.  Paul has many times expressed
his openness to ideological questions.  Where your unprovable a priori
has a censorious function, Paul's provides an opening.

>> English studies is not centuries old and I wouldn't like to comment on other subjects.<<

This is a word game.  People have been thinking and writing about
written texts for a long time.  That the phrase "English Studies" and a
few accidental (in the metaphysical sense) assumptions were attached to
this term more recently is basically besides the point.

In fact, if radical changes have taken place, as you seem to purport,
then this is only all the more reason to wish to study that tradition,
to allow its difference from our own more recent assumptions to call
those assumptions (like the priority of ideology over all other studies)
into question.

It should be remembered that 'determination' is the
> setting of boundaries and not the reduction to singularities.

Like that everything is ideology, for instance?

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.<<

I quite disagree.  Time and time again on the recent debate, Paul and I
have asked that aesthetics be respected as _on par with_ ideology.  Only
the ideologues want to rule certain questions to be always already
illegitimate.

> >One doesn't have to be a Christian to take an interest in the Bible, and  one doesn't have to accept a critical position when consuming it. As often as not a critical work is interesting precisely because we can now perceive the received ideas which it unconsciously articulates. No?<<

Of course.  The question is whether we dismiss texts and their
criticisms as the products of received ideas they unconsciously
articulates, to which we now hold ourselves in a position of
superiority, or whether we let them reveal and therefore call into
question the unconsciously received ideas we bring to them. In the
former case, we are truly subverted, and new ways of being in the world
are opened to us.  In the latter case, we stand in a position of power
over the text, with an agency so unlimited that even Jean-Paul Sartre
would blanche at its rise.

Peter Herman writes:

> >Although I hesitate to enter a conversation as extended and as detailed as this one, Paul Hawkins' impassioned response allows me an entry point. It seems to me that Prof. Hawkins is proposing a false dichotomy between "reading any work of art" and "simply grinding an ideological axe." The problem is in the denigration of the second term. Why are "ideologies" something that we necessarily need to be freed from?  Ideology, in its broadest sense, is how we understand the world, the unspoken warrants of our being. <<

If denigrating the second term is wrong, then why are you implicitly
denigrating the first term by raising ideology to ontological
importance?  Surely the two should be understood as equally valid,
equally possible, possibilities.  I agree that Paul's labeling of
ideological criticism as "axe-grinding" is a bit of an overstatement,
but it does not, in itself, justify such a broad reading of ideology.

> >In my view, clearly not, I don't think we should scorn anybody. And yet, the difference between, say, Eliot and C.S. Lewis, and Prof. Hawkes is the *awareness* of how criticism arises from specific historical circumstances.  Lewis and Tillyard really thought that they were recovering the past in itself as it really was. To my knowledge, they never dreamed that their views of early modern literature were reactions to England's debilitated post-war condition. Today, a good chunk of us realizes that we are formed by history as much as we form history, and we use that awareness to energize our criticism (or at least I do).<<

Is this awareness not itself a historical product?  Does historical
relativism not devour itself, as Husserl once pointed out?  I'm not
saying that such a process would necessarily be a bad thing, since it
would allow us to question ourselves, not just other people, usually
dead.

I must say that the rest of your post contained a number of points very
well taken, such as the commensurability between an aesthetic response
to Lear's lines on Cordelia's death, and an investigation of the play's
historical position.

Jack Drakakis writes:

> >He seems to think that ideology is nothing more than "illusion".  So  long as he thinks that, then he can continue to ask rather silly questions.<<

Were you the one who called aesthetics an illusion and allusion a while
ago?  Perhaps I've mixed it up.

Cheers,
Sean.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean K. Lawrence <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 19 Mar 1997 16:19:04 -0800
Subject: 8.0369  Re: Ideology
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0369  Re: Ideology

Hi, Greg.

I enjoyed your contribution to the ideology/aesthetics debate.  If the
qualify of your response is anything to go by, I don't think that you've
missed much.

