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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: April ::
Responses to On-going Threads
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0625  Tuesday, 6 April 1999.

[1]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Monday, 5 Apr 1999 14:15:51 EDT
        Subj:   Re: THINKING, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

[2]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Monday, 5 Apr 1999 15:18:30 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0608 Re: Limes; Hedge-Priest; Martext

[3]     From:   Carl Fortunato <
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        Date:   Monday, 5 Apr 1999 19:48:54 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0615 Re: Assorted Responses

[4]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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        Date:   Tue, 6 Apr 1999 09:49:37 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0614 Re: Help with Assessment

[5]     From:   Clinton Atchley <
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        Date:   Monday, 5 Apr 1999 16:56:32 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0612 Re: Polonius/Kate, Hamlet as Sociopath

[6]     From:   Andy White <
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        Date:   Monday, 5 Apr 1999 20:04:39 -0400
        Subj:   Freud's Freudian Slip


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Monday, 5 Apr 1999 14:15:51 EDT
Subject:        Re: THINKING, Feeling and Meaning, and Writing

>Of course Shakespeare incorporated bits and pieces of his life into his
>plays. The important point is that it is *impossible to reconstruct a
>narrative of the author's life from those bits and pieces*.

Of course indeed, Jim Carroll. Milton was a sinner, but he had never
been cast out of Eden; blind, but never "eyeless in Gaza at the mill
with slaves"; a devout Christian, but never flown to the top of the
pinnacle by Satan and dared to jump off (nor had he fallen nine times
the space that measures night and day from heaven to hell, or awakened
on the buring lake).  Hawthorne worked in a customs house, but he never
impregnated a Salem goodwife, then refused to acknowledge his paternity,
or fallen in love with Rappacini's daughter, or killed his own wife
doing surgery on her birthmark.  Poe was never buried alive (except by
opium), nor charged with or convicted of murdering someone, and burying
the victim's heart under the floorboards; Whitman was never a little
bird deprived of his beloved mate. The examples to the contrary of the
biographical fallacy are endless.  If Gary Larsen had experienced only a
tenth of the things he writes about in The Far Side, he would be living
in a strange world, indeed (and probably in a strait jacket) . . . and
let's not even think about Stephen King, or any of the other spinners of
tales of madness and mayhem that abound even in our own century, let
alone the writers of fantasy and science fiction. (Spenser didn't have
to be Guyon to understand the downside of temperance gone obsessive, and
Dante didn't have to experience the Rose to conceptualize it.)  Does a
clergyman have to be married to understand marriage?

We seem to live under some sort of fantasy that great writers lock
themselves up in their garrets cloistered away from the real world, as
though they are not people like you and me, living normal lives in
between the words that make them famous.  I was reminded of this
recently when, in the new British Library, I saw some of John Lennon's
drafts for what became legendary lyrics.  One is written on the back of
what is clearly one of Julian's birthday cards; another, on normal
8-1/2x11 paper, has been scribbled over in some very childish loops and
whorls: one can just imagine his little son grabbing John's pregnant pen
as it was poised in the act of composition, and crowing "Daddy! me
write, too!"

Ultimately, I think that what makes any kind of great writing great
(even Gary Larsen's cartoons) is that it expresses a truth we can all
see in a way we could not have (or did not, if we could have) conveyed
it.  There is an analogue to this, it seems to me, in my students'
reaction to my classroom analysis of a piece of literature: "oh, of
course, once you explain it, it becomes so obvious-but I didn't see that
in it when I read it for myself."  One picture of a farmer leaving the
henhouse with a dozen eggs in a basket as the rooster leaves the
farmhouse with a baby under his wing speaks volumes about human
arrogance and man's injustice to animals: does Larsen have to have been
a chicken to conceive of this?  Did Shari Lewis have to be a ewe to be a
Lambchop?

Peace be to all of you.  I am not denigrating anyone's argument, merely
suggesting that we've beaten this one to death long enough.  Can we move
on to something else?

Best to all,
Carol Barton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Monday, 5 Apr 1999 15:18:30 EDT
Subject: 10.0608 Re: Limes; Hedge-Priest; Martext
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0608 Re: Limes; Hedge-Priest; Martext

>I have always assumed that the name "Martext" was a pejorative reference
>to Puritans who actually read and interpreted the Bible for themselves
>(marring the text).  That would seem to reinforce the Marprelate
>connection.

