1998

Re: Postmodernism

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0052  Friday, 16 January 1998.

[1]     From:   Harry Hill <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Jan 1998 11:18:46 +0000 (HELP)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0050 Re: Postmodernism

[2]     From:   Robin D. H.Wells" <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 16 Jan 1998 12:16:54 +0000 (GMT)
        Subj:   Postmodernism


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Hill <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 14 Jan 1998 11:18:46 +0000 (HELP)
Subject: 9.0050 Re: Postmodernism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0050 Re: Postmodernism

Horace's sugar-coating of pills was, of course, repeated in Sydney's Art
Should Instruct Through Delight, a philosophy that has influenced my
acting, teaching, writing and directing throughout my life.

Beckett delights, by living as he does in that last resource of ours,
language and its subtleties. As Mrs. Rooney is made to exclaim as she
struggles with her corsets on a dusty Irish road, "Christ, what a
planet!"

At least Terence Hawkes takes delight in what he imagines is his
destruction of the apolitical joys of others; his style has verve and
poise despite the apparent message it contains. As Waugh said to his
military superior who accused him of consistent drunkenness, "Why should
I give up the habits of a lifetime to satisfy *your* momentary whim?"

Harry Hill

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin D. H.Wells" <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 16 Jan 1998 12:16:54 +0000 (GMT)
Subject:        Postmodernism

To relieve the boredom of exam marking I've been thinking about Terry
Hawkes' delightful Christmas Puzzle and the mixed reactions it got. I
think the confusion arises from the fact that respondents don't seem to
have noticed the deliberate Catch. The answer to Terry's Puzzle (if I've
got it right) is that he's craftily combining two wildly incompatible
discourses and quietly laughing up his sleeve ("Ho, ho, ho") as he waits
to see if anyone noticed.

Respondents have been complaining that postmodernism doesn't help them
to understand Shakespeare. I think, with respect, they've missed the
point of theory.  When people like Terry tell us that human beings lack
inner selves, that authors don't exist, and that reality is simply
wall-to-wall text we don't take these things as meaningful statements
about the world.  Much less do we imagine they can tell us anything
about Shakespeare. The point about such pragmatically self-refuting
assertions is not that they have any truth value - the dimmest
high-school student can see that everying would grind to a halt if they
did - but that it requires considerable brain power to put together a
plausible-sounding defence of such nonsense. That's the point of
poststructuralist theory: lacking any kind of explanatory value, and at
complete odds with all the latest research on the way the mind works, it
nevertheless serves as a useful way of ranking academics and students in
some kind of order of cleverness.  Only the very brightest will be able
to handle theory with any panache, and only the dimwits will take it
seriously. So books like Terry's own _Meaning by Shakespeare_ achieve
high scores in the academic rating system that we have in the UK: after
all, it takes genuine style and wit to argue plausibly in defence of a
proposition so patently absurd that if you tried applying it in real
life, say for example to the grading of undergraduate essays, you could
expect instant mass litigation. (Just as an experiment, try telling your
students you graded their essays on the basis of *your* meanings, not
theirs, and see what they say.) All this is of course familiar,
uncontentious stuff.

Familiar too is the traditional Marxist belief in the social utility of
literature: by enabling us to understand how ideology works it can help
to bring about the overthrow of the present corrupt order of things and
usher in a new age of truth and justice (though Marxist convention
dictates that you don't actually say what form the new dispensation will
take).

The cleverness of Terry's Christmas Puzzle lies in the fact that he
cunningly combines an old-style Marxist belief in social change through
education, with a tongue-in-cheek espousal of precisely those
poststructuralist principles that make purposeful social change
impossible. If there are no historical certainties (no Holocaust, no
Falklands, no Gulf War, no Serbia, no Rwanda) only representations, and
if human beings are incapable of communicating with each other anyway,
then there's not much point in trying to read history. And if we can
never learn from the past, we might as well give up any hope of
understanding how we got to where we are now, or how we might change
things for the better. So if you are a committed Althusserian and you
believe that, in the master's own words, "The study of history is not
only scientifically but also politically valueless", then life really
does become "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying
practices".  Which is presumably why the great Marxist historian EP
Thompson described Althusserian Marxism as a freak of intellectual
fashion whose only appeal was to "aspirant intellectuals whose
amateurish intellectual preparation disarms them before manifest
absurdities and elementary philosophical blunders, leaving them
paralysed in the first web of scholastic argument they encounter".