>> On the other hand (and I hope some one can help me here,) the aesthetic stance in this debate seems nebulous; I can't pin down what its proponents are either advocating or condemning. I get this creeping feeling that it's connected somehow with New Critical or formalist interpretation, that the "value" of a text is stable and inherent within it, and therefore that there can be such a thing as a closed or solved interpretation of it.<<

Allow me to offer my own definition, though of course I cannot speak for
any sort of "school."  I would define the aesthetic as that which
encounters us in a text as other, prior to all efforts at
interpretation.  Inversely, it may be defined as the surplus remaining
after ideological interpretations have been removed.  Functionally, of
course, it is impossible to remove ideological interpretations, since
they are built into the structure of language (and so forth, ad
nauseum), though it is equally impossible to explain the text totally in
terms of ideology, foreclosing all other interpretive models; therefore,
the surplus can never be quite explained away.  In this way, the text
escapes our mastery over it, and is able to call into question our own
beliefs, opinions and even ways of being in the world.

One might say that it confronts us in the same manner that the face of
the other speaks to us in the saying, prior to the said, according to
Immanuel Levinas.  Levinas uses his argument to assert the priority of
ethics to ontology, or any system that strives for the autonomy of
philosophy.  I would say that aesthetics makes the act of reading prior
to "a reading" and to all ontologies, including the functionally
ontological phenomenon that you identify amongst the ideologues.

I hope this is helpful, and enjoyed your response immensely.

Cheers, and best of luck with the new apartment.
Sean.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul Hawkins <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 20 Mar 1997 08:52:23 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0369 Re: Ideology
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0369 Re: Ideology

Greg McSweeney asks what the defenders of the aesthetic in this debate
are for and against. I can only speak for myself.

First, an aesthetic stance is not necessarily attached to any of the
ideas McSweeney mentions:  new critical or formalist interpretation; the
idea that the "value" of a text is stable and inherent; that
interpretation can be closed; that loving a text *should be* the
ultimate pedagogical goal; that texts *should be* loved; that there's a
conflict between political and aesthetic approaches or historical and
aesthetic approaches; that to defend the aesthetic is necessarily to
shut out Marxist, post- colonialist, feminist or queer readings.  A
defence of the aesthetic does not entail any of the above limitations of
criticism.

I defend the teaching of Shakespeare's plays because of the pleasure and
mental stimulation through pleasure that they can give students.
However, I don't offer this as the universal ideal, nor do I insist
students love the material or fake a love for it in order to get a good
grade (that would be ridiculous); I don't think my goal precludes any
other engagements with the material, nor do I think my goal is
ideological in any very specific way or problematic because of whatever
ideology is in the goal.  An aesthetic response is a matter for the
individual:  no one is demanding that people have aesthetic responses;
the value and meaning of the experience is individual.

I am against the reduction of the aesthetic to ideology.  Gabriel Egan
in a recent post comments that the determining power of ideology "is the
setting of boundaries and not the reduction to `singularities.'"  If you
don't agree with where the boundaries are set, the setting can certainly
be a reduction.

In another post, I offered a definition of ideology that was what I
remembered of a definition Gabriel Egan had once given.  I asked how
certain famous critical statements by Dryden, Johnson, Woolf, Eliot, and
Bloom were "ideological" in that sense.  The only suggested answer, by
Terence Hawkes, turned on what seemed to me a misreading-a reduction-of
Eliot's essay on Hamlet.

Here is Terry Eagleton's phrasing of what was more or less the Egan
definition that I remembered:

"The largely concealed structure of values which informs and underlies
our factual statements is part of what is meant by `ideology.' By
`ideology' I mean, roughly, the ways in which what we say and believe
connects with the power-structure and power-relations of the society we
live in.  It follows from such a rough definition of ideology that not
all of our underlying judgements and categories can usefully be said to
be ideological.  . . .I mean more particularly those modes of feeling,
valuing, perceiving and believing which have some kind of relation to
the maintenance and reproduction of social power" (*Literary Theory:  An
Introduction,* 14-15).

I think aesthetic response is in some way outside of those modes of
feeling, valuing, etc. that relate to the maintenance of social
power-and that aesthetic judgments are among those that cannot usefully
be said to be ideological.

Paul Hawkins

Q: St. Crispin's Day

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0375.  Thursday, 20 March 1997.

