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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: January ::
Re: Seeking Enlightenment
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0167  Wednesday, 26 January 2000.

[1]     From:   Mark Perew <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 25 Jan 2000 06:49:36 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Subject: Re: SHK 11.0159 Re: Seeking Enlightenment

[2]     From:   Dale Lyles <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 25 Jan 2000 11:30:50 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0159 Re: Seeking Enlightenment

[3]     From:   Jean Peterson <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 25 Jan 2000 11:59:34 -0500
        Subj:   More enlightenment

[4]     From:   Simon Malloch <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 26 Jan 2000 01:04:34 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0159 Re: Seeking Enlightenment

[5]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 25 Jan 2000 09:15:10 -0800
        Subj:   SHK 11.0159 Re: Seeking Enlightenment

[6]     From:   Peter M. McCluskey <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 25 Jan 2000 11:18:23 -0600
        Subj:   Playboy MND/Bardcore Pornography

[7]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 25 Jan 2000 18:48:43 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0159 Re: Seeking Enlightenment

[8]     From:   Norman J. Myers <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 25 Jan 2000 15:11:13 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0159 Re: Seeking Enlightenment (Shakespeare
Pornography)

[9]     From:   Marti Markus <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 25 Jan 2000 22:36:29 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0159 Re: Seeking Enlightenment

[10]    From:   Jack Heller <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 26 Jan 2000 05:13:44 -0500
        Subj:   Shakexporn


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mark Perew <
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Date:           Tuesday, 25 Jan 2000 06:49:36 -0800 (PST)
Subject: SHK 11.0159 Re: Seeking Enlightenment
Comment:        Subject: Re: SHK 11.0159 Re: Seeking Enlightenment

Larry Weiss <
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 > asks:

>BTW, are the performances in question really "pornographic" or are they
>just nude?

While one can make an intellectual distinction between "pornographic"
and "just nude", I offer the observation that for the vast majority of
males, and not a few females, the practical distinction is non-existent.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dale Lyles <
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Date:           Tuesday, 25 Jan 2000 11:30:50 EST
Subject: 11.0159 Re: Seeking Enlightenment
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0159 Re: Seeking Enlightenment

What's this about "old, dead white nudes"???

Oh.  Never mind.

Dale Lyles, whose withers are unwrung
Newnan Community Theatre Company

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jean Peterson <
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Date:           Tuesday, 25 Jan 2000 11:59:34 -0500
Subject:        More enlightenment

My vote is with those who find Richard Burt's occasional posts on the
use of Shakespearean references on the cultural fringes a "legitimate"
topic for this list-the reasons have been amply stated, and I won't
repeat them here.

I take exception to the suggestion recently made that the content of the
list be censored to prevent "tempting underage persons" to follow links
to pornographic sites.  My understanding is that this is an on-line
conversation for and by adult scholars.  Regulating the behavior of
"underage" persons who happen to be listening in is not our province,
and should not be permitted to intimidate our discussion.  Teenagers who
want to look at on-line pornography are going to do so, regardless of
whether or not they find links on SHAKSPER.

Jean Peterson
Associate Professor of English
Bucknell University

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Simon Malloch <
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Date:           Wednesday, 26 Jan 2000 01:04:34 +0800
Subject: 11.0159 Re: Seeking Enlightenment
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0159 Re: Seeking Enlightenment

> Cumulatively they present a pattern which can
> be valuable, especially as one attempts to open the plays and poetry to
> students who have difficulty in understanding the modern relevance of
> work from "old, dead white dudes".

> Scooby Doo, Star Trek,  doo-wop songs, advertising, Playboy or porn-it
> all adds-up, even if (like me) you've never seen Scooby Doo or
> checked-out "Romeo and Dudeliet".
>
> This pattern may be only a small aid, but it may also be the point which
> opens the door.  If it is the key to the door, isn't it worthy?

I have trouble coming to grips with this line of thinking.  What is on
the other side of the door for these students, raised on popular culture
and who may be able to come to the classics through popular culture?  If
they can satisfy their fleeting interest for Shakespeare or for Jane
Austen in the movies or on tv,  what is the likelihood that they will
pick up the novel or the play (and this is the suggestion of the post -
that "Romeo and Dudeliet" may lead students back to the bookshelf)?  And
why should they,  in the end, pick up the book or the play?  Why read
Austen and Shakespeare when the study of their presence in popular
culture is promoted at universities as an equally valid,  if not
superior,  enterprise?  Why privilege reading Shakespeare or Austen,
and how does one privilege reading?  Is the response or the medium in
which Shakespeare or Austen is encountered any more valid than another?
Is there something about Shakespeare, dare I say it,  which they are not
getting through the channels of popular culture?