Scott, I think this may be backwards.  The Marprelate Tracts lampooned
the bishopric (prelates).  It would have been the Roman Catholic clergy
that, in Martin and Martin Jr.'s view (as in Martin Luther's before
them), "marred" the text (i.e., by ostensibly investing the Bible with
things it didn't contain, such as purgatory and indulgences and the
prohibition against eating meat on Fridays).  Then too, under Protestant
pressure for reform, 34 and 35 Henry VIII ("described as an Act for the
Advancement of True Religion") had enjoined anyone not appointed by king
or ordinary from public reading in church, and declared that, as a
result of the plethora of unorthodox interpretations then prevailing,
only noblemen and gentlemen might read the Bible to their families at
home, substantial merchants and gentlewomen to themselves, and the lower
classes not at all (J.D. Mackie, _The Earlier Tudors_, 429).  Mackie
also points out that, out of 311 clergymen polled at the time, only 50
could say how many Commandments there were, recite the Nicene Creed and
the Lord's Prayer, and identify the scriptural authority on which these
things were founded correctly . . . some couldn't even identify the
author of the Lord's Prayer (519-20)!  Martext is so sketchily drawn in
AYLI that it's hard to ascribe a profound meaning one way or the other
(pro or con) to Shakespeare's glance at Marprelate; but the resonance
seems almost irrefutable.

Best,
Carol Barton

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carl Fortunato <
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Date:           Monday, 5 Apr 1999 19:48:54 EDT
Subject: 10.0615 Re: Assorted Responses
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0615 Re: Assorted Responses

>In Twelfth Night, Viola says that she will pose as a eunuch and be a
>messenger from Orsino to Olivia's court.  My question is this: Does
>Olivia see Viola/Caesario as a eunuch, or just as a handsome young boy?
>If the former is so, why does Olivia fall for him/her so quickly.
>What's the attraction?  It obviously can't be sexual.

I think that this discrepancy is one of the reasons that some think
Shakespeare changed the plot of the play while writing.  You will also
note that Olivia says (in the same speech) that she "can sing, and speak
to him in many sorts of music," but when Orsino requests a song of her
later (II.iv), Curio says, "He is not here, so please your lordship, who
should sing it," meaning Feste.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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Date:           Tue, 6 Apr 1999 09:49:37 +1000
Subject: 10.0614 Re: Help with Assessment
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0614 Re: Help with Assessment

I wanted to express appreciation for Kezia Vanmeter Sproat's posting on
assessment.  Among other things Kezia wrote:

>One point perhaps
>worth the consideration of this forum, however, is the relation between
>what ONU's innocent Shakespearean has been asked to do and the value
>budgetary decision-makers assign to what English professors do (or did
>when I was in school and teaching). If they allow themselves to be
>sucked into edutechnobabble "assessment" (note 3 syllables meaning
>"test," proliferating latinate polysyllabics standing in for knowledge,
>allowing all that fat and time for the testers' convenience, with the
>totally brazen goal of cutting time for responding face-to-face or even
>pencil-to-pencil with living human students), they devalue their own
>work, and may be blamed, in part, when university budgets leave them a
>very short end of the stick.

I second that, from hard experience.  I (for the moment) work in one of
those institutions where English is being gutted with a very dull
administrative knife.  We, too, have our talk (and talk and talk) about
assessment and outcomes and the like, while our students seem to suffer
the consequences.  Over the past three years 14 tenure-track English
department people have left or retired and have not been replaced, as
English (especially the literature part of the department) is seen as
something intangible, unmeasurable, and altogether less "useful" and
"cost effective" than, say, business administration.  One of our two
Shakespeareans left a year ago and was not replaced, and now the other
one (me!) is being reduced to part-time status come fall.

And the university and the community we serve continue to bewail the
fact that the students can't read or write, and have instituted
"introduction to college" required courses which ostensibly will solve
that problem (taught by administrators, staffers from the Student Life
office and members of the career counseling corps).  I continue to teach
developmental writing and freshman composition, into which I insert as
much literature as possible, since I vaguely recall that I learned to
read and write by (gasp!) actually reading and writing.  Shakespeare was
an important part of that reading for me, and probably for everyone else
on this list.  We do need to be aware, however, that we are going
against the grain of current administrative thought (oxymoron?) in
advocating such anachronisms as literature, Shakespeare, and related
matters.

