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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: March ::
Re: THINKING, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0545  Friday, 26 March 1999.

[1]     From:   John Savage <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Mar 1999 12:04:49 -0500
        Subj:   Re: THINKING, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

[2]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Mar 1999 12:48:48 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: THINKING, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

[3]     From:   Nancy Charlton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Mar 1999 10:17:03 -0800
        Subj:   Re: THINKING, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

[4]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Mar 1999 11:08:56 -0800
        Subj:   Re: THINKING, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

[5]     From:   David Kathman <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Mar 1999 19:41:55 -0600
        Subj:   Re: THINKING, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

[6]     From:   Marilyn Bonomi <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Mar 1999 23:21:09 -0500
        Subj:   Re: THINKING, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

[7]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz  <
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        Date:   Fri, 26 Mar 1999 14:37:54 +1000
        Subj:   Re: THINKING, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

[8]     From:   Melissa D. Aaron <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Mar 1999 09:15:10 -0500
        Subj:   Re: THINKING, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Savage <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Mar 1999 12:04:49 -0500
Subject:        Re: THINKING, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

Stephanie Hughes writes:

>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.

But that's not what you said.  You said we know nothing-and you
emphasized this with words like "nada, zip," etc.-about Shakespeare.
Period.

Now you say "none of what we know"-presumably we know quite a bit after
all-"has anything to say about his life as a writer."

Quite a difference between your two statements.  (1) "We know nothing,
period."  (2) "What we know doesn't tell us much about him as a writer."
Which claim are you making now?

And I'd challenge your theory that we know more about most of the
figures of interest of that time than we know about Shakespeare.  Of
course, "figures of interest" is sufficiently vague.  Mary Queen of
Scots could be a figure of interest, I suppose.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Mar 1999 12:48:48 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Re: THINKING, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

>Take a look at "Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare" by
>Geoffrey Bullough. That's one heck of a lot of reading, the kind of
>reading that could only be done at a university or in the library of one
>of the great earls or scholars of the period. It is also the kind of
>reading that must be done over a long period of time and under the
>tutelage of a true scholar.

Bullough's collection fills 7 average volumes.  Most of the materials in
it are popular, not learned-that is, addressed to general educated
audiences (i.e. products of Elizabethan grammar schools, not
universities); they do not, in fact, require some kind of scholarly
guide to be intelligible and interesting.  I reckon that a reasonably
rapid reader could get through the lot in a week-to say nothing of 25 or
30 years.  I am reminded by Stephanie Hughes' condescending remark of a
student I knew in the distance learning program at the University of
Wisconsin in the 60s-by snail mail correspondence, not email or
interactive TV.  For some of the people in that program the reading and
writing assignments were a chore, though they got them done.  This man
was an auto worker from Cincinnati, in his 50s, just an ordinary guy,
who had gone off to fight during WWII, got married as soon as he came
back and taken an industrial job to support his family, finished a high
school degree at night, and was slowly accumulating college credits that
might help him get off the shop floor and into an office.  But he had
been an assiduous reader all his life, and even in the first year of the
program he wrote about Plato, about St. Augustine, about Montaigne,
about Shakespeare, with a depth of understanding and a range of
collateral reference I have seen in few undergraduates in my experience
(that includes Harvard) or in any of the undergraduates and few of the
graduate students I teach or talk to.  That kind of autodidactic
learning is not at all uncommon: the proposition that intellectual
development can only be achieved through formal education is fallacious
on the face of it, and pernicious to boot.

David Evett

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nancy Charlton <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Mar 1999 10:17:03 -0800
Subject:        Re: THINKING, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

I have followed this debate with much interest, and would like to offer
an experience which to me both discredits and nullifies the argument
that an author must have experienced that which he writes of.

For the past three years I have been working with a Chinese woman who
has written two novels in English about life in Mao's China.  She came
of age during this time.

My task at first was to put her writing into real English, replete with
articles definite and indefinite, correct verb tenses, agreement of
subject and verb, elimination of malapropisms and other technical
matters.  Then it came time to work on the content.  I have suggested
many rewrites to deepen the characterization, step up or slow down the
pace, make actions credible.  In working this out, our sessions often
became acting labs where we went through the actions of a scene as a
reality check.

I found that "one touch of nature makes the whole world kin."  Universal
emotions don't have to be labeled Chinese, or Elizabethan, or Victorian,
or anything other than simply human.  The basic stuff of this novel was
so vivid that I was able to help the author bring out the drama and, I
hope, do justice both to the restrained Chinese sensibility and the
American penchant for ample detail.

I have never been to China and know little about it, yet I could pick up
the threads of story and work on them credibly.  In similar vein, why
would it be impossible for Shakespeare to take a story from history and
legend and make its characters actlogically from their narrative and
dramatic givens in accord with how people actually behave?

I would add also that it is not unknown for characters in a fiction to
take on definite traits in such a way that the author cannot force them
to act out of character.  Writing any fiction is as much logic and
common sense as it is inspiration and imagination.  Even for SF that
makes up its own universe.

Nancy Charlton
Portland OR

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Mar 1999 11:08:56 -0800
Subject:        Re: THINKING, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

Tad Davis confesses that,

>There are passages in Shakespeare-Macduff's lament for his children, for
>example, or Cordelia's attempt to comfort Lear ("no cause, no cause")
>that I can't even think about without having tears well up in my eyes.
>My throat constricts; my lips tremble. My body assents to the
>presentation as true, and has done so from my first exposure to those
>plays, long before I had a real-life experience of aging parents or
>threatened children to confirm the response. The reason? Shakespeare's
>writing enabled me, or even forced me, to imaginatively project myself
>into that situation; my body responded as if I were there in the flesh.

You may be interested in the following essay, also in part about how
performance can, through the actor's body, have an effect on our bodies:

Anthony B. Dawson.  "Performance and Participation: Desdemona, Foucault,
and the Actor's Body."  In James C. Bulman. Shakespeare, Theory and
Performance. London : Routledge, 1996.  29-45.

I found it very interesting.

Cheers,
Se

 

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