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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: April ::
Re: Ideology: The Aesthetics of WT
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0464.  Tuesday, 15 April 1997.

[1]     From:   Wes Folkerth <
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        Date:   Monday, 14 Apr 1997 19:48:47 -0400
        Subj:   Ideology: The Aesthetics of WT

[2]     From:   Adrian Kiernander <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 15 Apr 1997 10:57:57 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0458  Re: Ideology: The Aesthetics of WT

[3]     From:   Ed Gieskes <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 15 Apr 1997 12:52:44 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0458 Ideology


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Wes Folkerth <
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Date:           Monday, 14 Apr 1997 19:48:47 -0400
Subject:        Ideology: The Aesthetics of WT

Do we really know just how representative Simon Forman's reaction to WT
was, especially if his is the only extant account from the period?  I'm
thinking of Kurosawa's film "RashoMonday," and Al Braunmuller's recent
article on John Holles seeing "A Game at Chess."

Maybe Forman was, in his own way, the Paul Hawkins of his time!


Wes Folkerth

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[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Adrian Kiernander <
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Date:           Tuesday, 15 Apr 1997 10:57:57 +1000
Subject: 8.0458  Re: Ideology: The Aesthetics of WT
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0458  Re: Ideology: The Aesthetics of WT

Why does Tom Bishop introduce the topic of censorship? The fact that I
may find the implications of Paul Hawkins's reaction to the end of _WT_
disturbing doesn't mean I want to  ban the play, and I don't recall any
other suggestions that this should happen. On the contrary I'm growing
more and more interested in the idea of directing it, and I'm thinking
about some ideas for the final scene which might problematise on stage
the questions which have been discussed here recently-though I suspect
my staging might well nauseate Paul. Oh well, you can't win them all.

In Tom's reaction I can't help being reminded of comments by the current
Australian Prime Minister John Howard, for whom it seems that free
speech (which he claims to advocate) consists of allowing racists to
express their views openly, while attempting to prevent criticism of
these views by anyone else. By some process of logic which I can't quite
work out, making racist comments is free speech, but criticising or even
just pointing out instances of racism is not.

Tom's implication that rigorously exposing "any art that might offend
those with whom we are in ethical solidarity" is a form of censorship
seems to me almost Howardian. There is nothing in my posting which
advocates the view of art as moral or immoral, or the banning of any
work, or that this Shakespeare fella has got to go, but I claim the
right (and indeed the responsibility) to comment on our
ideological-emotional-aesthetic reactions to any discursive act or
event, and I don't see how this puts any of us in the company of Jesse
Helms.

To anticipate something that Paul might be about to write, I was not in
my last posting attempting to pigeonhole him-merely wondering. And I
certainly didn't, and wouldn't, claim that any power I may feel in the
final scene "must be resisted". In fact I've deliberately chosen not to
describe or discuss in any detail my own reactions to this scene (I've
merely pointed out some possible reactions which differ from the one
Paul suggested) in the hope that it might prevent this discussion
turning into a "My interpretation is better than your interpretation"
competition.

Adrian

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Gieskes <
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Date:           Tuesday, 15 Apr 1997 12:52:44 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0458 Ideology
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0458 Ideology

Paul Hawkins writes:

>The starkness of the issues is focused in a recent comment by Gabriel
>Egan:

>"The different responses are not conditioned by aesthetics . . .but by a
>lived experience of power relations."

>Our disagreement could not be plainer.  I think what conditions our
>responses most is the breadth of our imagination.  Ironically, I think a
>lived experience of oppression can make acts of the imagination by which
>we transcend ourselves easier rather than more difficult, as long as
>one's oppression has enabled one to develop strengths to counter-balance
>the bitterness and the resentment.  It may be arrogant to say it, but I
>think being gay has made me a better reader of the aesthetic than I
>would otherwise have been.  When I read and was blown away by the
>magnificent book, *The Western Canon,* I just
>assumed-unimaginatively-that its author was gay.  I didn't think a
>straight man in our society and culture could possibly have such love of
>great literature.

Isn't the assertion that one is a "better reader of the aesthetic"
because one is gay a particular example of the idea that an agent's
response to art is structured by that agent's culture (which is not
restricted, I think, to power relations)?  Doesn't such a statement have
everything to do with lived experience?  To say, as Gabriel Egan does,
that the response to art is conditioned (not determined) by lived
experience is not necessarily the same as reducing art to ideology;
instead, it acknowledges that both the production and reception of art
happen in history and are affected (again, not determined) by historical
conditions at both the time of production and that of reception.  Your
statement about how your gayness makes you a better reader of the
aesthetic, however, goes much further in that direction than anything
Gabriel Egan has written.

>"All is ideology" in the hands of the present all-is-ideologues would
>deny the imagination by which we can identify beyond ourselves and
>against ourselves.  It's interesting that Adrian Kiernander acknowledges
>the power of the end of *WT* to make him feel, but also makes clear that
>that power must be resisted.  Why this need to resist the power of art,
>its tyrannical power perhaps, as if it were a real-life tyrant?  It asks
>to exercise our imagination, and neither imposes on us nor precludes any
>moral value, any political position, any ideological or ontological
>confinement.  It blasts open any containment in those areas.

Forgive me, but this sounds to me like the stereotypically myopic
response of the aesthete to any suggestion that art is not simply art,
but also may have social or political components.  What is wrong with
acknowledging that the "power of the end of *WT* to make [one] feel" is,
at least potentially, troubling?  No one denies that art has power to
move its audience-that would be foolish-but that power is not
unambiguously wondrous and positive, as you seem to suggest.

I don't think, as you seem to, that an ideologically informed reading of
a text (or a statue or a painting) necessarily means that one can't say
that it's beautiful as well.  And I don't think that many people do.
The terms of this "debate" are far less opposed than your polemic
allows.

If I can be allowed to suggest some relevant reading that might resolve
a few of these so-called problems, you might want to take a look at
Pierre Bourdieu's work-particularly _Distinction_ but also the
recently-translated _Rules of Art_.  You might be surprised at how fuzzy
the opposition you are so deeply invested in becomes.
 

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