Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: January ::
Re: Postmodernism, Anti-Semitism
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0090  Friday, 30 January 1998.

[1]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 29 Jan 1998 12:56:03 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0087  Re: Postmodernism

[2]     From:   Stevie Simkin <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 30 Jan 1998 11:46:06 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0087  Re: Postmodernism, Anti-Semitism

[3]     From:   Lee Gibson <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 30 Jan 1998 10:03:08 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re:  Post-modernism


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 29 Jan 1998 12:56:03 -0500
Subject: 9.0087  Re: Postmodernism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0087  Re: Postmodernism

". . . the metonymies WE AGREE TO USE for complex events CAN SUGGEST
SOMETHING about our attitudes toward those events.  A term with lots of
more or less consistent connotations like Holocaust already begins to
express feelings about the events to which it refers. . . ," writes Dave
Evett.  And I confess that, yes, I stand guilty of selective quotation.
Mea culpa.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stevie Simkin <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 30 Jan 1998 11:46:06 -0000
Subject: 9.0087  Re: Postmodernism, Anti-Semitism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0087  Re: Postmodernism, Anti-Semitism

On Terence Hawkes' "we mean by Shakespeare" concept, Tanya Gough wrote

> But just because we are incapable of determining exact meaning, it
> doesn't mean we should give up trying.  The process of analysis is
> infinitely fascinating (or, I assume it is for most of us, or we
> wouldn't do what we do for a living), and ultimately leads us to
> understand *ourselves* better.

My understanding of what Terry meant was that Shakespeare is a powerful
signifier in contemporary culture, and Shakespeare has been used, is
used, and will no doubt be used in the future to signify a whole range
of things: one familiar example:  the order speech from Troilus and
Cressida was used by a Tory minister in Britain  some years ago to
suggest that Shakespeare approved of a hierarchical society - therefore
a hierarchical society is a good thing (because we all know that
Shakespeare was a universal genius, and what he says must be eternally
true) - therefore every right-thinking person should vote to re-elect a
Conservative government.

I'm not saying everyone (or anyone?) on this list follows this logic,
but it remains "common sense"  amongst ... erm.. Tory ex-ministers, at
least.

Yesterday I saw The Merchant of Venice at the RSC and found it deeply
depressing.  Not only was it a tiresome RSC by numbers production
(leather trousers, OTT decor, the cheekie chappie clown who ad libs,
mugs shamelessly, plays up to the audience - for goodness sake, the RSC
have been doing with this with every wretched clown in  the Shakespeare
canon for the last 10 years at least - can't they think of something
different?) - it's stated intention to "take the swastika out of the
play" (quoting the director from memory) left us with a profoundly
anti-Semitic play uninflected with any kind of interogative perspective.

The opening lines ("3000 ducats... well" etc.) were done in exaggerated
sing-song, ham-Jewish tones (got a good laugh from the audience - but
what were they laughing at exactly?).  And though the Shylock as victim
tactic worked to an extent in part one, the trial scene left us with a
cold, vicious, Jewish villain thirsting for blood, only to be defeated
and left sliding and stumbling on a pile of coins as he tried to leave
the stage.  Suitably dispatched we move back into the tiresome game of
the rings and the play grinds to its happy ending.

The audience applaud wildly and everyone goes away thinking... what?
That that evil Jew got exactly what he deserved, wasn't it nice that
Jessica found herself a sweet Christian boy and got converted, weren't
those women clever dressing up as men, and oh, weren't the costumes
lovely?  Am I being patronizing?  I don't know.  I do know that to try
and "take the swastika out of The Merchant of Venice" opens up very
dangerous territory.  I don't think this production negotiated it very
successfully at all.  What was the company trying to mean by Shakespeare
in this instance?

 I'd be interested to hear other reactions.

Stevie Simkin

 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lee Gibson <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 30 Jan 1998 10:03:08 -0600 (CST)
Subject:        Re:  Post-modernism

With all the recent conversation about "meanings," where they come from,
how they are "constructed," and so on, this from Wallace Stevens may be
of interest ("Poetry and Meaning," _Opus Posthumous_ 249-250).

"Things that have their origin in the imagination or in the emotions
(poems) very often have meanings that differ in nature from the meanings
of things that have their origin in reason.  They have imaginative or
emotional meanings, and they communicate these meanings to people who
are susceptible to imaginative or emotional meanings.  They may
communicate nothing at all to people who are open only to rational
meanings.  In short, things that have their origin in the imagination or
in the emotions very often take on a form that is ambiguous or
uncertain.  It is not possible to attach a single, rational meaning to
such things without destroying the imaginative or emotional ambiguity or
uncertainty that is inherent in them....That the meanings given them by
others are sometimes meanings not intended by the poet or that were
never present in his mind does not impair them as meanings....It takes
very little to experience the variety in everything."

Indeed, it does.  My own primary complaint against post-structuralism is
not that it is founded on what Robin Headlam-Wells and others describe
as a set of patently absurd propositions, though it certainly is so
founded, nor that it is often drenched in what Richard Lanham
characterizes, quite correctly, as "existential self-pity," but, rather,
that it imparts so dreadful an abstract sameness to everything it
touches.  Yeats hated abstractions because, as he said, they are
"outside of life."  So do I, and for the same reason.

Lee Gibson
Department of English
Southern Methodist University
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.