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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: January ::
Re: Tillyard and Presentism
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0005  Sunday, 3 January 1999.

[1]     From:   John Drakakis <
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        Date:   Friday, 1 Jan 1999 23:20:10 -0000
        Subj:   RE: SHK 9.1347 Re: Tillyard

[2]     From:   Graham Bradshaw <
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        Date:   Sunday, 03 Jan 1999 19:35:53 +0900
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1329 Re: Tillyard

[3]     From:   R. D. H. Wells <
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        Date:   Saturday, 2 Jan 1999 16:29:49 +0000 (GMT)
        Subj:   
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[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Drakakis <
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Date:           Friday, 1 Jan 1999 23:20:10 -0000
Subject: 9.1347 Re: Tillyard
Comment:        RE: SHK 9.1347 Re: Tillyard

Hear Hear, Hugh!

John Drakakis

> I can't think of a less likely target than Terence Hawkes for the charge
> of intellectual recycling. Over many years there have been few
> Shakespeare scholars who have played such a strategic role in bringing
> new directions to Shakespeare studies, and I and many others are
> indebted to his pioneering labors.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Bradshaw <
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Date:           Sunday, 03 Jan 1999 19:35:53 +0900
Subject: 9.1329 Re: Tillyard
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1329 Re: Tillyard

Hugh Grady writes, "so much am I in agreement with one level of Wells'
complaint about some cultural materialist oversimplifications of the
previous generation of Shakespeare criticism that I wrote a book on it,
and in the spirit of Prof. Wells' call for a return to the survey of
literature on a subject (a practice I myself still recommend and try to
follow) let me here call attention to the chapter on the rise and fall
of Tillyard in my 1991 'The Modernist Shakespeare'." Actually, that
chapter shows that Grady didn't, and apparently still doesn't,
understand the point of Robin Headlam-Wells' complaint.

I discussed Grady's book at some length, while entering a similar
complaint about its falsification of critical history, in
"Misrepresentations: Shakespeare and the Materialists" (Cornell
University Press, 1993). Let me quote just one paragraph, which seems
especially pertinent to the present debate:

        'So, today's undergraduates might be forgiven for supposing that
the
assault on Tillyard was a more recent achievement, since that is the
impression given by such books as SIGNIFYING NOTHING , Dollimore's
RADICAL TRAGEDY, or (to return to the most recent of my instances)
Grady's MODERNIST SHAKESPEARE. In devoting one of his five chapters to
"The Case of E. M. W. Tillyard," Grady emphasizes "the centrality of
Tillyard's work in the Shakespeare studies of the period 1940-70" and
attributes the current "reversal" to the "major revisionist effort" of
materialist critics like Graham Holderness, Jonathan Dollimore, Alan
Sinfield, and John Drakakis during "the last twenty years":

Ironically, few books of such influence in a given literary field are
now in such disfavour among that field's specialists as are Tillyard's
works at present among Renaissance scholars. Tillyard's works have in
the last twenty years suffered a reversal of fortune in influence more
metoric and startling than their original climb to pre-eminent
influence, and they have become the target of a major revisionist
effort.

Grady's omissions continue that "major revisionist effort." That he
should altogether ignore skeptical or hostile contemporary responses to
Tillyard, like D. C. Allen's, would be disquieting enough in an
allegedly historical study. But then Wilbur Sanders's THE DRAMATIST AND
THE RECEIVED IDEA and Sigurd Burckhardt's SHAKESPEAREAN MEANINGS are
mentioned only in passing: Sanders is acknowledged in one sentence,
while the brief reference to Burckhardt suggests that his untimely
suicide still left the essential work to be done in the seventies and
eighties. Astonishingly, Rossiter's ANGEL WITH HORNS and Rabkin's
SHAKESPEARE AND THE COMMON UNDERSTANDING are not discussed at all; they
don't even find a place in Grady's copious footnotes or very lengthy
bibliography. Rabkin's important later work SHAKESPEARE AND THE PROBLEM
OF MEANING isn't mentioned either; and when Grady argues that Kuhn's
concept of "paradigm" has an unexpectedly fruitful application to
literary history, he doesn't mention that Rabkin was making this point
in his 1969 foreword to REINTERPRETATIONS OF ELIZABETHAN DRAMA'
(pp.5-6).

In other words, Grady was suppressing the relevant evidence. Since this
suppression is easily documented, a demonstrable matter of fact, Robin
Headlam-Wells's complaint was entirely to the point. If such facts cease
to matter  "English" has surrendered its claim to be an academic
discipline, and closing English departments in Western universities
would be no loss to literature, or students, or universities. It is
unscrupulous and evasive of Grady to refer to his book in that loftily
reassuring way, as though the book dealt more satisfactorily with the
matter at issue. It didn't. It would be far more interesting to hear
Grady explain, now, why his supposedly scholarly and historical book
didn't so much as mention Rossiter and Rabkin, or Don Cameron Allen's
devastating 1945 review of THE ELIZABETHAN WORLD PICTURE.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           R. D. H. Wells <
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Date:           Saturday, 2 Jan 1999 16:29:49 +0000 (GMT)
Subject:        
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On 22 December Terry Hawkes wrote:

Dear Robin: Thank you for a spirited rendition of 'We Know This
Already.' As ever, it moved me almost to tears. Your 'Surely This Is All
In Coleridge's Biographia Literaria' cannot now be long delayed.  We are
agog.

Dear Terry,

Oh dear, I seem to have upset you again. Because of all the reassuringly
familiar things you had been saying about history, and because of what
John said about your ideas being basically simple, I had assumed we were
really on the same wavelength and that, like me, you find the Orwellian
implications of radical Presentism deeply depressing. (The job of
Orwell's Ministry of Truth is to rewrite the past in such a way as to
bring it into line with present policies; for Winston Smith this
systematic presentist reconstruction of the past is a crime against
humanity far worse than 'mere torture'.)

But I sense that you are not happy; not even any festive 'ho, ho, hos'
this year. However, the difference between us may not be so great that
we can't resolve the problem. If I've got you right, you're not denying
that your ideas about history have all been said many times before by
solid traditionalist historians and literary critics; rather you are
saying that you don't like my mentioning it. I take your point; it is a
bit embarrassing. So how about if I make it my New Year's resolution not
to mention it any more? (though I'm afraid I'm not very good at keeping
NY resolutions).

Hope you had a happy Yuletied (as my local supermarket has it).

Best wishes,
Robin
 

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