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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: March ::
Re: THINKING, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0512  Tuesday, 22 March 1999.

[1]     From:   Frank Whigham <
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        Date:   Monday, 22 Mar 1999 13:02:20 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0500 Re: Acting, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

[2]     From:   Pat Dolan <
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        Date:   Monday, 22 Mar 1999 16:18:53 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0500 Re: Acting, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

[3]     From:   Peter Groves <
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        Date:   Tue, 23 Mar 1999 11:52:55 +1100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0493 Re: Acting, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

[4]     From:   Marilyn Bonomi <
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        Date:   Monday, 22 Mar 1999 23:40:36 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0500 Re: THINKING, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

[5]     From:   Tom Reedy <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Mar 1999 00:00:12 -0600
        Subj:   Re: Writing from Experience


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Frank Whigham <
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Date:           Monday, 22 Mar 1999 13:02:20 -0600
Subject: 10.0500 Re: Acting, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0500 Re: Acting, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

On Sidney:

Wiliam Ringler thought (in his OET edition, as I recall; I don't have it
to hand at the moment) that Astrophil was to look into his heart, where
he would find Stella's image, impressed upon it by the operation of the
penetration of the rays by means of which the beloved's physiognomy is
seen.

Frank Whigham

>I am relatively new to this list and don't know if anyone has mentioned Sir
>Philip Sidney's first sonnet from "Astrophel and Stella."  The sonnet
>concludes, "'Fool,' said my Muse to me, 'look in thy heart and write!'"  (I
>have Kimbrough's 1969 edition at hand.  I don't believe there is any change
>here in the newer edition.)  I've understood this to be an injunction to write
>from the experience of his emotion, though it could also be an invocation of
>empathetic association, as has been suggested.
>
>Lew Kaye-Skinner

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pat Dolan <
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Date:           Monday, 22 Mar 1999 16:18:53 -0600
Subject: 10.0500 Re: Acting, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0500 Re: Acting, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

A couple of comments.

I think the circularity accusation is valid. If a sonnet sequence, for
example, could be proved not to be based on "personal experience," it
wouldn't be great. If great, there must be some experience there-even if
we can't show it. This isn't a falsefiable position. I imagine a logical
positivist shouting "Metaphysics!!!!"

But here's another problem. What other kinds of experience are we
willing to credit? I'm inclined to think that Claudius's attempted, but
failed, repentance in Hamlet is culturally available to the author of
play from his reading, from his listening to sermons, from what we would
call his imagination, he might call his heart. Is that experience
"personal"?  "cultural"? "linguistic"?

I don't think the author of the play, whoever he or she was, believed
himself damned and unwilling to repent. Maybe. I don't think I'm
required to. But had he lived in a culture that didn't believe in an
afterlife...

Pat

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Groves <
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Date:           Tue, 23 Mar 1999 11:52:55 +1100
Subject: 10.0493 Re: Acting, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0493 Re: Acting, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

>The matter of being "well educated" depends on how you define that
>term.  No, he didn't go to university, but from what evidence exists of
>grammar schools, such as the one in Stratford, I doubt that many of my
>current crop of undergraduates would have been able to hack it in that
>educational environment.  Also, like many other intelligent people, then
>and now, Shakespeare seems to have read widely (as has been noted in
>some other recent postings).  Reading need not occur only in the
>classroom.

Well said.  Incidentally, it is sometimes argued (more in the spirit of
a lawyer than a scholar) that no records survive of Shakespeare's
attendance at the grammar school, but the fact is that no records
survive of anyone's attendance there in that period.

>And about whether there would be an authorship question...you're
>probably right.  No one argues about whether Marlowe or Sidney wrote
>those works which have been attributed to them.  Or maybe they do and I
>just am not aware of it?  Information, anyone?
>
>Karen Peterson-Kranz
>University of Guam

I once came across (in Cambridge University Library, which allows you to
browse its collection, unlike the Bodleian) a book called (I think) *The
Rosicrucians*, by someone called Olive Wagner Driver, which argued (?)
that all Elizabethan literary works of any note (with the sole exception
of Jonson's) were produced by a cabal of noblemen, all illegitimate sons
of Queen Elizabeth.  The _Faerie Queene_, for example, was the work of
Leicester, her sixth son.  The book, I suspect, was 'donated by the
author'-still, there's nothing like a little Looney-ness to brighten
one's day.

Peter Groves,
Department of English,
Monash University

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marilyn Bonomi <
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Date:           Monday, 22 Mar 1999 23:40:36 -0500
Subject: 10.0500 Re: THINKING, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0500 Re: THINKING, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

Ms. Hughes provides what she seems to believe is the final arbiter of
interpretation:

>the heart provides another level of evidence, one far more convincing to
>me personally.

Gee, if my high school students tried this approach in my classes or in
their history classes-not to mention their science and math classes!--
they'd be hard-pressed to pass their courses.

While Transcendental truths may feel wonderful (Emerson certainly found
them to be soul-satisfying), they do not serve as defenses in rational
argument.  Picture a jury room: eleven people say, "The evidence in the
case is clear: the accused has been placed at the scene of the crime at
the time thereof, her fingerprints are on the murder weapon which had
been polished just before the murder and on all the stolen property, she
has motive demonstrated in the series of threatening letters to the
victim which are in her own handwriting.  She is guilty."  The twelfth
juror says, "But my heart tells me she's innocent!"  Hung jury-accused
walks out a free woman.  That scenario leaves me feeling VERY
uncomfortable.

And I believe that to use that Romantic/Transcendental argument about
art is just as specious as to use it in a jury deliberation.