From:           Michael Friedman <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 19 Mar 1997 14:21:14 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        St. Crispin's Day

SHAKSPERians,

I have a question for the group.  I'm in the middle of the research for
a project on *Henry V* that involves the Crispin Crispian speech.  It
seems to me significant that Shakespeare chooses to emphasize so heavily
the detail from Holinshed that the Battle of Agincourt took place on
what Henry calls Saint Crispin's Day.  I fully expected that some
scholar would have written an article on this topic, but after poring
through the Garland Annotated Bibliography of *Henry V* and the annual
issues of the *World Shakespeare Bibliography*, as well as the MLA on
CD-Rom, I have not been able to locate any treatments of this issue.  Is
there anyone out there who knows, or can point me in the direction of a
source that discusses, why Shakespeare might have chosen to emphasize
this date so insistently?  Were there any particular associations
connected with this "holiday" that might have been significant for the
original audience?  Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.

        Michael Friedman
        University of Scranton
        This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Qs: Lear's Fool and Dante; Cowardice as a Facade

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0372.  Wednesday, 19 March 1997.

[1]     From:   Roger Schmeeckle" <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Mar 1997 12:27:47 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Lear's fool as a symbol of reason, a la Dante

[2]     From:   Jason Booth <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Mar 1997 12:56:00 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Cowardice as a Facade


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roger Schmeeckle" <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 18 Mar 1997 12:27:47 -0800 (PST)
Subject:        Lear's fool as a symbol of reason, a la Dante

Dante's Commedia is an artistic vision of all of reality, temporal and
eternal, organized as Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso.  It contains a
multitude of characters, usually making brief appearances and not
reappearing.  It is easy to see them, however vividly realized, as
serving a symbolic function in Dante's overall vision.  Even those who
have major roles, such as Virgil, serve a symbolic function.  Virgil
represents reason, taking Dante as far as he can, but unable to go
beyond the natural order.

Shakespeare, compared with Dante, usually has one or more very highly
developed individual characters at the center of his many dramas, so
that the tendency to concentrate on character analysis blurs the
possible symbolic function of these characters in a larger artistic
scheme.  Macbeth, for instance, is so much at the center of the play,
that it is easy to miss the fact that the play is about kingship, and
that Macbeth represents a usurper, contrasted with other representatives
of good kings.

My hypothetical suggestion is that Lear's fool functions as a symbol of
reason.  He is more or less taken for granted and ignored, but
occasionally Lear hears him, as he describes the true condition to which
Lear has been reduced.  And the audience hears the fool as the voice of
reason commenting on folly.

Like Virgil in Dante's Commedia, the fool's dropping out of the play
symbolizes the limits of human reason.  If, as I believe, the play has a
similar structure to Dante's Commedia, while differing greatly from it,
Lear's purification cannot be realized by reason alone, but requires the
experience of suffering to accomplish a stage beyond reason.  And,
eventually, it is accomplished through the ministrations of Cordelia.
Lear's contrast between his wheel of fire and Cordelia's being a soul in
bliss, then symbolizes the transition from a purgatorial phase to the
paradisal phase, only briefly and obscurely glimpsed in Lear.

Feedback would be appreciated.  I am especially interested in whether or
not Shakespeare was familiar with Dante, and any scholarship or
interpretation that might have developed a view similar to mine.

     Roger Schmeeckle

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jason Booth <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 18 Mar 1997 12:56:00 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Cowardice as a Facade

I am currently taking a introductory course on Shakespeare and am
working toward research on Richard III.  I am not sure as of what theme
I am going with yet, but I would greatly appreciate any assistance or
discussion on the topic.  I am leaning toward villainy and/or Richard's
evil as a sign of his true deep dark cowardice.

Re: Lear's Fool and Dante

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0373.  Thursday, 20 March 1997.

