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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: March ::
Re: Writing from Experience
The Shakespeare Conference: Wednesday, 17 March 1999.

[1]     From:   E. H. Pearlman <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Mar 1999 07:37:09 -0700 (MST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0453 Re: Writing from Experience

[2]     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Monday, 15 Mar 1999 20:39:47 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0453 Re: Writing from Experi

[3]     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Monday, 15 Mar 1999 22:04:09 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0456 Assorted Responses to Past Postings

[4]     From:   Peter Groves <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 17 Mar 1999 14:36:36 +1100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0462 Re: Writing from Experience

[5]     From:   Laura Fargas <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Mar 1999 23:21:18 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0462 Re: Writing from Experience


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           E. H. Pearlman <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Mar 1999 07:37:09 -0700 (MST)
Subject: 10.0453 Re: Writing from Experience
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0453 Re: Writing from Experience

Let us consider the case of Christopher Marlowe in whose plays there
appears to be obsessive return to a few themes that seem to have
personal resonance.  Is he in any sense an autobiographical writer?

Best, ep

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Monday, 15 Mar 1999 20:39:47 +0000
Subject: 10.0453 Re: Writing from Experience
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0453 Re: Writing from Experience

>My original rebuttal to Ms. Hughes used sonnet
>sequences as an example.  Since most of them are not autobiographical,
>it seemed to fit.  Then I thought of Hamlet captured by pirates and a
>lot of other things.

Where is the evidence for your belief that the sonnets are not
autobiographical?  (Or that the author of Hamlet was never himself
captured by pirates?)

>I cut my paragraph because I felt I'd made a category error.  These
>examples are not to the point.  One can maintain that an imaginative
>artist will take their emotional experience and transform it into the
>fiction of a sonnet sequence

Show me a worthwhile sonnet sequence that was not based on personal
feeling and I'll eat my mousepad.

>Thus someone who agrees with Ms. Hughes
>main point could still insist that Shakespeare experienced great grief,
>and could therefore write Titus A,

Grief? Rage perhaps. Hamlet's the one written out of profound and very
real grief.

>(Note the linguistic
>gymnastics I go through not to put words in Ms. Hughes mouth.)

For which she is grateful.

>I don't think this approach really addresses Ms. Hughes point.  Finding
>examples of moving art that was not deeply felt by the artist seems more
>decisive.

Yes? We're waiting . . . .

>>PS: There were a number of "scare quote" marks in this posting, but in
>>the light of recent discussions I've realized that I don't know what
>>they are for so I've removed them.

What are "scare quotes"? Irony is next to impossible to indicate in
posts, and quotes have been used this way for decades by all sorts of
writers. Alternatives?

>art and emotion are distinct, the latter
>informed by the former, the former a re-creative answer to the latter.

Just about as distinct as the grain of sand from the pearl that the
oyster makes of it. Or, as one poet put it, "Oh chestnut tree, great
rooted blossomer, are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole? Oh body
swayed to music, oh brightening glance, are you the dancer or the
dance?"

Stephanie Hughes

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Monday, 15 Mar 1999 22:04:09 +0000
Subject: 10.0456 Assorted Responses to Past Postings
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0456 Assorted Responses to Past Postings

>>From:           Terence Hawkes <
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>>What's wrong with 'Shakespeare in Love' is that it rests on and fosters
>>two deeply corrupting presuppositions: that writers write most
>>powerfully about what they personally 'feel', and that art's primary
>>concern is to express the 'personality' of the artist.
>>
>>From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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>>Even the most cursory study of the lives of great artists should show
>>that the best art does indeed arise from what Terrence Hawkes calls
>>these "deeply corrupting presuppostions," namely that great art arises
>>from personal experience, and that artists write (paint, compose,
>>choreograph) with most credibility and passion when they are dealing
>>with personal issues.
>
>This reminds me of T.S. Eliot's thoughts in "Tradition and the
>Individual Talent" where he says: "Poetry is not the turning loose of
>emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of
>personality, but an escape from personality."

