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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: December ::
Re: Presentism
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1225  Thursday, 3 December 1998.

[1]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 02 Dec 1998 14:22:32 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1215 Re: Presentism

[2]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 02 Dec 1998 15:02:15 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1215 Re: Presentism

[3]     From:   Dale Lyles <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 2 Dec 1998 18:10:55 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1208 Re: Presentism

[4]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 02 Dec 1998 22:42:59 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1215 Re: Presentism


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Wednesday, 02 Dec 1998 14:22:32 -0800
Subject: 9.1215 Re: Presentism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1215 Re: Presentism

John writes:

> May I respectfully suggest that the  "facile adoption" that is being
> boiled down is not Hawkes' "presentism" but Lindley's confusion. Most of
> my "average undergraduates" know only too well that if you "construct"
> the past then you can't respond to it as something other than a
> construction. I suspect that most of Lindley's do too, but he's too busy
> looking for the mote in their collective eye to bother about the beam in
> his!

I don't notice Lindley suggesting anything other than that it's become a
totalizing cliche that "if you 'construct' the past then you can't
respond to it as something other than a construction": "A freshman's
supposition," Faustus might say. What this totalizing cliche embargoes
is the possibility of considering that the past might not be *entirely*
so constructed, that it can, in fact, violate our constructions of it,
and the more important (in my opinion) ethical axiom that we *ought* to
be willing to listen to the past as other.

> I thought we were talking about more sophisticated matters, but then, I
> should have guessed that now we have to go back and re-invent the wheel
> for Lindley as well!

I frankly don't know what you mean by "more sophisticated matters." But
since you're always claiming that materialists are misunderstood, I'm
sure you'll be willing to explain yourself.  Personally, I can't imagine
anything less sophisticated than the totalizing cliche from which you
seem hellbent on forbidding any deviations.

But first have a glass of Bill's Zinfandel.

Cheers,
Sean.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Wednesday, 02 Dec 1998 15:02:15 -0800
Subject: 9.1215 Re: Presentism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1215 Re: Presentism

Robin writes:

> One of the controlling myths of modern Shakespeare criticism is the idea
> that it took 'the new critical paradigms of our own day' to rouse us
> from our Tillyardian slumbers.

I think that this raises a point about the state of our discipline at
the moment generally.  Throughout literary studies, there seems to be an
assumption that the world slumbered in lethargic naivety for all of time
before the 1960s or 1970s.  We only refer to ideas that cropped up since
about 1968 as "theory", implying that everyone previous to the
generation now tenured wasn't doing any 'theory' at all-which, in the
broad sense, means not thinking at all.  It strikes me that a lot of the
strength of 'Theory' in the academy comes from conflating 'theory'
generally (any thought of sufficient abstraction) with 'Theory' in the
narrow sense (a group of self-confirming, though not entirely consistent
ideas nicely summarized by Graham Good in an essay called _The Hegemony
of Theory_:  textualism, presentism, categoryism-the last of which
strikes me as a neologism).  Anyone who doesn't agree with us, the
Theorists (big T) would imply, isn't thinking at all. We are Theory. We
are Thought.

Cheers,
Sean.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dale Lyles <
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Date:           Wednesday, 2 Dec 1998 18:10:55 EST
Subject: 9.1208 Re: Presentism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1208 Re: Presentism

Let me see if I have got this whole presentism argument straight:
Zinfandel is the appropriate wine to drink with boiled-down Terence
Hawkes?

Dale Lyles
Newnan Community Theatre Company

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Wednesday, 02 Dec 1998 22:42:59 -0500
Subject: 9.1215 Re: Presentism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1215 Re: Presentism

Robin Headlam Wells has certainly illustrated that a sophisticated view
of history is not a product of 1998. And I think most of us who are
engaging in this conversation will agree that we cannot transcend  the
present. We cannot go on holiday to London in 1600.

So, what's at stake here? Why are we chiding and admonishing each other?

Is it indeed about how we judge the past? Do we hold historical figures
(like Shakespeare) accountable, morally accountable, for their actions
using our standards?  Or do we judge them historically, by their
standards?

And if the latter, at what point does historical evaluation kick in? Do
we judge political criminals from fifty years ago by their standards or
by ours?

Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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