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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: June ::
Re: Future of the Classics
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1065  Friday, 25 June 1999.

[1]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Thursday, 24 Jun 1999 10:06:26 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1058 SHK 10.1058

[2]     From:   Harry Hill <
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        Date:   Thursday, 24 Jun 1999 09:06:21 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1058


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Thursday, 24 Jun 1999 10:06:26 +0000
Subject: 10.1058 SHK 10.1058
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1058 SHK 10.1058

>Do you mean the learning of any text? In the same sentence you use
>"culture" to mean something like 'a collection of intellectual and
>social values common to an ethnic group' ("any culture and background")
>and to mean 'appreciation of high artistic achievements' ("calls herself
>cultured").

The conflation of "a collection of intellectual and social values common
to an ethnic group" with "high artistic achievements" is actually pretty
common.  It's the only real excuse for writing books about Shakespeare
and 16th century society.  If the highest achievements of a culture do
not have a privileged place as its representative bearers of its
meaning, then the levels of scholarly interest in Shakespeare and the
Book of Common Prayer should be reversed.

>Since Shakespeare lurks behind this assertion-that's why I ask if you
>mean ANY text-these two uses of 'culture' are significant. Surely the
>tension between the two meanings, between 'that which is common to a
>group' and 'that which is excellent' is the crux of the matter, since
>the implication of your assertion is that Shakespeare is inherently good
>for the reader and hence non-white, male, middle-class tastes are
>inferior.

I'm not sure where you're going with this last sentence, but I would
point out that there are many "white, male, middle-class tastes" that
are inferior, on many grounds, to Shakespeare:  expensive sports, for
instance, or upscale pornography.  Associating Shakespeare with a
particular class and society doesn't exhaust his interest, though
associating him with a particular culture might serve to enrich our
understanding of that culture.  If that culture is our own, if we intend
to possess it (and should we possess it?  should it not rather possess
us?), then studying and memorizing its highest achievements seems like
the direct route towards appropriation and empowerment.

Cheers,
Se

 

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