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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: March ::
Re: Feeling and Meaning
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0470  Wednesday, 17 March 1999.

[1]     From:   Cary M. Mazer <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Mar 1999 09:08:35 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0463 Re: Feeling and Meaning

[2]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Mar 1999 21:19:28 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0463 Re: Feeling and Meaning


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Cary M. Mazer <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Mar 1999 09:08:35 -0500
Subject: 10.0463 Re: Feeling and Meaning
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0463 Re: Feeling and Meaning

>David J. Schalkwyk writes:

>We need
>both of these principles to remind us a) not to reduce meaning to
>internal states, and b) not to abstract language so much in following
>principle a) that it ceases to be human.  The debate arises because each
>side wishes to elevate only one of the principles to a primary position.

Aside from the questions raised by Shakespeare in Love-which I found
absolutely delightful, though completely preposterous in it supposition
that a playwright has to have experienced the emotions of the characters
he or she is representing-I, too, seek to strike a balance.  On the one
hand, imagining oneself into another person's situation and emotions is
what dramatists (and actors, and therefore doubly so for
dramatist-actors) do.  On the other hand, Shakespeare, in the voice of
one of his characters, does take a stand on this, when Berowne asserts:

Never durst poet touch a pen to write
Until his ink were temp'red with Love's sighs.
O, then his lines would ravish savage ears
And plant in tyrants mild humility.

Cary

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Mar 1999 21:19:28 -0800
Subject: 10.0463 Re: Feeling and Meaning
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0463 Re: Feeling and Meaning

David calls for sanity:

>The debate about whether Shakespeare could have written what he did
>without personal experience needs to keep two things in mind.  First,
>meanings are neither in the head nor in the heart.  In other words,
>words do not mean what they do by virtue of any feelings that anyone who
>uses them has.  Second, words only mean what they do because they form
>part of human life.  If the first principle seems to remove language
>from human experience, the second shows that this is not so.  We need
>both of these principles to remind us a) not to reduce meaning to
>internal states, and b) not to abstract language so much in following
>principle a) that it ceases to be human.  The debate arises because each
>side wishes to elevate only one of the principles to a primary position.

First off, I'd like to say that your note is a welcome breath of sanity
into the sorts of discussion that get too polarized, too soon.

However, the argument seems to hinge on how you would define "human
life".  If humanness is defined by either reason or emotion, if human
life is the life of the heart or the head, then the second of your
propositions is simply synonymous with the position against which the
first of your propositions is reacting.

My real question is how else can we define human life.  If it's neither
emotion nor reason, what is it?

Cheers,
Se

 

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