An entertaining little Christmas brainteaser Terry! Ho, ho, ho.

Best wishes,
Robin

PS: I think you'll find, Terry, that it's not the funny names that cause
people to fall about with such disrespectful mirth. It's the funny ideas
- like this one from Baudrillard: "The most rapid route is the straight
line but, in the non-Euclidean space at the end of the century, a
baleful curvature ineluctably diverts every trajectory", or this one
from Kristeva: "The notion of constructibility, which implies the axiom
of choice associated with all we have put together for the poetic
language, explains the impossibility of establishing a contradiction in
the space of the language of poetry".

Opera Version of Hamlet

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0051  Wednesday, 14 January 1998.

From:           David L. Middleton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 13 Jan 1998 10:16:56 -0600
Subject:        Opera Version of Hamlet

I want to study how medium affects message on a couple of occasions this
semester and would like to use Ambrois Thomas' version of Hamlet.  Can
anyone help me with production information, specifically whether it is
available in either a laser disk or videotape format?  Thanks very
much.  David Middleton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Re: Mab; Youth; Maps; McKellan Tape

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0049  Wednesday, 14 January 1998.

[1]     From:   Eric I. Salehi <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 12 Jan 1998 15:35:06 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: Getting students to engage with the language

[2]     From:   Karen Krebser <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 12 Jan 1998 13:14:42 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0042 The Fair Youth

[3]     From:   Jonathan Hope <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 13 Jan 1998 09:50:52 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0046  Maps

[4]     From:   Peggy O'Brien <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 13 Jan 1998 20:02:34 +0000
        Subj:   Ian McKellan's Acting Shakespeare on tape


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Eric I. Salehi <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 12 Jan 1998 15:35:06 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Re: Getting students to engage with the language

In his posting for 8 January, Paul Rhodes asks for "suggestions as to
how [he] can get the freshmen to respond a little more critically.
Based on what I've seen of past postings, I think most of us agree that
the language is  an obstacle to younger students, particularly when
they're asked to digest it in large amounts.  With that in mind, I have
a spur- of-the-moment idea that might help, though I admit I haven't
tested it in the classroom (yet!).

Before you begin your session, break up Mercutio's lines into small
sections and number each section for common reference. Each section
might be as brief as a single sentence.  Photocopy the numbered text and
distribute the copies at the beginning of the session.

During the workshop, organize the students into small groups (say, three
or four people), and assign each group a section.  Then ask the students
to draw out the basic meaning and implications of their assigned
sections.  Insist that each person develop a definite interpretation;
challenge the students to find points of agreement and difference with
one another; insist further that they defend their ideas.  Of course,
some sections would appear more difficult than others, but I suspect
that within five minutes every students would have a pretty good idea of
what his or her assigned section meant (and did not mean).

At this point, conduct a twenty-minute discussion with the group as a
whole, treating each section in sequence.  By this time you'd have at
least three or four students willing to discuss each part of the text.
The goal here, obviously, would be to generate a critical discussion in
which the class gradually acquired a very close reading of Mercutio's
entire speech.  The entire exercise could take as little as thirty
minutes, leaving time for your own performance and remarks.

I'm sure that there are many veteran teachers on the list who have done
something similar to this, and who might suggest ways to improve this
approach.  As a new teacher, I find myself frequently turning to
workshopping as an efficient means of problem-solving.  However, I know
that workshopping literary texts can be tricky.  Is this a reasonable
way of handling "the language problem?"

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Krebser <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 12 Jan 1998 13:14:42 -0800
Subject: 9.0042 The Fair Youth
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0042 The Fair Youth

> A retired physicist believes he has solved a puzzle that has baffled
> Shakespearean scholars for generations.

The cipher part of Dr. Rollett's conclusions is interesting, certainly.

But hasn't Wriothesley been offered up as the "fair young man" for a
long, long time already? I remember reading the sonnets in high school
18 years ago (at which time my teacher leaned away from a biographical
reading of the sonnets, no matter how tempting such a reading might be,
but she wanted to present information [such as it was] and let the
students make up their own minds), and in a biographical reading the
primary candidate for the Fair Young Man was Wriothesley (as the primary
candidate for the Dark Lady was Aemilia Lanyer, and the primary
candidate for the Rival Playwright was Kit Marlowe).