>No one can possibly know for a fact whether Ovid's Corrina was a real
>girl or not.  And no committee of scholars can make it a fact. It is a
>matter of sheer opinion. I think it's likely she was real. Does that make
>me a fool? No, it makes me a person with an opinion.

If no one can possibly KNOW, then of course your "heart" can tell you
anything you like.  But I wouldn't call it a "fact" or an "opinion"-I'd
call it a "feeling" or "gut reaction" instead.

I'm not at all knowledgeable about Ovid's Corrina.  But I'm willing to
bet that if a body of scholars has said she is real, that body has used
significant contemporary evidence from a variety of sources to reach
that conclusion-and if these scholars say she is fictional, then they
have reasons to say so.  In neither case is it "sheer opinion,"  it's
reasoned opinion based on solid evidence considered in a context of
other evidence by scholars who have some skill in understanding and
interpreting that kind of evidence.

Of course it's much more romantic, as well as Romantic, to believe that
the heart is the final arbiter.  But it's not particularly useful in
scholarly debate.

>That great art is written from personal feelings and experience?  Every
>writer that writes confesses the truth of this.

WHOA THERE!  I've seen broad generalizations, but this one is so broad I
could WALK from Connecticut to Stratford-upon-Avon.

>not all writers, particularly not all poets, are totally honest about the
>fact that their work is always based on real experience (true poets, mind
>you, and true artists of all sorts)

Again, as she seems to do so often, Ms. Hughes is setting up her
position so that no matter what riposte is offered, she, the positer,
can say, "well, who said that particular poet is honest?"  Another
sweeping generalization, sweeping away logic and evidence along w/
objective definitions.  "TRUE" poets?  And I suppose any poet or artist
who doesn't see truth as Ms. Hughes does is ipso facto NOT a "true
artist"?  That seems to be the way she deals with all queries of these
sorts of statements.

If "not all poets, are totally honest" then perhaps it works both ways?
Perhaps Sidney is using a construct in *Astrophil and Stella* when his
Muse tells the  protagonist of the sequence to look in his heart and
write.  After all, the Muse is herself a construct, being Stella.  And
EVEN with the historical evidence of the parallels between Sidney's own
life and the story told by the poem sequence, *Astrophil and Stella* is
a work of fiction.  We cannot assert with absolute certainty that Sidney
loved Lady Rich and so he wrote this sequence.  We do have considerable
evidence that he did-far more evidence than for many other such
sequences.  But what does not so far as I know exist is external
evidence that Sidney wrote this sequence to exorcise his emotions, or to
give them expression, or for any other reason at all.  We can surmise,
we can "feel" we understand.  But we cannot hold an opinion (in a
scholarly sense, which is what SHAKSPER discussion is about) without
evidence to support that opinion, no matter how strongly we feel in our
hearts that he MUST have suffered so intensely to have produced this
magnificent piece of art.  (And yes, I think it IS great art, in large
part because of the emotional impact it conveys.  What I DON'T claim to
know or have an opinion on is whether it is his own emotional impact he
is conveying.)  But Sidney can be lying-saying it's HIS heart he's
writing when in fact he is creating almost entirely from his
imagination.

>And why must Wordsworth be "critically astute"?

If he's presenting himself in the role of critical analyst, then he
should be astute in critical observations, analyses, and communication
of these analyses.  Otherwise, his critical commentary lacks weight.

>Doesn't it enrich your experience of Keats's poetry to know his life
>history?

Romantic poetry?  No.  Novels, on occasion, to a degree.

I find that we spend entirely too much time trying to connect individual
artists' every toe-stubbing to particular moments in their art.  While I
am emphatically NOT a part of the New Criticism (though it really WAS
new not too long before I spent my undergraduate years), I do not
believe that a poet's life history is necessary to find a rich
experience in his/her art.  I DO find knowledge of the cultural
circumstances in which s/he produced the art to be helpful, but only
when I wish to STUDY the art rather than experience it.  To experience
art requires my knowing MY life  history, so that the art and MY life
intersect.

I don't mean this egotistically.  In fact, in a sense I am agreeing w/
Ms.  Hughes in one very limited way: that my heart knows when a piece of
art is "true"-b/c it is true for ME, even if not for anyone else.  And
even when it is not "true" in the sense of an actual life experience.  I
can't ever hear Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns" or "No One is Alone"
without crying.  Yet neither song reflects a literal life experience of
mine-and probably not of his, either.  Nonetheless, I offer them as
examples of Great Art.

This debate about the source of Great Art continues to be fascinating.
I appreciate Matthew's contributions from the performance perspective.
His insights have helped me enormously as I've grappled with how to
communicate my understanding of this issue.

But in the end, what we seem to have is on the one side, the argument
that if I feel it to be true (whoever "I" am), then regardless of all
the evidence to the contrary, or lack of evidence to defend my position,
it is true.  And on the other side, we have those who argue that art
comes from a wealth of sources that may well begin with some personal
experiences, that magnify and interpret personal experiences, that add
observational experiences, and that transcend by light years those
simply personal experiences in creating the art.

Phew!  That's more like my $20 worth!

Marilyn Bonomi

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Reedy <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Mar 1999 00:00:12 -0600
Subject:        Re: Writing from Experience

Stephanie Hughes wrote:
<snip>
>Mind you, not all writers, particularly not all poets, are totally honest
>about the fact that their work is always based on real experience (true
>poets, mind you, and true artists of all sorts).  This is understandable,
>considering the trouble telling the truth can cause a writer.

That's funny.  I just finished a novel and a couple of editors have
remarked that they can tell from the writing that I lived in Tennessee
for a number of years and that I'm an avid sportsman.  I've flown over
Tennessee 4 or 5 times and I've never hunted in my life.

Of course, maybe I'm not a true artist.

Tom Reedy
 

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