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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: April ::
Re: Ideology
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0473.  Friday, 18 April 1997.

[1]     From:   Thomas Bishop <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Apr 19     97 1
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0470  Re: Ideology

[2]     From:   Ron Ward <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Apr 1997 09:43:12 +1200 (NZST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0470  Re: Ideology

[3]     From:   Sean K. Lawrence <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Apr 1997 19:10:47 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0470  Re: Ideology

[4]     From:   Sean K. Lawrence <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Apr 1997 19:35:13 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0470  Re: Ideology


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Bishop <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Apr 1997 16:11:57 -0500
Subject: 8.0470  Re: Ideology
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0470  Re: Ideology

Phyllis Rackin asks, non-rhetorically:
>Is there anyone out there who has changed his/her mind as a result of the
>"ideology" thread?

I'd have to say that I've been made to think very carefully about things
I hadn't considered, and that I'd now put some things quite differently
from how I might have before.  I've also been prompted to go and do some
extra reading, which I think has been a good thing. So it has been, for
me, a genuinely instructive debate, at least some of the time.
"Changed" by the discussion, yes, though not "converted" to a very
different view.  It's a good question though.

One thing I might also say. I don't know that this forum, which promises
so much in the way of discussion, always lends itself to it in the end.
The need to keep postings brief, and the tendency to "take positions"
doesn't always facilitate nuance (I have been guilty of this too).
Hardy is probably better positioned than most to speak to this. Would he
be willing to share with us an account of the proceedings in the recent
SAA seminar on the topic?

[Editor's Note: To retrieve my essay, send the command "GET SAA1997
SHAKSPER" to 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 .  HMC]

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ron Ward <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 18 Apr 1997 09:43:12 +1200 (NZST)
Subject: 8.0470  Re: Ideology
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0470  Re: Ideology

>Lysbeth Em Benkert says
>In order to have an aesthetic response, a reader/audience member/student
>must be able to place a play within some sort of context.  To many of my
>students, early modern England is utterly foreign-so much so that the
>differences initially preclude their having an aesthetic response at
>all.

The difficulty students may have in relating to a different culture is
an interesting one. It seems that this is something they desperately
need (though may not want initially) to do. The point is that culture is
not just subject to temporal variations. If we live solely within the
culture we have grown up with we are in a sort of self imposed prison.
Much like those people who have a great fear of moving outside their
front door. Education is  really about realising that we have other
choices and that only by taking steps into the unknown will we
understand the full potential of the human mind.  Apart from our own
well being it is also of great importance that members of societies are
willing to learn both old and new ways of understanding things as if we
do not know the past we can not plan the future. Neither are we in a
good position to understand our neighbouring cultures. This sort of
understanding is needed by  our legislators and if our population at
large does not appreciate it we will elect people of poor
understanding.  The question then is how is the best way of getting
students to take the first step. I am not sure that converting
everything into terms they can immediately relate to is all that much of
a good idea. It may be impossible anyway. I suggest we should begin with
the play rather than the language.  Then we may catch the conscience of
the king within our student who would otherwise poison our ears with
small mindedness.

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean K. Lawrence <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Apr 1997 19:10:47 -0700
Subject: 8.0470  Re: Ideology
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0470  Re: Ideology

> This will probably sound like a rhetorical question, but it isn't.  Is
> there anyone out there who has changed his/her mind as a result of the
> "ideology" thread?

Actually, I'd say that I have.  I haven't, as it were, joined the other
camp, but I think that I've worked more on my own ideas with this thread
as a spur.

Cheers,
Sean

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean K. Lawrence <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Apr 1997 19:35:13 -0700
Subject: 8.0470  Re: Ideology
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0470  Re: Ideology

Hi, Lysbeth.

I enjoyed your posting, and agree that historical background is vital to
any understanding of the text.  I think you miss the 'strong' point of
Paul's argument, however.

To begin with, while you can say that "history is largely ideological",
or words to that effect, there's nothing to say that it is.  I'm reading
_Peace Print and Protestantism_ at the moment, by C. S. L. Davies, who
underlines the importance of accidents and individual personalities in
forming history.  I'm inclined to agree with this argument at times.
Moreover, the word 'ideology' is itself loaded:  what is to say that,
for instance, a belief in the divine right of kings is not rather
'theological' or 'political scientific' or even 'superstitious'?

Making 'ideology' embrace all these things is merely to beg the question
of which is prior:  a theological _a priori_ which posits the play of
ideological constructs in the absence of God?  a polisci decision that
certain ideologies are better at maintaining national cohesion?  We
could, after all, reverse the prioritizing of ideology in all cases: all
ideology is fundamentally theological, or political science, or even
aesthetics.

I think the strength of Paul's case lies not in denying the interplay
between history and art, but querying first the ideological nature of
history, and the priority of history over art.  To prioritize ideology
in a totalizing way is not only reductionist (not in the sense that it
reduces all interpretation to a formula-in the sense that it reduces the
field of possible interpretations to those consonant with the
presupposed importance of ideology), but also displaces art into a
different field.

It is similar, in a sense, to saying that "all history is economics,"
which robs history of its status as an independent discipline, at least
in principle.  In its more extreme forms, it would rob history of its
ability to make us query our favourite economic models.  Similarly,
saying that "all literature is ideology" is to rob literature of its
ability to make us question our ideological commitments.

I understand that Hitler banned _Othello_.  Would he have done so if it
were not capable of questioning the ideology to which the German nation
had committed itself?  If literature is read entirely *through*
ideology, then he would have nothing to fear, since _Othello_ would (in
a Nazi context) be invariably read as a morality tale about the dangers
of racially impure marriages, untermenschen in positions of command, and
so forth.  In anything but this case, literature is questioning
ideology.  It still participates within ideology, of course, but it can
call certain basic ideological assumptions into question.  But perhaps
the preeminence of ideological readings may one day succeed in making
art less dangerous.

I enjoyed your post immensely, by the way, and admire your teaching
methods.  Do you usually present historical background in lectures, or
assign critical readings which themselves utilize historical
background?  I did the latter in my first Shakespeare course, last term,
but with somewhat limited success.

Cheers,
Sean
 

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