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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: June ::
Re: Future of the Classics
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1024  Thursday, 17 June 1999.

[1]     From:   Todd M Lidh <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Jun 1999 08:52:14 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1016 Re: Future of the Classics

[2]     From:   Arthur Abel <
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        Date:   16 Jun 99 09:17:01 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 10.1016 Re: Future of the Classics

[3]     From:   Melissa D. Aaron <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Jun 1999 19:24:36 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1016 Re: Future of the Classics


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Todd M Lidh <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Jun 1999 08:52:14 -0500
Subject: 10.1016 Re: Future of the Classics
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1016 Re: Future of the Classics

>There are lots of reasons for this state of affairs, and I'm sure that
>readers of this lost can easily come up with more than one.

As a reader of this "lost," I can't help but think that Freud's slip had
something to do with this comment!

Todd M Lidh
UNC-Chapel Hill

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Arthur Abel <
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Date:           16 Jun 99 09:17:01 -0500
Subject: Re: Future of the Classics
Comment:        SHK 10.1016 Re: Future of the Classics

 >No one is  making an epic movie of Paradise Lost or The Faerie Queene,
 >and no one  seems likely to. Ditto, Chaucer, Dante, and so forth.
 >--Ed Taft

I think Chaucer's "Troilus and Cressida" would make a marvelous movie.
Plenty of chances for sex, warfare, violence, intrigue, etc.  Who, among
today's actresses could possibly play Cressida?  <sigh>  I think Chaucer
was in love with her, rather like Hardy with Eustacia Vye.

--Arthur Abel

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melissa D. Aaron <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Jun 1999 19:24:36 -0400
Subject: 10.1016 Re: Future of the Classics
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1016 Re: Future of the Classics

Ed Taft wrote:

>Roger Schmeekle's deft comments on the Future of the Classics lead me to
>add that perhaps those of us who love classic literature should not take
>too much comfort from the current Shakespeare revivial in American
>popular culture.  Shakespeare (and Jane Austen) seem to have a staying
>power that other "classic" authors lack.  No one is making an epic movie
>of Paradise Lost or The Faerie Queene, and no one seems likely to.
>Ditto, Chaucer, Dante, and so forth. In fact, in our English department,
>the disinterest in anything except women's studies and postmodern
>literature in general is pervasive. Our undergraduate and graduate
>students have to be dragged kicking and screaming into any class that
>features an author before 1900 -- except for Shakespeare, of course.

As a generalization, that's somewhat true, but I'd like to add a couple
of more hopeful riders to this.  I get a small but significant minority
of students who actually are interested in Medieval and Renaissance
literature.  Sometimes-in fact often-their interest has been piqued
already by fantasy literature, Tolkein, etc.  While they may bring some
inaccurate impressions with them, they do bring enthusiasm.
(Incidentally, I've had more success teaching Sir Gawain and the Green
Knight than Chaucer, probably for this reason.)

In addition, I've gotten a lot of comments from students, saying that
they were dreading taking the class but wound up having a great time and
enjoying it far more than they thought they would.  I've had students
tell me they read the rest of Paradise Lost over winter break.  Most
hopeful of all-one of my students told Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
to her eight-year old brother as a bedtime story.  He was so enthralled
that she came back for some more suggestions.

So while this generalization may be somewhat true, I'd really encourage
other teachers on this list to try to think positively about our
students.  Many may not ever get to adore Chaucer, but some will enjoy
it, contrary to their expectation.  I vividly remember my Greek teacher
wailing like Cassandra and two professors of Medieval lit from Cambridge
(I won't name them, but they really were great) who showed an almost
preternatural ability to morph into the Lady of the Castle or various
dirty old women.  They got me where I am (broke, but happy) and I'm
convinced the process is ongoing.

Melissa D. Aaron
University of Michigan
 

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