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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: November ::
Re: Age of Awareness
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.2101  Tuesday, 30 November 1999.

From:           Anthony Burton <
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Date:           Monday, 29 Nov 1999 12:21:20 -0800
Subject: 10.2093 Re: Age of Awareness
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.2093 Re: Age of Awareness

This thread has evolved in a deeply important direction, taking wing in
its recent Hawkes-Grouse continuation on the matter of the distinction
between "intellectual" and "emotional" responses to text, music, poetry,
and the like.  I fear this distinction presents a false, or at least
seriously ambiguous, dichotomy.  "Intellectual" can refer to experiences
of comprehension that first reach our consciousness in our mental life,
and also (among other possibilities) to empty abstractions generated by
letting our mental faculties run so to speak on autopilot, reshuffling
what we already know in another form.  "Emotional" can refer to
experiences of comprehension that never rise to the intellectual
level-perhaps it might help to call them "intuitive"-and are what I
believe Pascal had in mind with his "The heart has its reasons, of which
reason knows nothing", or else (also among other possibilities) to
subjective passionate feelings that blind rather than enlighten, that
stand in the way of comprehension and the growth of wisdom.

In this formulation, the first definitions of "intellectual" and
"emotional" in each instance are equally respectable modes of
comprehension, and learning to place one's self in the world.  Each can
lead to an insight, an "aha!" that changes the way one confronts the
world and leads one's own life.  The second choices lead only to the
entrenchment of existing biases, predilections, and habits of thought
and behavior without any corresponding growth; they confine and mummify
what genius seeks to open up and enliven, and when turned to the study
of genius or great creativity, defeat the very phenomenon they examine.

Shakespeare, in my opinion, is a rare master of simultaneously
addressing both possibilities by engaging comprehension of the first
kind  through a variety of devices, including the musical quality of
verse mentioned by Grouse.

This is perhaps overwordy, but it seems important that serious and
appreciative readers like Grouse and Hawkes should not feel they are in
irretrievable disagreement simply because they employ different
faculties of comprehension for entering into Shakespeare's vast and
compassionate understanding of how we fit into the world.

anthony burton
 

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