Forgive my bitterness, and the rant (Hardy, you have the patience of a
saint...thank you, and congratulations!)

Karen Peterson-Kranz
(marginally of the)Department of English and Applied Linguistics
University of Guam

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clinton Atchley <
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Date:           Monday, 5 Apr 1999 16:56:32 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 10.0612 Re: Polonius/Kate, Hamlet as Sociopath
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0612 Re: Polonius/Kate, Hamlet as Sociopath

>>Actually, I tend to see these two scenes differently; Hamlet imposes on
>>Polonius because court etiquette requires Polonius agree with anything
>>his betters say-even if his betters are clearly nuts.
>
>That's not entirely true, Andy: think of the Lear Fool, and Kent.
>Polonius has been trying to "sound" Hamlet the same way Rosencrantz and
>Guildenstern have-and I think Hamlet's response is more a contemptuous,
>"what do you take me for-an idiot that an old fool like you can
>entrap?!" than it is a powerplay.

Actually, I think Hamlet's response is dictated by affection for
Polonius.  Not just here but throughout the play Hamlet has shown a
certain affection for Polonius, think of his admonition to the players
not to abuse him.  He know Polonius doesn't get what's going on in re
his madness, and he just enjoys playing mind games with someone who
thinks he's got it all figured out. He has known Polonius all of his
(Hamlet's) life and know what his reaction is going to be to all of the
games he plays.  This is Hamlet in his more lucid and generous moments.

>>In the same vein, Petruchio's sun/moon bit with Kate seems to be his
>>attempt to get her to treat him like royalty, to agree with everything
>>he says, for no other reason than that he said it.
>
>Here, I think it's exactly the opposite: Petruchio is insisting that
>Kate capitulate to his superiority as her husband, accept the fact that,
>whether she likes it or not, society says he is her better. I don't want
>to reopen this thread of worms again, so I will try to say this as
>non-controversially as possible: Kate doesn't agree with him to humor
>him (at least I don't think so), but is ironic in her answers,
>acknowledging his legal right to assert what the Wyf of Bath called the
>"maisterie" over her, and utterly rejecting his actual ability to so
>do.  As Satan in PL observes, "who overcomes by force hath overcome but
>half his foe": Petruchio ultimately "tames" Kate, to the extent that he
>does, by force of love, and categorically not by force of law.

Here again, I think mind games are involved.  Petruchio has beaten Kate
down through starvation and threat of not going to the party.  She
learns the game and goes at it with gusto, even embellishing Petruchio's
original statements.  She learns what is expected and how to get ahead
within this context.

>>Kate finally agrees
>>to this, but not before turning the tables on her hubby, as I recall...
>>it seems to me that Polonius isn't the crazy one, he's sane but stuck in
>>an absurd situation.  Ditto, even more so, for Kate.

Polonius is stuck in what HE perceives as an absurd situation and
responds accordingly.  Kate actually understands the dynamics of what
Petruchio is attempting and buys into the situation as a means of
getting what she wants, i.e. attending Bianca's wedding reception.

Clinton Atchley
University of Washington

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[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andy White <
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Date:           Monday, 5 Apr 1999 20:04:39 -0400
Subject:        Freud's Freudian Slip

Another point, which comes to mind for me every time I have to watch
Hamlet mount his mum in her 'closet' (since when do closets
automatically include beds?): Freud has a disturbing tendency to locate
dysfunction in the minds of children, never the parents or other adults
who may have caused the problem in the first place.  In Hamlet's case,
it is his mother who has disgraced herself by committing adultery and
then incest with her husband's brother.  That Hamlet had a legitimate
complaint against his mother escaped Dr.'s Freud and Jones, as well as
generations of psychoanalysts since.

For those who are partial to psychoanalysis, let me stress that my
objections are very specific here, and should not be construed as a
general attack on a worthy field of endeavor; I simply find Freud to be
a mixed bag, and this is the main reason why.

Andy White
Arlington, VA
 

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