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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: January ::
Re: Vendler
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0043  Monday, 12 January 1998.

[1]     From:   T. J. Sellari <
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        Date:   Friday, 9 Jan 1998 23:22:22 +0800 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0035  Re: Vendler

[2]     From:   Pat Dolan <
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        Date:   Friday, 9 Jan 1998 12:02:15 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0035  Re: Vendler

[3]     From:   Nicholas R Moschovakis <
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        Date:   Friday, 9 Jan 1998 12:04:46 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0035  Re: Vendler


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           T. J. Sellari <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 9 Jan 1998 23:22:22 +0800 (CST)
Subject: 9.0035  Re: Vendler
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0035  Re: Vendler

> Some responses to Professor Moschovakis's post. First, if we are
> enjoined to remember "who wrote that 'the poet's eye, in a fine frenzy
> rolling,/ Doth glance...' etc.," we ought to also remember than in its
> context, Theseus' lines are no compliment to the poet, the lover, or the
> madman. He is dismissing "These antic fables, [and] these fairy toys."
> All three misperceive, thanks to the "tricks" of the "strong
> imagination." And he concludes this speech by exclaiming "How easy is a
> bush supposed a bear," a line that again does not exactly exalt the
> power to create. Theseus, in context, is no friend of the imagination.
> And furthermore, Hippolyta begins her response as a rebuttal to
> Theseus's clear contempt for what's transpired: "BUT all the story of
> the night told over . . . . "  In other words, we need to read this
> speech contextually. And (I would argue) we need to read this speech
> within the context of the antitheatrical and antipoetic prejudices that
> Theseus is alluding to.

More context. Let's not forget that Theseus immediately proves himself
able to pick something from nothing:

"Out of this silence yet I pick'd a welcome,
And in the modesty of fearful duty
I read as much as from the rattling tongue
Of saucy and audacious eloquence."

He also reminds Hippolyta that, "The best in this kind are but shadows;
and the worst are no worse, if imagination amend them."

Theseus may be no friend of the imagination, but isn't there a bit of
irony in the fact that he finds it indispensable?

T.J. Sellari
National Chengchi University, Taipei

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pat Dolan <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 9 Jan 1998 12:02:15 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 9.0035  Re: Vendler
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0035  Re: Vendler

In Peter Herman's recent post he insists that historically informed
criticism need not substitute pedantry for novelty and that we must read
in light of contemporary discourses in order to properly understand
historically distant writing.

I think both points are admirably exemplified by Brian Cummings's
article on swearing and Othello in the Spring 1997 English Literary
Renaissance, which I read immediately prior to check my mail this
morning.

Pat Dolan

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nicholas R Moschovakis <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 9 Jan 1998 12:04:46 -0600
Subject: 9.0035  Re: Vendler
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0035  Re: Vendler

In answer to a list member's query about Vendler's treatment of (I hope
I am remembering the number correctly) Sonnet 7: She finds "look" to be
the key-word (used in the latter half of each quatrain and of the
couplet); she diagrams it as a left/right structure, left half = sun's
progression, right half = lookers; she claims that the sound "or" (as in
"Orient") recurs within various words as an echo of the sun's "golden"
attributes; and she finds it a slight and fanciful sonnet.  She does not
attempt to account for the lookers' response to the sun in literal
terms, but seems to assume that its first-level significance is in the
metaphorical sense of a courtier's rise and fall. [One might say more
about the actual course of the sun, its appearance and relative strength
during ascent and decline.] The most questionable points in her
treatment are a (minor) point about anagrammatic play, and a guess that
a broad contrast between the triviality of the earlier sonnets and the
"imagination" of the later ones suggests their  having been written in
the order published.

In response to Professor Herman's rejoinder about the "fine frenzy" -
i.e.,
> we ought to also remember that in its
>context, Theseus' lines are no compliment to the poet, the lover, or the
>madman. He is dismissing "These antic fables, [and] these fairy toys."...
>Theseus, in context, is no friend of the imagination....In other words, we
>need to read this
>speech contextually. And (I would argue) we need to read this speech
>within the context of the antitheatrical and antipoetic prejudices that
>Theseus is alluding to.

I relpy: There is no doubt that Theseus is skeptical about fairies. But
reading contextually is not the same thing as reductive reading. The
lines are polyvalent. "Frenzy" connotes the divine furor of poetic
inspiration; is Theseus ridiculing that notion, or is he uncertain
whether there might be something to it; is he perhaps insecure about the
possibility that the poet sees more? - My point was not about Theseus,
but about Shakespeare, who obviously did not share the duke's contempt
either for poetry or for fairies.

My rather impatient defense of Vendler in my last posting was not at all
a criticism of historicism, but of the exclusionary historicism which is
always crying "You anachronize!" - and the cautionary instance of which
is Robertsonianism (I'm a Princeton grad school product so I know
whereof I speak).
 

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