One could go on.  The point is that students presently are already
immersed in popular culture;  they do not need to go to university to
study it.  Exposure to a catalogue of Shakespeare appearances in popular
culture will not necessarily send students racing to the library;  they
will simply not be inclined to engage Shakespeare from outside of
popular culture.  Let us hope that you have some success.

Simon Malloch.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Tuesday, 25 Jan 2000 09:15:10 -0800
Subject: Re: Seeking Enlightenment
Comment:        SHK 11.0159 Re: Seeking Enlightenment

There is a blip on my "self-righteous alert" radar.

We live in an era when Shakespeare studies has diverged into many new
areas.  Some are exciting, some are dead ends, some are self-indulgent.
To say that posting references on Shakespeare in popular culture sheds
little light on the plays, as several did in Tuesday's posts, is
completely true and completely misses the point.

One of these divergent studies is what appropriating Shakespearean
references for movies, TV, comic books, romance novels, and yes, even
pornography, tells us about our society and its historical and current
fascination with Shakespeare.  Sometimes it is just to exploit a title,
sometimes it is to cloak an artifact in respectability.  Shakespeare is
put to many uses.  All tell us something about ourselves and our world.
A good book that explores this in recent society is Richard Burt's
Unspeakable Shaxxxspeares : Queer Theory and American Kiddie Culture.  I
didn't learn a thing about the plays, but I did learn something about
the world I live in.

Look, I don't really "get it" either.  I come across probably 2 or 3
Shakespearean references a week, mostly from the 1930s to the 1960s, and
so unlikely to be noticed by many people today.  Every time I tell
myself I should send it to the SHAKSPER list for those who map such
things, but I can't get myself to care enough to act on it.  On the
other hand, I would never tell Richard Burt, or anyone, not to follow
their scholarly instincts or interests.  They may not be mine, but St.
Martin's Press thought there were of sufficient interest to publish the
book in both hard covers and paperback.

This of course is entirely beside the point raised by Gabriel Egan about
the moral and political problems of pornography.  Since pornography, for
right or wrong, is a part of society, it is a legitimate source of
moral, political, religious, sociological, psychological, legal, and
yes, even scholarly inquiry, at least in the way Richard treats it, and
possibly beyond that.

I'll take it all back when your school offers Pornography 101.

Your's for fearless inquiry,
Mike Jensen

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter M. McCluskey <
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Date:           Tuesday, 25 Jan 2000 11:18:23 -0600
Subject:        Playboy MND/Bardcore Pornography

Richard Burt states, "Playboy is doing a live broadcast of their version
of A Midsummer Night's Dream," yet the website in question recounts what
appears to have been a live webcast of a party at Hef's Playboy Mansion
last summer.  Apart from the words "Midsummer Night's Dream," nothing at
this site suggests even remotely that this webcast was a performance (or
adaptation) of the play.  Judging from the accompanying party pictures,
a more appropriate title for the site (an ideal place to expend some
spirits in a waste of shame) would be "Bottom's Dream."

Continuing on with the crucial project of cataloguing every discernible
trace of Shakespeare in contemporary culture, I'd like to add several
recent Shakespeare sightings: on a recent rerun of Walt Disney's "Davy
Crockett" tv show, the title character exits, pursued by a bear; my
dictionary (Webster's) contains the word "hamlet"; and my apartment
complex has a unit "2B."

Puckishly,
Pete McCluskey (in a plain brown wrapper)

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Tuesday, 25 Jan 2000 18:48:43 -0000
Subject: 11.0159 Re: Seeking Enlightenment
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0159 Re: Seeking Enlightenment

Sean Lawrence asks a question often used within defences of pornography
(although I don't mean to imply that Sean intends such a defence):

>Would a gay production of MND be better?  What about
>pornography that aims at a female audience?

