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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: November ::
Re: Presentism and Maps
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1186  Wednesday, 25 November 1998.

[1]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Friday, 20 Nov 1998 08:47:08 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1173  Re: Clocks; Maps; Presentism

[2]     From:   Ed Taft <
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        Date:   Friday, 20 Nov 1998 09:44:05 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Presentism

[3]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Friday, 20 Nov 1998 13:33:09 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1166  Re: Presentism and Maps


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Friday, 20 Nov 1998 08:47:08 -0500
Subject: 9.1173  Re: Clocks; Maps; Presentism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1173  Re: Clocks; Maps; Presentism

Query to those of you more on top of early modern historiography than I
am.  Was there a kind of presentist debate toward the end of C16 between
a traditional view of history as morally exemplary (Sidney recommending
the Cyropedia because the essentials of governing well had not changed
in two millenia) and a more material view, more aware of a past
materially different from their present, emerging from the antiquarian
study of Camden et al.?

David Evett

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <
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Date:           Friday, 20 Nov 1998 09:44:05 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Presentism

Hugh Grady writes that we need to be aware of "the role of the present
in our constructions of the past." Shakespeare agrees. Look, for
example, at Falstaff's retelling of the Gadshill robbery in 1H4 (2.4),
or Hotspur's revision of the meaning of his first meeting with
Bolingbroke (1H4 1.3).  One of the major points of the history plays is
that we all revise the past to meet our needs in the present. If
Shakespeare knew this 400 years ago, then it's about time we took it
seriously today.

The problem is that if this understanding of the interpenetration of the
present and the past is taken to extremes, some may conclude that there
is no real knowledge of the past. But this conclusion does not
necessarily follow. What does follow is that we may have a damn good
"take" on a certain part of the past, but our conclusions must always be
open to the possibility that they are partial, misleading, or false.

--Ed Taft

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 20 Nov 1998 13:33:09 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 9.1166  Re: Presentism and Maps
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1166  Re: Presentism and Maps

Regarding the frequently cited case of Bohemia in WT, I agree that
geography serves as a kind of poetic metaphor.  It is important to
remember that Shakespeare's romance reverses the geographical
relationship found in his source (Greene's Pandosto (?) (I believe this
is the title. I have not read it): i.e. in Greene the vieux jalous is
the king of Bohemia, and the lost one is recovered in Sicilia.
Reversing this geography suggests to me a poetic value to the respective
locales: something to do with the relationship of a hot southern Italian
region to a cold northern Germanic region, or perhaps simply figuring
the relation of London in the south to the centers of rural festivities
in the north of England.

The significance of the play's geography has less to do with the
author's intention than with the response of a Jacobean audience largely
familiar with the Greene version confronted by what may at first appear
to be an arbitrary reversal, but which inevitably draws attention to the
poetic elements of geography and its relation to the plot.  Giving a
seacost to Bohemia has a similar effect.  It must have caused many a
snigger in a London full of tars and privateers as it continues to do
among Shakespearean critics.

In conclusion, without the luxury of access to authorial intention, I
cannot read any word in Sh's work as insignificant, let alone a crux
that has kept people guessing for so many centuries of close reading.
Geographical inaccuracies have the effect of abstractinc geography from
the increasingly detailed and accurate mapping skills of the early
moderns and thereby excluding all value from geography other than as
poetic metaphor.

 > > ...the imaginative strategy adopted in _WT_
> differs considerably from the relative verisimilitude of, particularly,
> the History Plays and the Roman plays...a variety of features in
> _WT_, including both geographical and temporal paradoxes, suggest a
> coherent imaginative strategy on Shakespeare's part...
>
> Robin Hamilton
>
> ...I think we +can+ discern artistic strategies at work in the plays
>
>...it's possible to make an approximation to what he would be more
> or less likely to know.  And if we allow such an approximation, to
> separate specific instances into mistake/irrelevance/'deliberate
> error'.  For me, in these terms, the (lack of a) seacoast of Bohemia
> would be so close to common knowledge as to suggest 'deliberate error';
>
> Robin Hamilton
 

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