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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: March ::
Egan and Burt on Recent Topic of Discussion
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0571  Friday, 24 March 2000.

[1]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 22 Mar 2000 12:24:15 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0545 Europorn Macbeth on DVD

[2]     From:   Richard Burt <
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        Date:   Thursday, 23 Mar 2000 22:13:22 -0500
        Subj:   Pornography


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Wednesday, 22 Mar 2000 12:24:15 -0000
Subject: 11.0545 Europorn Macbeth on DVD
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0545 Europorn Macbeth on DVD

Richard Burt writes

>_In the Flesh_, a Europorn adaptation of _Macbeth_ will be out on DVD
>next month.  If you want to see the cover (non-explicit) and read a
>synopsis, go to http://www.vcadvd.com/dvd/intheflesh.html

Richard, you know that these postings are offending a minority of
SHAKSPERians. I've had off-list messages from Americans who support my
position but don't feel able to express this publicly because-amongst
other reasons-any perceived attack on your First Amendment right to be
offensive exposes one to vilification. (For the sake of balance, I
should report that I've had just one off-list comment telling me to 'get
a life' because the issue just isn't important enough to warrant the
attention I'm giving it.)

I'm sure you think I'm quite wrong about the porn industry, so why not
engage with what I've said and put the opposing case? I can't believe
you don't have a view on a subject which is so central to your work. I'd
be happy to go and read and respond to an argument in print (your own or
that of someone you agree with) if you'd direct me towards it.

SHAKSPER is a debating forum as well as a news-reporting forum. You've
won in so far as Hardy had agreed to keep posting your notices about
porn-Shakespeare. Can't we at least hear your views on why that victory
is deserved?

Gabriel Egan

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Burt <
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Date:           Thursday, 23 Mar 2000 22:13:22 -0500
Subject:        Pornography

Gabriel Egan does not like porn.  Fine.  Apparently, he doesn't much
like me either.  I guess I'll live.

Since I am well aware that porn is controversial and may arouse passions
of various sorts, however, I thought I would take this occasion to
clarify my purposes in posting messages about Shakespeare and sex,
including porn and strippers.

1. I think it is worth thinking about where Shakespeare shows up in mass
culture.  If he shows up in strip clubs and porn, I think that is worth
talking about (and, yes, even sometimes appreciating) regardless of
whether or not the particular example is aesthetically crude.  My
postings are meant to update work I did in my book Unspeakable
ShaXXXspeares a chapter of which is on Shakespeare porn.  Not all
readers will like my book, of course, but in its defense, I should say
that the readers were both feminist women, Laurie Osborne and Julia
Reinhard-Lupton. And it has blurbs from Stephen Orgel and Stanley Wells.
It will be reviewed in Shakespeare Quarterly, Shakespeare Bulletin,
Renaissance Quarterly, etc. My Department promoted me to Full Professor
when I got a contract for the book, and Stephen Greenblatt, Jean Howard,
and Richard Wilson were among the people who wrote letters on my behalf.
Finally, at the risk of tooting my horn too loudly, I was recently
invited to give a paper on a topic of my choice (that would include
Shakespeare porn-I checked) at the next Shakespeare World Congress.  So
the topic of Shakespeare porn seems to me like a perfectly respectable
one and well-established at that.  Lots of eminent Shakespeareans take
it seriously and regard my work as serious
scholarship.

2. I am not "promoting commercial pornography" in my posts, as Egan
charges.  I get no financial remuneration of any sort from anyone
connected with any of the examples I relay to SHAKSPER.  I never
expected that everyone on SHAKSPER would find Shakespeare porn or
Shakespeare and strippers as fascinating as I do, but I do want to let
anyone who thinks this kind of thing is worth checking out how to get it
or get to it.  I do the same thing with non-porn Shakespeare stuff.  I
am gratified to learn that many members of this listserv do find my
posts on Shakespeare porn useful.  It does not bother me at all if those
who are not interested in them hit the delete key, as Hardy suggests.

