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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: March ::
Re: The Topic that Will Not Speak Its Name
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0624  Thursday, 30 March 2000.

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 29 Mar 2000 09:32:18 -0800
        Subj:   Re: The Topic that Will Not Speak Its Name

[2]     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 29 Mar 2000 20:47:07 GMT
        Subj:   Re: The Topic that Will Not Speak Its Name

[3]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 29 Mar 2000 21:48:23 +0100
        Subj:   Re: The Topic that Will Not Speak Its Name

[4]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 29 Mar 2000 22:26:59 +0100
        Subj:   Re: The Topic that Will Not Speak Its Name

[5]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 29 Mar 2000 22:26:59 +0100
        Subj:   Re: The Topic that Will Not Speak Its Name

[6]     From:   Graham Bradshaw <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Mar 2000 16:05:49 +0900
        Subj:   Re: The Topic that Will Not Speak Its Name

[7]     From:   Graham Bradshaw <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Mar 2000 16:05:49 +0900
        Subj:   Re: The Topic that Will Not Speak Its Name

[8]     From:   Allan Blackman <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Mar 2000 05:37:37 -0500
        Subj:   Bottoms


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Wednesday, 29 Mar 2000 09:32:18 -0800
Subject:        Re: The Topic that Will Not Speak Its Name

To Ian Munro:

> the idea that those in Shakespeare's time had no recourse
> to commercial pornography seems suspect to me

I did not say that. I said we can not find his mind on the current
debate since the current debate did not exist in his time, and it did
not.  There were no porn videos at that time, nor was there a list like
SHAKSPER where some members informed others of the existence of porn
videos, videos which appropriate Shakespeare for their own ends.

To Judith Craig:

> Mike Jensen seems to think that this issue is as off the subject as
> space travel would be to Shakespeare.  Somehow, I keep thinking that
> we lose the man here-maybe we have never known him... I am certainly
> no Puritan, and I don't think Shakespeare was either, but
> it does seem that some standard must be waved in the direction of
> responsible evaluation of the FACTS.

If Ms. Craig read my response carefully, she found these words

> One can try to guess what his attitudes would be IF he knew about the
> porn industry c. 2000 C. E., based on the bawdy content of his plays and
> the contemporary stories about him, but nothing in the extant poems,
> plays, or legal documents addresses this issue, nor can they.

Believe me, I understand how difficult it is to give up an interpretive
tool you want to use, especially when it is the only tool you have.  I
have made the same mistake.  Nonetheless, the conclusion is inescapable
that Shakespeare will be forever silent on the current debate.  We can
make guesses, as I said, but they are only guesses.  They will come to
no satisfying conclusion, and can not since this debate was not current
for him.

Scholars use a similar technique to try to understand his political
feelings.  Some conclude he was he a royalist, some that he was a
rebel.  The evidence is interpreted variously.  If that is true, how
hopeless it is to try to find final answers to a modern debate in his
bawdy.

Besides, what does it matter what he would have thought?  With due
respect to Shakespeare, it is a debate for the end of the 20th century
that will no doubt last into the 21st.  It is our issue, for our time,
in a form that did not exist in his time.

Sincerely,
Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Wednesday, 29 Mar 2000 20:47:07 GMT
Subject:        Re: The Topic that Will Not Speak Its Name

In response to Richard Burt:

I don't think I misunderstand Milton - that's why I quoted the Auden
first - we all (probably) have our limits to the liberal notion of free
dissemination of information.  I still think he makes some telling
points rather better than most since...

David Lindley

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Wednesday, 29 Mar 2000 21:48:23 +0100
Subject:        Re: The Topic that Will Not Speak Its Name

Jean Peterson writes

> If women approximately half my age tell me they
> find it empowering to call each other "bitch," or
> that they enjoy pornography, who am I to tell them
> they must be misguided or mistaken?

Each to their own teaching method, I grant you. But being an educator
does imply that one wants to change and improve the minds of others. If
you think you know more about literature than they do (which is not
necessarily your field, just an example) then why assume that concerning
linguistic politics your students know better than you?

