Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: October ::
Re: Paraphrasing the Sonnets
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1810  Monday, 25 October 1999.

[1]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Sunday, 24 Oct 1999 08:42:04 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1795 Re: Paraphrasing the Sonnets

[2]     From:   Larry Weiss <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Sunday, 24 Oct 1999 01:48:59 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1795 Re: Paraphrasing the Sonnets

[3]     From:   Parviz Nourpanah <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 25 Oct 1999 14:34:01 +0330 (IST)
        Subj:   Thank You Everybody


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson-Kranz <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Sunday, 24 Oct 1999 08:42:04 +1000
Subject: 10.1795 Re: Paraphrasing the Sonnets
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1795 Re: Paraphrasing the Sonnets

When I first read Heidi Webb Arnold's reply to Parviz Nourpanah's query
a couple of days, my first impulse was to dash off a scathing reply.  I
hesitated, however, and confined myself to a peripheral (albeit slightly
sarcastic) remark, because I began to think that Ms. Arnold sounded like
a defensive and insecure undergraduate, and that truly taking her answer
apart would be the rhetorical equivalent of dropping the bomb on
Luxembourg.  I did enjoy Dr. Egan's remarks (the Bobby Sands Street in
Tehran note is quite wonderful!).

I think now that I will make a couple of further comments.  Parviz
Nourpanah's initial query included the following:

>I know this is the kind of query that scholars rightly abhor

It seems to me that Nourpanah (and Arnold, who I will address in a
moment) has said something here that those of us who teach, study, and
write about Shakespeare (and other texts, as well) might want to take
into account.  Nourpanah, like many of my East- and Southeast Asian
students, shows considerable respect toward the "scholarly" tradition,
but respect to the point that there is much hesitation in making a quite
legitimate request.  Those of us who teach students whose first language
is not English should, I think, take note, and make available, if
needed, the kind of further explication (or "paraphrasing") which
Nourpanah requests.

Heidi Webb Arnold then wrote:

>I know that critics are smarter and more sophisticated than I am but that
>is still what I think.

A much different response, but one which I also recognize from some of
my own students.  Here, I would say to Ms. Arnold that whether the
critics are "smarter and more sophisticated" than you are is quite
irrelevant to the value of your thinking and analysis of a text, be it
one of Shakespeare's Sonnets or any other.  What is relevant, however,
is that you need to show (if you want anyone to take you seriously, at
least) that you have carefully thought about "what you think," that you
have concrete support for what you think, and that what you think is
truly an opinion-something considered and reasoned-and not just a
knee-jerk reaction.  As teachers, I believe that we need to do a better
job of helping our students do just this: give them the tools they need
to make intelligent responses to difficult texts like the Sonnets, so
that they are not left making defensive (bordering on hostile) comments
such as those made by Ms. Arnold.

And then there is this:

> [snip] if you read the poem, and say the words, you can feel
>the light from the poem's heart come into your room.  You might notice
>that at the sonnet's turn, the poet can stand up and gather the sonnet's
>images into his hands.

I know people who teach stuff like this..."light from the poem's heart,"
"gathering the images into his hands," etc., etc.  It seems especially
prevalent among those who have an interest in, or also teach, "creative
writing."  I believe that this kind of romanticized approach to poetry
is thought to be more "egalitarian" in some way...that students who have
had, perhaps, poor foundations in reading "literary" texts are better
able to "appreciate" poetry if they are encouraged to "respond"
emotionally.

This is a double edged sword.  True, there will be a few people like
Heidi Webb Arnold who enthusiastically embrace a text-say, a
Shakespearian sonnet-based on their affective responses to "light" from
the poem's "heart."  It has been my experience, however, that far more
people will not have a demi-orgasmic response-not without a lot of
"evil" critical explication, at least.  If the emotional response felt
by the reader is the only evaluative criterion deemed legitimate, those
students who do not respond positively risk being labeled as
"unappreciative," and may feel discouraged about further reading and
study.  This seems particularly true (again, in my experience) with
students whose first language is something other than English, or who
have been educated in a non-Western culture tradition.  A professor, or
a classmate, emoting about "gathering images in his hands," can seem
quite mystifying to someone who is not a native English speaker.  (Of
course, it seems pretty mystifying to me, too!)

I think I had better stop now.  I feel better.

Yours in the tropics,
Karen Peterson-Kranz
Dept. of English and Applied Linguistics
University of Guam

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Sunday, 24 Oct 1999 01:48:59 -0400
Subject: 10.1795 Re: Paraphrasing the Sonnets
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1795 Re: Paraphrasing the Sonnets

>One imagines that the gall rises in British government officials forced
>to address their diplomatic mail to the British Embassy, Bobby Sands
>Street, Tehran.

I trust that H.M. Government does not transmit its diplomatic signals in
this fashion.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Parviz Nourpanah <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 25 Oct 1999 14:34:01 +0330 (IST)
Subject:        Thank You Everybody

I was absolutely amazed by the host of kind offers of help in reading
the sonnets - I must admit that, having seen reaction to such pleas for
help on other literature lists (they are usually interpreted as a way of
getting easy help with overdue essays, as was once discussed on this
list) I expected no such thing, I really don't know where to start
responding.  This message is only a general, paltry vote of thanks,
before I start devouring the particular messages in my mailbox.

To Heidi: Thank you for your assurances that I was better off without
critcism, but I'm afraid your mail, eloquent as it was, left me
unconvinced. There are some phrases in the sonnets which I just don't
understand, and no amount of reading out loud is going to help me,
whereas sound scholarship, I believe (and hope) will. And passing
"A"-level English literature with a very "crusty", thorough and
dedicated English teacher, to whom I am eternally grateful, infused my
love of words with a desire for as much specific information as possible
on every turn of phrase and nuance of speech.

Thanks again, everybody with suggestions and offers of help.

P. Nourpanah
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.