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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: January ::
Re: Postmodernism
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0028  Wednesday, 7 January 1998.

[1]     From:   Simon Malloch <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 07 Jan 1998 01:01:24 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0017  Re: Postmodernism

[2]     From:   Simon Malloch <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 07 Jan 1998 01:54:41 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0021  Re: Postmodernism

[3]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Wednesdayy, 07 Jan 1998 01:05:51 +0000
        Subj:   SHK 9.0013  Re: Postmodern


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Simon Malloch <
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Date:           Wednesday, 07 Jan 1998 01:01:24 +0800
Subject: 9.0017  Re: Postmodernism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0017  Re: Postmodernism

> A hierarchy of art which places Shakespeare over Dworkin and Bach over
> the Spice Girls is ripe for deconstruction.

However, this not something about which we should all be praising God.
More often than not it is just another excuse to exercise Resentment.

> An age-old bugbear of
> cultural elitism is the seeming preference of the masses for dross,

Yes,  "dross"; in other words, the Spice Girls.

> Rhodes's hierarchy is ambivalently structured.  His `objectively better'
> art is doubly burdened with having to surpass comparable works (other
> music, other poetry, other drama) and unalike works such as feminist
> theory.

I would argue that the canonical status of those mentioned in Rhodes'
hierarchy as "greater" is already assured. There is no burden: those on
his list do not have to "compete" with feminist theory,  nor with any
artistic piece that follow.  Rather,  I imagine,  it would be the other
way around, and hence the success of Rhodes' examples: the Spice Girls
can never compete with Bach for an eminent position in the western
musical tradition. It's a sad day if,  ideology aside,  anyone believes
that they could.

Art is not a game played on a level field, despite what some may think
(though the "game" analogy would surely appeal to some peoples' critical
tastes). There are fixtures on the landscape, Shakespeare in literature
being one, Bach in music another.  The Spice Girls and Dworkin have not
yet proved themselves artistically to warrant inclusion into any sort of
canon.

>Might I further Rhodes's line of argument?  What need have we
>of particle physics and quantum theory when we know that [etc.]
> Albert Einstein?  I wouldn't give him house-room.

As far as I can see,  this is not a logical or even a reasonable
extension of Rhodes' argument: he was not insinuating that we should do
away with the Spice Girls just because he feels that Bach is better.
Rather,  no doubt,  his preference was based on taste: it was not some
deliberate ideological exercise in canon-building.

I am with Norm Holland and his Messiah, and Rhodes and his Baby
Spice-free Bach.

Simon Malloch.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Simon Malloch <
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Date:           Wednesday, 07 Jan 1998 01:54:41 +0800
Subject: 9.0021  Re: Postmodernism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0021  Re: Postmodernism

> The most cursory knowledge of the era-which is exactly all I can claim
> -- teaches that in his plays Shakespeare was not trying to write
> transcendent material.  He was trying to get a show on the boards.
> Moreover, his plays _were_ the Spice Girls of their day: terrifically
> successful popular entertainments that also attracted the glancing
> interest of royalty at its leisure.  After all, the Spice Girls were
> recently photographed with Princes Charles and William, no doubt to the
> greater glory of them all.  The Globe, Rose, and Swan stood in a
> precinct with the brothels and the bearbaiting ring, not uptown with the
> palaces; they were railed at alike as corrupters of apprentices. There
> was a great deal of standing room at penny-a-head, but only one or two
> lords' rooms at twelve pence, at the old Globe.

It is one thing to say that Shakespeare was the Spice Girls of his day,
another to actually compare them on an artistic level (which is what
Rhodes was objecting to).  I think that you blur the lines here.  The
Spice Girls cannot sneak into eminence because they share the same sort
of popular appeal as Shakespeare attracted in his own day,  nor is this
common-ground a justification for a comparison.  Artistic merit does
play a role.

When, in say 400 years time,  people are listening to the latest
remastering of a Spice Girls CD on the Deutsche Gramphon "Originals"
label,  meanwhile thumbing enthusiastically through their virtual copy
of The Riverside Dworkin, and I say "thumbing" because by that stage
reading will be considered defunct in the same way that the term "text"
today is preferred to such scandalous words like "novel" or "play", then
perhaps there will be a case for comparison.

But, I feel warmed by the thought that there will never be such a time,
that the Spice Girls will disappear, as did bear-baiting. Indeed, the
former is a sort of "baiting" too, evidently.  Art with aesthetic merit
survives; dross doesn't.

As for the royalty-Spice Girls connection, this is probably less a case
of "leisure," and more a case of pressure for the Windsors to be more
accessible.  No doubt Shakespeare attracted royalty through *merit*
(what else??), whereas as the Spice Girls have the *popularity* with the
younger generation which the Windsors want.

> One era's trashy entertainment becomes another era's gate to the
> sublime.  Why? At least in part because the people of the second era
> have been given, or have developed, "eyes to see with."  Whence cometh
> that gift or development?  From the precise kind of interrogation of
> value judgments, both explicit and so implicit as to be nearly
> invisible, that is the manifest project of post-modernism.

This vastly overrates the supposed achievements of post-modernism.  I
fail to see one good example of an artist - across the spectrum of art
forms -  who has been resurrected (and that is virtually what it takes)
and who now sits amidst the very popular and gifted likes of
Shakespeare,  Michaelangelo, and Beethoven.

More probably,  transmission comes less from ideology,  but from
artworks (and art forms, if you like) influencing subsequent pieces.  It
is this process of influence that turns what passed as common
entertainment into great pieces of art; some pieces - the real trash -
clearly did not and do not last, and it seems that it now takes a
theoretical,  rather than an artistic,  lifeline to bring them to the
fore.

I tend to see post-modernism in a far more negative light than the above
description,  which makes the cause sound like a mission from God.  The
belittling of tradition in order to elevate marginalised artists does
not appeal to me,  nor does the current atmosphere that dictates that
one is an Enemy for not placing the Spice Girls/Dworkin and
Bach/Shakespeare on equal footing.

> On the other hand, if we are to speak of post-modernism robbing an
> identifiable segment of humanity of all hope... what drives me to
> despair, or at least nuts, about deconstruction is that poems and plays
> become 'texts,' and the author disappears.  It's enough to make a poet
> want to cry 'alas, alack, and fie!' and simply wait for someone else to
> write one's books.

I fully and gladly agree. And I am glad that you included this; esp.
considering earlier comments about Shakespeare's decisions about what
material of his would or would not be transcendental.

With good humour,
Simon Malloch.

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Wednesdayy, 07 Jan 1998 01:05:51 +0000
Subject: Re: Postmodern -Reply
Comment:        SHK 9.0013  Re: Postmodern -Reply

I am heartened at the current hue and cry about Terence Hawks nasty
little attack.  He has frequently gotten away with flaming members of
this list with his little hit and run messages.  Since he does not use
the words usually associated with flaming, no one has taken much
notice-until now.

I don't care how many books he has published, or his stature in the
Shakespeare community.  It is high time his tricks were exposed.  Let us
continue to band together to teach Mr. Hawkes civility.  If he will not
learn it, I hope he will be banned from this list.

Most sincerely,
Mike Jensen
 

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