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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: June ::
Re: Cassettes; More Bad Writing; Neutral Sh; King Lear
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0629.  Monday, 3 June 1997.

[1]     From:   Stuart Manger <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jun 1997 20:15:45 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0622  Q: Cassettes and CDs of Shakespeare as
Assignments

[2]     From:   Patrick Gillespie <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jun 1997 15:24:55 -0400
        Subj:   More Bad Writing

[3]     From:   John McWilliams <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 03 Jun 1997 11:46:31  +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0614  Re: Neutral Sh

[4]     From:   Chris Clark <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jun 1997 20:21:14 GMT
        Subj:   Cordelia and the fool


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Manger <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Jun 1997 20:15:45 +0100
Subject: 8.0622  Q: Cassettes and CDs of Shakespeare as
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0622  Q: Cassettes and CDs of Shakespeare as
Assignments

I do so agree with Ed. I frequently urge my students to listen to plays
/ lectures by eminent teachers. I had not thought of making my own
cassettes, but that's a very good idea indeed. Modern stereo tapes /
CD's actually make pretty mind-expanding listening, certainly the BBC
Radio 3 productions do, digital / stereo / radiophonic workshop effects
and all. FAR better than TV. Radio has far better pictures!!

Stuart Manger

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Patrick Gillespie <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Jun 1997 15:24:55 -0400
Subject:        More Bad Writing

There's a book I always carry round with me, Ted Hughes' "A Choice of
Shakespeare's Verse". I bought it while in Germany just so I could have
a little Shakespeare to carry around in my backpack. Hughes provides an
otherwise fascinating essay at the back of the book which glances on,
among other things, Bruno, Dee, hermetics and Shakespeare's use of a
kind of verbal Hendiadys. If there is a name for this rhetorical figure
(I would like to know it), Hughes does not himself know one, but calls
it "lance-like", providing a typically Hughsean comparison saying:
"[Shakespeare] seems to have modeled it almost on the pattern of a coat
of arms: two families of meaning, two ancient etymological lineages each
condensed to a rich sign or crest of sigil, impaled on a heraldic
escutcheon."

At which point (to indulge in this Hughesianess) I might compare it to
the herbal Hendiadys of a good cook who mixes two families of herbage,
perhaps two ancient phylalogically distinct lineages condensed into a
rich sauce or basting seal, impaled on a Baltic crustacean.

Anyway, Mr. Hughes goes on in this vane until, like a ticking time-bomb
of metaphor, he explodes with the following paragraph:

...One is aware of it as a signaling and hinting of verbal heads and
tails both above and below precision, and by this weirdly expressive
underswell of a musical near gibberish, like a jostling of spirits, a
bustling pressure of shapes inside every syllable. Shakespeare holds it
all in dodgy focus by the audial compass course that his aerobatic
syntax plots through it. When Joyce takes this sonar amplification of
the word's pun possibilities to the limit in Finnigans Wake, the blazing
crackle of radio interference and writhing wave-bands, somewhat smothers
the instrument panel, for the reader and co-pilot, in a sort of white
out...

Patrick

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John McWilliams <
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Date:           Tuesday, 03 Jun 1997 11:46:31  +0000
Subject: 8.0614  Re: Neutral Sh
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0614  Re: Neutral Sh

Dear Ben Schneider,

Thank you for your very interesting (and patient) reply to my
confused/perplexed message... I think you make some important
distinctions (especially re: reasons for the Shakespeare myth) which I
was overlooking.  I am delighted (but embarrassed) to learn that you
were around in the 50s and 60s: as you may have guessed I was not, and
am a muddle headed young fellow using the 50s and 60s as a kind of point
against which to define aspects of modern/postmodern criticism - a
dubious (yet perhaps fairly common) practice...

However, I still may be confused. You say New Critics were claiming
neutrality for themselves rather than for their favourite writers. I'm
sure that's true and one would contrast this to modern political critics
who approach a text ostensibly admitting their own prejudices and
critical predispositions. So a feminist critic (of one particular sort
anyway) would talk about the ways in which women are portrayed or
omitted in works of literature and criticise the male created and
dominated canon and so on.

So to summarise my bastardised literary critical history, New Critic
types claim neutrality, whilst modern political critics claim that
neutrality is an impossibility (in fact, they go on to attempt to show
just what ideological baggage supposedly neutral ctitics are carrying,
but that's another story...). But these ways of doing things do surely
map on to the writers we read, and I'm not sure that they do in the way
you suggest.  Critics claiming neutrality did seem to produce writers
who were 'neutral'.  For example, new critical readings of Marvell's
Horatian Ode produced an exquisitely poised, apolitical poet who juggles
radically opposing political views with breathtaking skill. On the other
hand, Greenblatt (in an extremely irritating footnote somewhere) claims
that the poem is simply a pro Cromwell panegyric.

[In the middle of this message, I read your second message, so I'll
change track a little...]

Your objection to Bradshaw is a strong one: aren't we just mapping our
own ambivalence onto Shakespeare in the same way that, say, Olivier's
film mapped celebration of English aggression onto Henry V? I'm not sure
how to answer you directly on this one - we may have reached an impasse
- but I instinctively feel the mapping of stoicism would be wrong. One
thought I have is that to distance Shakespeare from ourselves in the way
that you do (we don't do stoicism, so we don't understand Shakespeare)
is excessive.  Shakespeare, as many have argued, was perhaps the most
extensively influential writer in the language and we can see his
influence everywhere - from the language we speak to the plots we read
and watch and the way we narrate our own lives even to ourselves. To
push this further, probably too far in a Bloomian kind of way,
Shakespeare makes us what we are. So to suggest that he is distant and
in fact playing on a whole different playing filed called stoicism,
seems dubious...

But I am prepared to be persuaded... Thanks Ben for the thought
provoking-ness of your messages, and I'll look up your chapter
references now!

John McWilliams

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Clark <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Jun 1997 20:21:14 GMT
Subject:        Cordelia and the fool

> Did you hear the rumor that the same actor that played Cordelia for was
> also played the fool thus the tie and the reason they are never onstage
> together?

As far as Cordelia and the fool are concerned, they clearly serve the
purpose (as was commented to me earlier) of showing Lear the truth. The
inner doubts within Lear's head need to be expressed even when he is
externally denying them, and the opportunity for a soliloquy is not
open, because we are dealing with his subconsciously niggling doubts.
Once Lear is mad (but, ironically, seeing the situation with sane
judgement), there is no need for the fool... and notice how Cordelia
comes in soon after, to facilitate the tragic end. This allows for her
deification, and yet still allows the final ambiguity of 'My poor fool
is hanged,' which would certainly make sense if it was the same actor.

Cheers
 

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