The pornography industry feeds upon vulnerable people, many of whom have
suffered appalling abuse which alters their perception of sex. Abuse
victims commonly feel like they are receiving love when they are being
exploited, and they will insist that they are empowered by their work.
This is delusional.

Gay pornography clearly is less problematic because men, in general, are
less exploited than woman. Nonetheless, poor actors of both sexes do
take jobs in the porn industry in moments of great need. Regular
pornography IS aimed at a female audience, isn't it? Surely that's the
bizarre mind-flip identified by gaze theory: women have to see the world
as men because much of the world addresses itself to a male consumer. If
I've misunderstood this I'd appreciate correction. (My wife recalls
being a child and seeing a coin-operated peepshow-machine labelled
"Girls! Girls! Girls!", which she naively thought was hailing her as a
potential viewer-what a miserable letdown to discover what the machine
really offered and to whom.)

Western intellectuals who use porn might excuse themselves for this
failing just as they might excuse themselves for driving a car when they
know that the world can't stand the pollution or for eating beef when
they know that Brazilian rainforests are being destroyed to supply their
demand. These are understandable failings. But those who seek to promote
pornography as empowerment of women really are evil since they can
hardly have failed to see the connection between this industry, sexual
abuse, and the generally lamentable condition of women throughout the
world.

Gabriel Egan

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Norman J. Myers <
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Date:           Tuesday, 25 Jan 2000 15:11:13 -0500
Subject: 11.0159 Re: Seeking Enlightenment (Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0159 Re: Seeking Enlightenment (Shakespeare
Pornography)

And the irony behind this particular thread is that the Playboy
"Midsummer Night's Dream," apart from the title, apparently has nothing
whatsoever to do with Shakespeare.  Apparently it isn't even a
pornographic take off but rather has something to do with a party at
Heffner's mansion.  So in typical academic fashion, we're probably
spinning out the thread of our verbosity finer than the staple of our
argument.

Norman Myers

[9]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marti Markus <
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Date:           Tuesday, 25 Jan 2000 22:36:29 +0100
Subject: 11.0159 Re: Seeking Enlightenment
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0159 Re: Seeking Enlightenment

Maybe Shakespeare is for grown-ups only, after all? (Who else should be
morally entitled to watch and/or even to enjoy nudity?)

In Zeffirelli's kitschy ROMEO AND JULIET the nude scenes seem to me much
more arousing than the duelling scenes, whereas erotic and (or "or":
what is the difference?) pornographic scenes are unfortunately missing
in ROMEO + JULIET.

What about some good "action films" (e.g. some of the histories) for the
kids, and good and decent porn (some of the comedies, some of the
tragedies) for grown-ups, and all the rest (Timon of Athens, Henry VIII,
Hamlet and some of the Sonnets) for queers, lesbians or for school use?

MM

[10]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
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Date:           Wed, 26 Jan 2000 05:13:44 -0500
Subject:        Shakexporn

Since I started this thread, and now have had a chance to see some
responses, I've been reminded of another Shakespeare line that may be
pertinent to this debate:

Th'expense of spirit in a waste of shame/Is lust in action.
Sonnet 129

I don't think that any worthwhile scholar of Renaissance drama can
overlook the erotic dimensions of the works, including the stated
purposes of some drama to provoke erotic interest. (For an example of
that, read the epistle to the readers in The Roaring Girl.) Therefore, I
have no interest in being cast in this debate as Philip Stubbes (though,
given the opportunity, I would like to play Malvolio).

I followed the link to the Playboy MND. There were rather more bottoms
there than I can remember encountering in reading and seeing the play
performed. I wasn't offended by the website; I was bored. What was I
supposed to gain from this experience? How was my knowledge of either
Shakespeare or popular culture supposed to change?

The defenses of the postings of porno-references to Shakespeare are
rather more engaged in intellectual discourse than the postings of
porno-references themselves have been. And that has been one of the
problems with those postings. What am I supposed to do with the
knowledge of a Juliet centerfold? Run out and buy a copy of Penthouse to
see the centerfold for myself? Subscribe to Penthouse so that I can make
sure that I won't miss even one future reference to Shakespeare? Tell my
students about it? (Some of them would be more likely to tell me about
it.)

Just how much Penthouse must one look at to find these references? And
what is one's motive for looking there?

Before, a joy propos'd; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.
Sonnet 129

Jack Heller
 

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