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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: March ::
Re: THINKING, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0522  Wednesday, 23 March 1999.

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Mar 1999 09:28:38 -0800
        Subj:   Re: THINKING, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

[2]     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Monday, 22 Mar 1999 22:10:08 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0500 Re: Acting, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Mar 1999 09:28:38 -0800
Subject: Re: THINKING, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing
Comment:        SHK 10.0512 Re: THINKING, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

I am very pleased that Marilyn Bonomi has assumed the mantle of reason
in this debate over just how necessary it is for an artist to invest
work with a deep level of experience.  Her rebuke of some silly
assertions is impressive.  Allow me to add a comment she missed.

Stephanie Hughes wrote:

>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.

I find this paragraph a good indicator of the weakness in Ms. Hughes
overall argument.  If I may step back from Ovid specifically and go for
the principle - I don't want to get bogged down in possible specifics to
this work - I must ask why we need to make a choice?

In the overrated writings of Jack Keroac (did I spell his name
correctly?  It's been years) it is easy to connect the dots from Neil
Cassidy to Dean Moriarty (sp?).  With most poems, plays, novels, and
short stories it is seldom clear that there are dots to connect.

Unless there is evidence of a real life person to inspire a fictional
creation, why take sides?  The only intellectually respectable answer to
the question, "Is this character based on a real person?" without
evidence that there is, is to say, "I don't know.  At this time I have
no reason to think so."  Or for the terse amongst us, a great big, "Who
cares?"

It is rather a waste of time to even ask the question, and a greater
waste of time to argue an opinion on no evidence.  Anyone is welcome to
an opinion, as Ms. Hughes suggests, but not all opinions are created
equal.  Some are informed, some not.  Some are formed on feeling, some
on logic.  Some are absorbed from cultural prejudice, some are original.

To argue based on one's self-proclaimed deep and sensitive reading of a
text is, well, a bit arrogant and an exercise in self-aggrandizement.
Aside from arrogance, what makes your reading more sensitive than mine,
or another's?  Better reasons are needed.  Reason suggests exploring
areas of research that are likely to be more fruitful.  I would be
embarrassed to argue so passionately over the unknowable.

Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Monday, 22 Mar 1999 22:10:08 +0000
Subject: 10.0500 Re: Acting, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0500 Re: Acting, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

I think that Lucia Anna Setari's thoughts on acting are insightful and
interesting.  I love this statement, and find it true also if applied to
actors: "The really true passion of a writer is writing, I think.
Hardly a writer loves somebody more or longer than his work."

This is true of everybody who is doing what they love, not only writers
and actors. It reminds me of that old saying one used to find on plaques
in kitchens, "Kissin' wears out. Cookin' don't." But this says nothing
with regard to whether a particular work of art was written out of
passion or not. The passion may well have passed by the time the work
reached the bookstalls or the stage, but nothing can take from it the
energy that was imparted to it by the feelings with which it was
written, though these are long since departed from the author.

"In each of these scenes [moments of peak feeling in Lear, Hamlet and
Othello] the writing is so beautiful, so perfectly wrought and so very
evocative of humanity - and yet so formed, so immaculately formed, that
I cannot believe it was written in a fit of passion."

Whoever suggested that the writing that is done from intense feeling
based on personal experience is done in "a fit" of passion? As Byron
wrote a friend about some published nonsense about himself to that
effect, "Who could ever shave himself in that condition?" Certainly it
requires some distance, distance that is, in fact, provided by the
discipline of writing. The great writer writes, as the great painter
paints (when they can afford to) from the need to relieve their hearts.
This kind of writing is therapy for emotions that have nowhere else to
go. There are an infinity of quotes by great artists to this effect. I
would gather these quotes together, if it didn't seem rather pointless
to waste hard work merely to prove the obvious.

"p. s. not a Brit - just watched "Blackadder" too many times +)"

Where does the energy come from that is expressed in excellent satire
such as Blackadder? From emotion! Usually anger, and the more fierce the
anger, the better the satire. (That is, the better the satire with a
good satirist!)

"Stephanie is now just staggering around no longer able to defend
herself.  It isn't a pretty sight anymore."

Au contraire. Stephanie is alive and well, and if she staggers from time
to time, it's certainly not from any of these "paper bullets of the
brain" fired at her on SHAKSPER.

"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."

Don't let them pull the critical wool over your eyes, Lew.  How can we
know Sidney's muse meant the experience of his emotion rather than
"empathetic association" (whatever that is)? Because his sonnet cycle
was good stuff, and touches the heart. Sidney loved somebody when he
wrote those sonnets, of that you can be sure. ( And you can also be
darned sure it wasn't who they said it was!) It isn't possible to touch
the heart with the mind alone. Heart to heart, mind to mind, and in the
best work, both working together. Surprise! Red is red, not blue, and
the world is pretty simple after all.

> >> Requiring of the artist personal experiences in order to create art is
> unfair at the least. <<
> And was Arthur Miller ever a Puritan in early New England?

Surely you must be aware that in "The Crucible" Miller was using the
Salem witch trials to comment with devastating acumen on the Communist
witch hunt by the House Un-American Activities Committee that was
devastating the American establishment of writers, actors and directors
in the mid-1950s.

> >>  We "know" nothing about Shakespeare the man apart from his
> writing. Nada. Nothing. Zip. <<

"Every time I read or hear that we know nothing about Shakespeare the
man I glance over at that huge volume resting on my coffee table (almost
as large as the coffee table itself <g>), S. Schoenbaum's "William
Shakespeare: A Documentary Life," which contains the myriad documernts
having to do with Our Will and his life."

That reminds me of the comment Lyndon Johnson made when they handed him
the published Warren Report. He weighed it in his hand for a moment in
silence, then said to the reporters something to the effect that, "It
sure is heavy."

"We know more about Shakespeare than we do about most other Elizabethans
except for the biggies, like Queen Elizabeth herself."

This is simply not true. We know more about most of the figures of
interest from that time than we know about Shakespeare, but that's not
the issue. The issue is that none of what we know has anything to say
about his life as a writer. By contrast, we see a writer's life in every
page of Ben Jonson's substantial biography, and have writer's bios for
such lesser figures as George Peele and even Thomas Kyd. These men
played a part in the literary life of their times. Shakspere's
documented life shows us nothing of the sort.

Thanks to Maria Hablevych for the excellent quotes and for her thoughts
on this subject, with most of which I heartily concur.

Stephanie Hughes
 

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