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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: January ::
Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0184  Friday, 28 January 2000.

[1]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Jan 2000 09:51:55 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0176 Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility

[2]     From:   Judith Matthews Craig <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Jan 2000 19:21:54 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0176 Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Jan 2000 09:51:55 -0800
Subject: 11.0176 Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0176 Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility

Patrick Dolan writes:

> I'd probably be interested too, depending on where the "aren't material"
> "shouldn't be" come from. If they come from your twentieth century
> Christianity or my spirituality whatever it may be, then the article may
> take its interest from its illumination of the spiritual, but I don't
> think it would be very interested in a scholarly discussion of
> Shakespeare.
>
> On the other hand, if they come from an understanding of the cultural
> and social standing of love and friendship in Shakespeare's culture and
> the discourse(s) of the play then we may have (scholarly) gold.

The problem with an historicist argument, though, is that it can melt
the "shouldn't be" back into cultural history, which itself is
materially determined.  I think that this is the problem Marx gets
himself into.  He's clearly driven by a moral imperative, but then
considers moral imperatives to all be matters of class consciousness.
So his argument betrays its ultimate grounds.

Historicist arguments always strike me as undertaking a similar risk, or
rather, always subtly betraying themselves.  We want to find a
historical ground for the various concerns we project unto the past.  On
the other hand, if we actually succeed, we turn them into being just
historically determined.  To return to the example:  if we show that the
sixteenth-century would be critical of the Christians in Merchant of
Venice for turning things like friendship into material, then we might
just be pointing towards Renaissance ideology, which, in turn, we
explain in material terms, much as the Christians in the play explain
friendship in material terms.  This is all sort of convoluted, but the
upshot is that we can study historical ethics without actually escaping
the elephants-all-the-way-down syndrome.  We can still betray the
ethical claim which drew us to make a criticism of the play, or the
characters, or sixteenth-century society in the first place.

> I hope
> you'll agree, Sean, that love and friendship aren't and can't be
> entirely divorced from materiality

 

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