Does Dr. Rollett think his identification is new? Or is he offering his
codification as "proof" to what may or may not be a puzzle, depending
upon the person to whom you put the question?

Puzzled myself,
Karen Krebser

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jonathan Hope <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 13 Jan 1998 09:50:52 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 9.0046  Maps
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0046  Maps

>Does anyone know of a good, detailed map of Elizabethan/Jacobean
>London?  Not a panoramic view or a sketchy map showing the theatres but
>a map that names streets, liberties, and major landmarks?  Surprisingly,
>I'm finding it difficult to locate.  Any leads would be greatly
>appreciated.

Charlie Mitchel needs a volume published by the Topographical Society
called (something like) An A-Z of Elizabethan London.  It reproduces in
enlarged form several contemporary maps of London to mimic the modern
A-Z, and includes a street index.  It is a wonderful thing.  Mine came
from the Guildhall Library in London.  (Sorry not to give fuller
references, but I'm away from my office at the moment.)

Best,
Jonathan Hope (Middlesex University)

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peggy O'Brien <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 13 Jan 1998 20:02:34 +0000
Subject:        Ian McKellan's Acting Shakespeare on tape

As I suspected, the way this tape is distributed has changed, partly
because so much time has elapsed since distribution began. Here is the
current lowdown on obtaining a VHS videotape of Ian McKellan's Acting
Shakespeare performance if you want it for "non-profit/classroom" use:
Send a check for $12.50 to Tim Hallinan, P.O. Box 4400, Venice, CA 90294
with your return address and he will send you a copy dubbed from a
master.  Make your check out to Hallinan Consulting.  Rest assured that
"nonprofit" use refers to financial gain and not intellectual gain;  is
financial gain in a classroom possible??  Happy New Year.

Re: Postmodernism

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0050  Wednesday, 14 January 1998.

[1]     From:   Lee Gibson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 12 Jan 1998 15:38:40 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0044 Re: Postmodernism

[2]     From:   Mark Perew <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 12 Jan 1998 15:00:37 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0044  Re: Postmodernism

[3]     From:   Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 13 Jan 1998 01:34:55 +0000
        Subj:   SHK 9.0044  Re: Postmodernism -Reply


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lee Gibson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 12 Jan 1998 15:38:40 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 9.0044 Re: Postmodernism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0044 Re: Postmodernism

With most of what Laura Fargas says, I have no fundamental quarrel.
However, when she states that "sugar-coating the pill is not what
working writers I know say about the deep content of their work," she
ignores the fact that "sugar-coating the pill" is precisely the advice
Horace gives poets in the _Ars Poetica_, advice that was followed, to a
greater or lesser degree, by most "working writers" until very recently
(I don't have a copy handy or I'd post the relevant passage).

Lee Gibson
Department of English
Southern Methodist University

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mark Perew <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 12 Jan 1998 15:00:37 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 9.0044  Re: Postmodernism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0044  Re: Postmodernism

I guess I'm not clear on the relevance of this discussion thread.  It
seems to contain a lot of verbiage that doesn't really help me
understand or appreciate Shakespeare.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 13 Jan 1998 01:34:55 +0000
Subject: Re: Postmodernism -Reply
Comment:        SHK 9.0044  Re: Postmodernism -Reply

>Dear Mike Jensen: Does this mean you won't be supporting my
>application for the post of Cultural Materialist to the Queen?

>T. Hawkes

Mr. Hawkes and others,

I not only support it, I hope you get a life peerage out of it.  I would
not support a post where you get to be rude to Her Highness.

Where do I begin?  Let's start with my recent silence.  My computer has
had major surgery over the past several days, the result of all that
hate mail no doubt, so my name has been taken a bit in vain without
response.  Perhaps it is better to suffer the slings and arrows of
outraged SHAKSPEAReans in silence, but I would like to answer some
messages I have received off list as well as on.

This is only for those of you who must lift the lid when they see a tea
pot with the sign, CAUTION, TEMPEST INSIDE.

First, thank you to the dozen or more of you who have contacted me off
list expressing support.  It is very kind.  I mention this on list
because I just don't have the time to get back to most of you
individually.

Odd that EVERYONE who wrote off list does not support Mr. Hawkes and
EVERYONE who wrote on list does!

A couple of misunderstandings.