Indeed, Eliot did "escape from emotion," and personality, but not so far
that we can't feel it (in his best work), for he had the luxury of an
audience so steeped in centuries of emotional and religious literary
reference that he had but to mutter a word in passing to decorate his
spare verse with an infinity of overtones.  Anyway, I wouldn't trust a
poet to pass along any real secrets of the craft. Those they will always
keep for themselves, if, in fact, they even know what they are. (Even
the simpleton knows enough not to kill the goose that lays the golden
eggs.)

Stephanie Hughes

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Groves <
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Date:           Wednesday, 17 Mar 1999 14:36:36 +1100
Subject: 10.0462 Re: Writing from Experience
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0462 Re: Writing from Experience

>I understand why she holds to this so tenaciously.  She is an
>Oxfordian.  The case for Oxford is in part built on what the true
>believers fancy are correspondences between the plays of Shakespeare and
>the life of Oxford.

Not to mention: "How could an illiterate yokel with straw in his hair
possibly have the profound experiences necessary to produce Lear etc."?

Peter Groves,
Department of English,
Monash University

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Laura Fargas <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Mar 1999 23:21:18 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 10.0462 Re: Writing from Experience
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0462 Re: Writing from Experience

This thread makes you wish for the Woody Allen moment, when he says "I
have Marshall McLuhan right here" and pulls him out from behind a movie
poster to tell the boor behind him in line, "you have no understanding
of my theories whatsoever."  Ah, for Mr. Peabody and a real Wayback
Machine!  I'm a working poet and have wanted to say something terribly,
terribly useful, but that's a fantasy of getting to be the Woody Allen
moment, silly even outside the realm of Ms. Hughes' posts.

With regard to those: Hughes' argument is a closed circle; her latest
post makes clear that even if Homer showed up (and had actually written
Homer's works) and said "I didn't write from feeling, and incidentally,
ya know, I'm blind and never saw the wine-dark sea, just took some other
guy's word for it"-if all of that happened, Ms. Hughes could define him
as "important" instead of "great" and still retain her argument.  (The
law professor Leo Levin used to stop any student who started an answer
"I think," by snapping "anything you say after this is automatically
true.")

I know I myself don't resemble her Artiste, but of course, I'm not
"great," don't have to worry about being "great" until well after I'm
dead, and only then may have to start sweating ectoplasmic bricks about
staying "great."  Think of some of the swell people who've occupied the
the Not-Great-Pro-Tem Poet's Corner of Valhalla: Donne, Dickinson, and
of course, Shakespeare himself-definitely enough, at any given time, for
a hand of bridge.
So far, I've liked T. Hawkes' post the best, simply because it stated
its propositions as negatives, not positives.  It didn't contain a
sweeping assertion that "the purpose of poetry is..." or "great art is
created from..."  or "great artists may not be passionate about anything
else, but they are definitely passionate about [their work, their
posterity, the creative process, money]."  Every single one of the
affirmative posts has had me composing rebuttals in my head, though Ms.
Hughes' posts have been way ahead of the pack in that regard.

Personally, I loved the SiL movie, but I'm hardly worrying about it
redefining my approach to aesthetic theory.  I just had fun seeing
Shakespeare practice his autograph with all the different spellings, Ned
Alleyn have his "Elvis is in the building" moment, Joseph Fiennes bat
his lovely long eyelashes, and Gwyneth Paltrow be a thing of beauty and
a joy forever. It's a 1999 movie meant to make 1999 dollars, and it's
taken somewhat over twenty dollars off me so far because I like it so
much.

And here's my two cents:  *of course* a writer can write what he or she
hasn't personally, directly experienced.

After that, it all turns into definitions and suppositions about
someone's inner passions that are, from a classical standpoint,
impertinent and vulgar; from a romantic standpoint, not equal to the
greatness and subtlety of an individual; and from a deconstructive
standpoint, insufficient as to socio/historic/economic/gender/whatever
context and even immaterial-dwindle, sliver, and divide until you have,
to pinch a phrase from Stevens, "an eager meaninglessness."

Let me give a good poet the last word:

        To the Poets

                --Howard Nemerov

Song sparrow's limited creativity,
Three eighth-notes and a trill all summer long,
The falling second of the chickadee --
It's a pretty humble business, singing song.

Laura Fargas
 

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