[1]     From:   Tiffany Rasovic <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Mar 1997 12:57:50 -0800
        Subj:   RE: SHK 8.0372  Qs: Lear's Fool and Dante

[2]     From:   Sean K. Lawrence <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Mar 1997 12:34:08 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0372  Qs: Lear's Fool and Dante


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tiffany Rasovic <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 19 Mar 1997 12:57:50 -0800
Subject: 8.0372  Qs: Lear's Fool and Dante
Comment:        RE: SHK 8.0372  Qs: Lear's Fool and Dante

I, peon and potential graduate student, did my senior essay on Lear's
fool and Feste.  I suggested links between Erasmus (see The Praise of
Folly)  and Shakes' use of fools and foolish characters as transmitters
of reason - by virtue of the fact that they necessarily stand outside of
conventional modes of reasoning which might be staid, corrupted,
unexamined, etc.....I racked my brains and my bibliography to find the
source of some very useful biographical info that characterizes the
traditional curricula in schools such as the one attended by the Bard,
as well as giving evidence that Shakes was indeed familiar with much of
the literature of Italy...so, unless I've been having dreams about this
evidence due to my own love of Dante, Erasmus, et al, the "proof"  is
out there.

Yours, TR

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean K. Lawrence <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 19 Mar 1997 12:34:08 -0800
Subject: 8.0372  Qs: Lear's Fool and Dante
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0372  Qs: Lear's Fool and Dante

Hi, Roger.

My main issue with your Dante/Lear reading would concern its ending:
Dante, of course, ends up in Paradise, ending in the presence of the
transcendently blissful "Love that moves the sun and the other stars."
Lear, of course, ends up dead and, moreover, deceived into thinking his
daughter's alive, though I suppose his doubts might be seen as evidence
of breaking through to the other world in which she is alive.
Nevertheless, the world at the end of _King Lear_ is enormously
different from the rose of Paradise.

Perhaps this underlines the absolute division between earthly reason and
divine grace, also enunciated in the disappearance of the fool (or
Virgil).  In other words, Lear may have escaped the world, as Dante does
in leaving the garden at the end of Purgatorio, but his ontological
status following this escape can only be understood as absence.
Shakespeare, unlike Dante, makes no effort to express the structure of
Paradise, or any sort of afterlife, in language.

One could also argue that since the play is set before the birth of
Christ, no entry into Paradise can be contemplated within the world of
the play. In any case, the distinction between heaven and earth is
radical: one character having left the world, we are given only the
remaining characters, still trying to figure out their all-too-earthly
lives. I would place the play within the context of a challenge to the
metaphysics enunciated so beautifully by Dante. It is, after all, the
product of the reformation, and of the radical doubts it introduced (if
only later to foreclose). For more on which, see Robert Watson, _The
Rest is Silence: Death as Annihilation in the English Renaissance_.

And I hope you're not trying to turn Cordelia into Beatrice.  The
former's silence and gentle forgiveness ("no cause, no cause") stands in
radical contradistinction to Beatrice's rant in the Edenic garden at the
top of Mount Purgatory, which always makes me imagine one of my old
Sunday school teachers possessed by Lady Thatcher.

Cheers, and good luck,
Sean.

Re: Fear of Flying

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0371.  Wednesday, 19 March 1997.

[1]     From:   David Evett <R0870%This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Mar 1997 16:29 ET
        Subj:   SHK 8.0367  Re: Fear

[2]     From:   JoAnna Koskinen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Mar 1997 22:46:06 -0800
        Subj:   Re: Looks Like I'm Gonna Do It


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <R0870%This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 18 Mar 1997 16:29 ET
Subject: Re: Fear
Comment:        SHK 8.0367  Re: Fear

I second Dan Lowenstein's suggestion that you look into ships.  Even
freighters are expensive, but I think everybody ought to get at least
one trans-Atlantic voyage - a luxury that seems to me more worth taking
out a second mortgage for than most.  A good travel agent can get you
started.

Nautically,
Dave Evett

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           JoAnna Koskinen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 18 Mar 1997 22:46:06 -0800
Subject:        Re: Looks Like I'm Gonna Do It

Well,

It looks like I'm going to London this summer for intersession. I made
the decision this morning, and I'm doing the paperwork tomorrow. Thanks
for all the encouragement, and don't be surprised if the week before
leaving you find me a little crazed. I really must not let my fears
control me, right?

Thanks again, everyone.

JoAnna

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