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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: January ::
Re: Postmodernism
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0065  Tuesday, 20 January 1998.

[1]     From:   Marilyn A. Bonomi <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 Jan 1998
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0060  Re: Postmodernism

[2]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 Jan 1998 18:42:10 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0060  Re: Postmodernism


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marilyn A. Bonomi <
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Date:           Monday, 19 Jan 1998
Subject: 9.0060  Re: Postmodernism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0060  Re: Postmodernism

In reply to Robin Headlam-Wells: "try telling your students you graded
their essays on the
basis of *your* meanings, not theirs"

Naomi Liebler answered,
"do you REALLY mean to suggest that you grade your students' essays on
the basis of "meanings" OTHER than your own? My students would LOVE you!
You'd doubtless find every student's essay plausible, well-argued, and
fundamentally "right"; on what basis then would you find a student's
work, um, less-than-adequate? And whose "meanings" then become the
standard by which you evaluate those of your students?"

Gee, I've taught high school kids for 32 years now, and I've never
STOPPED learning from the meanings THEY create in their reading.
Sometimes they have no substance to back up what they think they've
found in the text, but then their inadequacies are easily evaluated as
inadequate.  NO, not every paper that does not agree w/ my meanings for
a text is necessarily "plausible, well-argued" OR "fundamentally
'right'"!  But that doesn't mean MY meanings are any more "fundamentally
'right'" than theirs... or Robin's, or yours.

Often, simply because they've not been inundated with Marxist New
Historicist Postmodern Feminist Psycholanalytic theorizing, even high
school students can bring a clear and wide-open eye to the text and find
remarkable things in it.

I SIMPLY REFUSE TO BELIEVE that my interpretations (or those of my
professors and the authors of all those deeply intellectual analyses)
have more weight simply b/c we're older, more educated, etc.

Students are capable of thinking, too.  One of the most powerful papers
I've ever read is one from a 15 year old student who spent countless
hours and almost 15 pages of writing analyzing the use of pagan and
Christian imagery in R&J.  There are no doubt scores of essays out there
from others who've done that and gotten it published.  I've not happened
to have read them.  Nor has Kate.  She simply did an extensive close
reading, brought to bear her own experience as the daughter of an
Episcopal priest, her classwork in 9th grade studying The Odyysey, and
her excellent brain.

Is her insight, based on a thorough examination of the text, any less
meritorious b/c it isn't MY interpretation?

I don't think so.

Give non-academics credit for thinking, too.

And remember that my task in the classroom is NOT simply to feed them my
received knowledge and bless them w/ the benefits of MY wisdom.  It's to
encourage them to explore, respond to, and develop well-supported
theories of their own.

Meanings belong to the text as well as to the auditor (Thanks, Harry
Berger Jr.!) of that text.  No one of us "owns" the absolute meaning of
ANY text. Students as well as teachers can find a legitimate meaning in
a text if they use rigorous methods to approach it.

Yours in support of thinking, reading, and making meaning,
Marilyn B.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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 >
Date:           Monday, 19 Jan 1998 18:42:10 -0500
Subject: 9.0060  Re: Postmodernism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0060  Re: Postmodernism

Terence Hawkes in his review of Michael Neill's <italic>Issues of
Death</italic> (<italic>London Review of Books </italic>11 Dec. 1997)
tells us that early modern "tragedies reach out for resolution or
closure with a zeal to which most playwrights eagerly respond" (11). In
Hawkes's new vision, it is not culture that controls the artist; it is
art itself that actively and zealously reaches out, seeks its own form,
its own sense of an ending.  Most artists merely respond to the
overwhelming dictates of their own art. What the minority of artists do
we are not told.

I have me doubts, but I am sure that this is the first announcement
(read around the world) of a new criticism.  What shall it be called?
Artistic animism?

Regarding the term "conservative left," I suggest that a better title
would be "skeptical left," those of us who resist the glamour of jargon
and nonsense metaphors. The world is not changed nor are people
liberated by incomprehensible phrasing.  The price of liberty is eternal
vigilance!

Yours, Bill Godshalk

P.S. Ray Haines suggests that, if only one German would have started to
laugh at Hitler during one of his speeches, that one German would have
changed history.
 

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