1) I do not hate Mr. Hawkes.  Save an excellent contribution on Macbeth
several months ago,  I don't much respect his contributions to this
list.  That does not mean I want the job of President of the Hate
Terence Hawkes Society.  I did say one fairly negative thing to one
person off list, and wish I could take that back.  If you want to
exchange hate Hawkes messages with someone, please find another
partner.  I do concede the woman who suggested a support group for those
who receive his hit-and-run messages had a very funny idea.

2) I really don't have anything against postmodernism, and don't want to
get into bashing it either.  It bores me.  I can't generate any
interest, and I do have a couple of reservations.

In fact, I tried reading two of Mr. Hawkes well received books. I hate
to Rag on them, but they bored me too.  The reviewers found much to
praise. I am not made the same way.  I try not to judge them and want to
absorb their lessons, but I can't.  This leaves me doubtful of
postmodernism's usefulness.

I SUSPECT it is a dead end.  If you embrace it, where can you go next?
What is the next step in its critical evolution?  I don't see it.
Well, if I could see that, I would be a leader, not an outsider.

I am also suspicious of the motives of postmodernists.  I do not accuse
Mr. Hawkes or any other individual of this.  I don't know them, so I am
in no position to judge.  As a movement it seems to appeal to the vanity
of the scholar.

I read C. S. Lewis' _An Experiment in Criticism_ at an early age.  It
left quite an impression.  I want a text, or painting, or any artifact,
to be a bridge between an excellent mind and myself.  I want to
understand the world as the artist did so I may grow.  Not that I must
buy their world view, but I do want to understand it.  They are saying
something worth learning.  I am not postmodern because I believe some
minds are more excellent than others.

If I understand postmodernism and deconstructionism, and I may not,
those critics are well insulated from this experience.  They get to be
as smart as the artist, maybe smarter.  They become judges of the artist
and the artifact.  They do not sit at the feet of someone with an
excellent mind and learn.  They put them in their place.

Also, as one off list correspondent wrote, what is Mr. Hawkes doing
calling anything sinister?  Isn't that against the grain is his
approach?  It seems to me that it is.  I suspect postmodernists can not
live consistently with their assumptions.  That does not bother many
people.  It does bother me.  If it is real, it should be consistent when
it rubs up against the real world.

Ain't I old fashioned?

If I do misunderstand you, please correct me, but postmodernism just
doesn't curl my toes.  That does not mean I want to bash it.  I'd rather
devote that time to learning something new.

So much for what I don't feel.  Here is what I do:

There were three or four messages on list putting words in my mouth,
then condemning me for those words.  I did not recommend Mr. Hawkes be
banned from the list.  I recommended probation.  He has a long pattern
of snide little messages to those with whom he disagrees.  When he does
this, he seldom puts in enough substance for anyone to really respond.
See his message to me above.  Though it lacked the bitterness of several
of his other messages, it does not provoke or engage an issue.  It tries
to hit-and-run, though I didn't let him get very far.

A common practice of chat rooms and lists like these is to ban someone
who flames others.  I recommended Mr. Hawkes become polite.  I hope that
he will.  If he can not, THEN consider banning him.  It is the only way
to protect list members from someone who is incorrigible.   Everyone who
contacted me off list agreed, BTW, though I do not believe that a
majority is always right.  (And technically, this sampling is not a
majority anyway.)

I would have respected Mr. Hawkes initial response if he had
deconstructed the New York Times satire, or at least pointed out any
cheap shots.  A deconstruction would have been a treat.

To those of you who treated me as a lad of straw, then hacked at me, I
say with Benedick, _Serve God, love me, and mend._

Best to all, even Mr. Hawkes,
Mike Jensen

[Editor's Note: SHAKSPER is not a chat room.  It is a moderated
discussion list.  As editor, I am the only person who makes decisions
about the status of members, although I may, at times, consult with my
Advisory Board, of which Mr. Hawkes is a member.  Any complaints about
the conduct of individual members should be sent to me as personal mail.
I thoughtfully reflect on all such messages, but public discussion of
individuals is not appropriate.  Running a list such as SHAKSPER
involves many difficult judgment calls.  SHAKSPER is an international
list; what is impoliteness to one person may be a form of discourse to
another. In any case, from now on, the discussion of postmodernism
should continue in as lively a manner as it has proceeded, but any
complaints about members should be sent to me a personal e-mail.
-Hardy]

Re: End of 16th Century

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0048  Wednesday, 14 January 1998.