3.  As is no doubt quite obvious, I do not think porn is "horrid" or
"nasty," as Egan once put it in an earlier post, nor am I persuaded by
his 70's Dworkin / MacKinnon account of porn as equivalent to the
oppression of women (D and M argue that no woman could consent to do sex
work, and D argues that all heterosexual intercourse is rape).  I do not
think that a Shakespeare porn is the equivalent of a racist Shakespeare
production.  I think porn, like all discourses, is contradictory and
produces contradictory effects, pleasure for some men and for some women
being one of them.  I think that porn is more than one thing, and that
one can legitimately be ambivalent about it. Porn has a history.  It
changes.  There are lots of and lots of and lots of different kinds of
porn.

Many feminists and feminist sex workers (Nina Hartley is the best known
example) would agree with me, and would no doubt be insulted to that
Egan considers them to be self-subverting, young morons who are abused
by oppressive, demonic men. (For those interested in feminist arguments
made by sex workers and academics in favor of porn and stripping, you
might want to consult the notes to the second chapter of my book,
_Unspeakable ShaXXXspeares_.  If you want to read more, please contact
me off line.  I have taught several courses on obscenity and censorship,
and I have an extensive bibliography on the anti-porn / anti-anti-porn
debates.)

Many feminist Shakespeareans do not think that Shakespeare porn is so
outre as to be beyond the pale of legitimate discussion.  Lynda Boose
sent me a copy of the Playboy Twelfth Night. Laurie Osborne writes about
it in her book on Twelfth Night and owns a copy. Jean Howard, President
of SAA, will be going to the sneak preview of the stripper M for M
adaptation in NYC at Times Square.  Francesca Royster said at a 1998 MLA
session on Shakespeare and feminism (at which she gave a paper) that my
book "is a gas to read." A woman student at Bryn Mawr recently emailed
me and asked me to dub a copy of the Playboy Twelfth Night for her. I
did.   The non-Shakespearean feminists Constance Penley and Susie Bright
both teach courses on pornography at U.C. Barbara and U.C. Santa Cruz,
respectively.  There was a huge conference on porn at Cal State
Northridge a couple of years ago in which porn stars and academics alike
gave papers.

The views of (Shakespeare) porn held by academic women are hardly of the
"porn equals oppression of women, oh my god, isn't it awful? how can
they possibly talk about it in academia?" Victorian sort of Egan's.   I
am not suggesting that all of us, men and women, who teach, write about,
and / or watch (Shakespeare) porn agree with one another about its
value, or that pro-porn feminist women and I see eye-to-eye on all
aspects of (Shakespeare) porn.  Indeed, I argue in my book that
Shakespeare porn complicates the feminist pro-sex account of porn.  I am
suggesting that women on this listserv, feminist or not, don't need Egan
to protect them from (Shakespeare) porn and strippers (or, more
precisely, from my postings about same).  Who is infantilizing women
here?  And I am suggesting that academia is, fortunately, a much more
capacious and tolerant place than the politically correct morally "pure"
place Egan wishes it were.

3.  Egan seems to think he is protecting women and academia form the
evils of porn and he is willing to invite Hardy to censor me in order to
do so.  (as is typical of censors, Egan claims he is not a censor.
Jesse Helms says the same thing.)  In Egan's patronizing view, we're not
supposed to talk about porn unless we want to condemn it as "nasty."
Women who like to strip or who cast strippers as actors must be victims
of patriarchy with "false consciousness."  (They can't know their own
interests and need to have their consciousness "raised" by the likes of
self-appointed, sanctimonious cultural policemen like Egan.)  Ditto for
feminist women like Lynda Boose and Jean Howard who don't object to the
academic study of (Shakespeare) porn.  Guess they must have "false
consciousness" too.

I do share Hardy's hope that Egan will find hitting the delete key an
adequate response to this and any future postings by me concerning
Shakespeare, porn, and strippers.  If anyone, including Egan, would like
to respond privately to this post, please feel free to do so by emailing
me at


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Sincerely,
Richard Burt
 

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