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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: June ::
Re: Ideology; Stoic Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0620.  Monday, 2 June 1997.

[1]     From:   Robert Appelbaum <
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        Date:   Friday, 30 May 1997 13:44:09 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0597  Re: Ideology

[2]     From:   Ben Schneider <
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        Date:   Friday, 30 May 1997 16:29:25 +0000
        Subj:   Stoic Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert Appelbaum <
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Date:           Friday, 30 May 1997 13:44:09 EST
Subject: 8.0597  Re: Ideology
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0597  Re: Ideology

Dear Ben Schneider:

Thank you for your incisive critique of my postmodernism.  I have seen
the error of my ways and I am ready to convert.  Fortunately, wing-tip
shoes are back in fashion so I won't have any trouble with those; and
I'm sure a vintage clothing store will be able to provide me with all
the narrow ties I'll need.  I promise to wear them without irony.

I have even come up with a way to determine OBJECTIVELY whether or not
WT is "sexist," a claim I had not been interested in pursuing before
since I did not myself (in my old merely subjective Doc Martens self)
believe that the play was "sexist."

Now that I'm determined to be objective about these things I've come to
see that whether or not I am interested in making a certain kind of
claim or not is irrelevant to what I should be doing as a scholar, and
so I've thought long and hard about how to answer your question
seriously.

This, then, is what I think we should do. We  gather a colloquium,
including experts on statistics, psycholinguists, and semantics.  We
establish a battery of tests to determine what it is that in the English
language is commonly recognized as an example of sexist expression or
sexist behavior.  We correct our measurements for bias within our test
groups.  For example, if %60 of our female sample report a certain
expression to be sexist, and only %40 of our male sample do, then we
add  into our measure the %20 difference between men and women as
further support for that expression's being sexist.  Then, having with
years of arduous double-blind studies finally determined quotients of
sexist expression (e.g. statement A ["I get mad at women sometimes"]
rates 32/100 as a sexist remark, while statement B ["Women are dumb"]
rates 84/100), we begin a series of tests with randomly selected
audiences.

And then ... WE SHOW THEM THE PLAY.

Only we don't just show them the play-we show them the play with
controls.  In one performance (for audience B) we have Paulina's lines
spoken by a male character, Paul.  In another performance (for audience
C) all of Hermione's lines are cut out.  In a third Mamilius is girl.
In a fourth (audience D) Leontes is a girl.  In a fifth performance
(audience E) we show them Caryl Churchill's _Cloud Nine._  In a sixth
(audience F) we show them a stage version of _Earth Girls Are Easy._ And
so forth.  After having shown x number of performances (as agreed to by
our panel of experts such that it would guarantee a rigorously
controlled experiment, with all variables accounted for), we assemble
the results of our audiences responses.

The point is not whether any given audience label any particular
performance "sexist" (our methods are not crude as that), but which
performances, if any, evoke over a certain threshold certain responses
(say, %60, with corrections again for the gender of the respondents)
which indicate a significant sexist quotient in the content of the play.

Questions to our respondents might include (after consultation with out
panel, and pre-testing for bias) 1) Did this play represent men as being
inherently superior to women in intelligence and moral value?  2) Did
this play persuade you that women are less dependable or less capable of
holding positions of authority than men?  3) Is the fundamental moral
order of the play a system designed primarily to serve the interests,
needs, and desires of men? 4)  How does that make you feel?

And so on.

Having gathered our results we will then be able to publish our results
in _respectable_ journal, one of those journals that gets funding from
the National Science Foundation.  And we will know the truth about
whether WT is a sexist play or not, and under what conditions, provided
such-and-such elements are included in the play and none others.  We
will have our answer, I believe, free of any methodological bias or
taint in our samples.  Until of course another study comes out.

I hope that answers your question.

Sincerely,
Robert Appelbaum
University of Cincinnati

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ben Schneider <
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Date:           Friday, 30 May 1997 16:29:25 +0000
Subject:        Stoic Shakespeare

Dear John McWilliams,

You suggest, if I read you right, that in Stoicizing Shakespeare I am
politicizing him.  I hadn't thought of aspiring to that honor, but maybe
in Stoicizing I do politicize.  The politcizer's theory is my Stoicism.
The difference, I would argue, is that my theory fits and his doesn't.
Modern political theory is simply anachronistic.  See my Ch 1 on the
SHAKSPER listserver for evidence on why Stoicism fits.  MORAL.SHAKES-1
is the code.

However, with Graham Bradshaw, you object to the reductive nature of
both my Stoic approach and other politicized approaches.  The difference
between me and Graham is, I think (though I haven't read his book), that
I wouldn't carry "Shakespeare's exploratory nature" as far as he does.
Certainly Shakespeare covers all the ramifications of a subject, but not
to the degree that he disagrees with himself.  My answer to those who
say Shakespeare is ambivalent about Henry V is, "Not so, if you approach
through Stoicism, casting aside your own ideas of right and wrong."  See
my ch 5 on HenV for S's own probable attitude to the things that go on
in that play.  MORAL.SHAKES-5 is the code.

Everybody says that Shakespeare is ambivalent.  That doesn't mean that
he IS ambivalent.  I challenge the hypothesis that Shakespeare is always
looking at both sides of a question.  If you approach with my Stoic
"theory" the ambivalence disappears.  We impose the ambivalence,
because, not being Stoics, we don't agree with him, and rather than
throw out our own values, we assign them to one side of his perpetually
self-debating mind.  What's so great about ambivalence, anyhow?
Incoherence by any other name is still incoherent.  Or is it a
characteristic of a universal genius?

We use our basic beliefs all the time to explain the universe, but we
seldom question them.  Are we SURE that Shakespeare's plays are
"exploratory" in the sense of entertaining contrary points of view on
the same topic at the same time, or is it an illusion produced by our
own contrariness?

Yours ever to command,
Ben Schneider
 

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