[1]     From:   David Joseph Kathman <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 12 Jan 1998 20:33:17 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0046  Q: End of 16th C

[2]     From:   Dale Lyles <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 13 Jan 1998 12:48:43 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: End of 16th century


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Joseph Kathman <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 12 Jan 1998 20:33:17 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 9.0046  Q: End of 16th C
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0046  Q: End of 16th C

Mark Morton wrote:

> Hello-I'm curious about what Shakespeare and his contemporaries thought
> about the turn of their century. That is, did the last day of the
> sixteenth century, or the first day of the seventeenth, prompt any
> Elizabethans to remark upon that "century transition"-to write a poem
> about it, to note it in their diary, etc?  It seems obvious that the end
> of our own century is going to be met with tremendous hoopla, but I
> don't recall encountering any Elizabethan texts that even allude to the
> end of their century as something worthy, in itself, of being noticed.

There was a book published a year or two ago containing a chapter on the
end of each century from the 14th to the 20th; I want to say the book
was called "The Turns of the Century", but don't hold me to that.
Almost nobody in England except a few clerics even noticed when the 14th
century ended, because most people reckoned by regnal years; thus, 1400
was the second year of the reign of Henry IV.  By the time the 16th
century ended 200 years later, people were much more aware of the years
as reckoned by the Christian calendar (though regnal years were still
common in legal documents), but I don't think there was any significant
hoopla when 1599 became 1600 (or when 1600 became 1601).  I think there
has been progressively more awareness and hoopla with the turning of
each successive century.

> Am I correct, also, in thinking that for them the last day of the
> century would be March 31, not December 31?

March 24, actually; the beginning of the Old Style year was March 25.
But some people in those days used Old Style (with the year beginning
March 25) and some used New Style (with the year beginning January 1),
and some writers used whichever they felt like.  We have to figure out
from the context which system was being used by a given writer.  Spenser
has a poem celebrating New Year's Day, and for a long time people
assumed it was written on January 1.  But there was an article a year or
two ago (in Notes and Queries?) pointing out the spring imagery in the
poem and suggesting that it was almost certainly written on March 25
instead.

> And did they consider the
> last year of their century to be 1599 (as most people living now will
> celebrate 1999 as the last year of this century) or did they consider
> the last year of their century to be 1600 (as the Victorians considered
> 1900 to be the last year of the nineteenth century).

I don't think they would have been very concerned about such
distinctions then.  But see below.

> Any thoughts on
> this matter, or suggestions for Elizabethan texts that might be
> pertinent?

One text that may be significant is Peter Bales' *A new-yeares gift for
England. The art of new brachygraphie*.  This was a treatise on a system
of shorthand that Bales had invented; it was first published under the
title "The art of brachygraphie" in 1590 as one third of a book called
*The writing schoolemaster*, with the other two sections being "The
order of orthographie" and "The key of calygraphie".  This first edition
had been published with the date "1 Janua. 1590" on the title page,
suggesting that Bales was using it to commemorate the first day of the
1590s (New Style).  A second edition of the whole book was published in
1597 "with sundry new additions", but without the original main title;
it just had the title of the three sections in sequence.  Then, on
January 1, 1600, the section on brachygraphy was published separately by
Richard Field under the title *A new-yeares gift for England. The art of
the new brachygraphie. 1. Januarij. 1600.*.  The new title, and the
prominence of the date on the title page, suggests that Bales (or
possibly Field) was celebrating the dawning of the year 1600 with this
publication.  I haven't seen the actual book itself, so I'm not sure if
there's any preface or anything commenting on the date of publication.
(The STC lists only a single copy in Paris.) Laurie Maguire discusses
the content of Bales' book (though not the century-turning business) in
her recent book *Shakespearean Suspect Texts*.

Dave Kathman
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dale Lyles <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 13 Jan 1998 12:48:43 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Re: End of 16th century

According to Ian Archer's essay, "Apotheosis or Nemesis of the
Elizabethan Regime?" (in *Fins de Siecle: how centuries end 1400-2000*,
ed. Briggs & Snowman, Yale 1996), they didn't have so much a sense of
the century's ending as they did of the reign of Elizabeth ending.  The
sense of corruption and decline was apparently pervasive.

Dale Lyles
Newnan Community Theatre Company
Newnan, GA

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