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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: September ::
Re: First Folios
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1545  Thursday, 2 September 1999.

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 31 Aug 1999 12:19:13 -0700
        Subj:   SHK 10.1533 Re: First Folios

[2]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 31 Aug 1999 16:02:03 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1533 Re: First Folios


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Tuesday, 31 Aug 1999 12:19:13 -0700
Subject: Re: First Folios
Comment:        SHK 10.1533 Re: First Folios

Ah, there is no end to it.  I snipe at Terry Hawkes.  Terry Hawkes
snipes at me. In Tuesday's SHAKSPER was Terry's message:

>(T)he 'Norton facsimile' of the First Folio is still not a facsimile of
>any existing First Folio. It follows that this 'tool' is a modern
>construction, itself dependent on modern modes of mechanical
>reproduction and, in its commitment to that modern abstraction, 'the'
>First Folio text, undoubtedly at risk of imposing the prejudices those
>modes embody onto a culture to which they are potentially alien. It is
>the first duty of any scholar to examine the 'tools' with which he or
>she is presented and expected to work.  These are rarely neutral
>implements. Failure to take account of the extent to which any 'tool' is
>likely to impose the presuppositions which shaped it on to the material
>to which it is applied is a major dereliction of scholarly duty. Your
>Golden Quill is hereby rescinded. Further outbursts may be reported to
>Mr. Jensen.

Hey Terry, don't try to make me the recipient of your hate mail.  I have
enough of my own!  Besides, what is the point of my writing letters to
you and addressing them to myself?

Actually, I pretty much agree with Terry on this.  (I know.  I'm shocked
too.)  My only quibble is the implication, which he may not embrace,
that a book like the Norton is therefore useless for understanding what
Shakespeare's friends understood the play texts to be.

IF the scholars have guessed right about which pages are corrections, IF
they have guessed right that they are corrections, then something like
the Norton COULD give us something closer to the text his theatre
cronies wanted than any extant copy of the First Folio can.  That was
the intention behind the Norton.

The success of that intention, as with most scholarly tools, is
undecided in my opinion.  Someday the theory behind it may be overturned
and the compilation folios will seem quaint foibles of the limited 20th
century mind.  Perhaps the theory will stand and the tool will continue
to prove useful.  Terry seems to imply that it is just a fashion like
cultural materialism.  It may be.  I'll wait and hope I live long enough
to find out.

Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Tuesday, 31 Aug 1999 16:02:03 -0400
Subject: 10.1533 Re: First Folios
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1533 Re: First Folios

Terence Hawkes writes:

". . . the fact remains that the 'Norton facsimile' of the First Folio
is still not a facsimile of any existing First Folio. [Haven't we
conceded this point?] It follows that this 'tool' is a modern
construction, itself dependent on modern modes of mechanical
reproduction and, in its commitment to that modern abstraction, 'the'
First Folio text, undoubtedly at risk of imposing the prejudices those
modes embody onto a culture to which they are potentially alien. It is
the first duty of any scholar to examine the 'tools' with which he or
she is presented and expected to work.  These are rarely neutral
implements.  Failure to take account of the extent to which any 'tool'
is likely to impose the presuppositions which shaped it on to the
material to which it is applied is a major dereliction of scholarly
duty."

First, tools do not "impose" anything on anyone.  The word "impose"
suggests conscious action.  The Hinman Folio does not "force" me to do
anything.  I can close it, and drive over to the Folger.  Does this act
get me closer to 1623?

Second, if the 1623 Folio was set from a variety of manuscripts and
quartos, then the publishers, editors, and compositors of the time must
have had some sense or senses of "text."  We can never be sure if their
ideas of the text accord precisely or imprecisely with ours.  We can
never be sure that "our" abstractions did not exist in the minds of
people long dead.

Third, what are the failings of the Hinman Folio?  Are there mistakes in
Hinman's text? And why did he select one page over another for
reproduction?   Here are some things that we can look at precisely.

We all know that we must live in the present, that we do not have direct
access to the past or the future.  We have made our tools; we
acknowledge that they are historically contingent and finite.  Let's
make the best of them that we can, and stop complaining about what
cannot be altered.

Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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