On a more practical level, may they affectionately call you "bitch"?

Gabriel Egan

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Wednesday, 29 Mar 2000 22:26:59 +0100
Subject:        Re: The Topic that Will Not Speak Its Name

To John Lee and Alice Jane Cooley: concerning "bottoms" and "-anus", I'm
afraid I was only pulling your leg. (I'd say "yanking you", but over
here THAT has a sexual connotation.)

Werner Broennimann writes

> "Bottom" refers to the pubic region in 17th-century use.  The confusion
> arises from the US meaning of "ass" (British asses having an "arse"),
> which gives Bottom in MND a meaning that is anachronistic and
> preposterous.

Surely a woman's "front-bottom" (UK-English for vagina) is also her
"fanny" (UK-English for vagina) and the Americanisms are, ahem,
back-to-front?

To "bum" also means "to ask for pleadingly" and a "fag" is a cigarette.
In North Carolina I suggested to a chain-smoking colleague that, having
inadvertently left his supply at home, he might approach one of my
students to "bum a fag". How we laughed.

Gabriel Egan

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Mar 2000 00:34:58 +0100
Subject: 11.0608 The Topic that Will Not Speak Its Name
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0608 The Topic that Will Not Speak Its Name

Ian Munro writes

> . . .  the idea that those in Shakespeare's time had
> no recourse to commercial pornography seems
> suspect to me (although I've never researched it).  Of
> course, in the absence of photography it's possible
> that the issues that people are finding most vexing
> here wouldn't apply.

Giulio Romano's I modi erotic drawings (16 of them) were widely
disseminated through Europe as engravings and depicted a variety of
positions of sexual intercourse; Shakespeare probably saw them in this
form, and would certainly at least have heard of them and their content.
Aretino, Romano's friend, claimed to have been inspired by the erotic
pictures to write 16 sonnets. There are references to Aretino in
Jonson's Volpone (1605-6) and The Alchemist (1610) as well as in Thomas
Nashe's 1594 novel The Unfortunate Traveller.

The dramatists seem to have thought that the name "Aretino" connoted
pornography, but it is certainly possible to defend these works at
least. If one agrees with Freud that pornography represents the
fantasies of infantile sexual life (in particular omnipotence and
narcissism) and isn't really genital at all, then, as B J Sokol argued,
the pictures' interest in the effort required for pleasure rescues them
from the label.

The medium (photography versus engraving) doesn't come into this kind of
distinction. Ian Munro is right that it's the modern porn industry's
dependence on live subjects that's crucial to the argument that it is
exploitative, aside from the argument that it harms its consumers too.

Gabriel Egan

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Bradshaw <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Mar 2000 16:05:49 +0900
Subject:        Re: The Topic that Will Not Speak Its Name

The discussion of "Shakespearean" porn is splendidly vigorous. Can we
hope for something no less excited and excitingly timely on metrics in
poetic drama?

Cheers, Graham Bradshaw

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Bradshaw <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Mar 2000 16:05:49 +0900
Subject:        Re: The Topic that Will Not Speak Its Name

Marilyn Bonomi says,

>I also
>do not ever say "penis" because that one word embarrasses them more than
>any number of "can't get it up" references....  I tell them about
>Partridge;

This raises another issue about the way in which we use language to talk
about the things of which prudery does not approve. Here Ms Bonomi is
being truly Shakespearean, for playwright and audience would have fully
understood the "Can't get it up" references. When, however, she refers
to "swords and weapons being code words for pen[ises].", I think she has
missed her own point. The code words are, in fact, the Latin ones.
(Incidentally, and with respect, the Latin plural of "penis" is
"penes").

A quick skim of today's bulletin postings on this topic shows a number
of Latin words used as euphemisms, e.g.:- fellatio, anus, and
masturbating. Two contributors (Tom Reedy and Jean Peterson) both
distinguish between "erotica" ("That's the word I use if I like it") and
"pornography" (a Greek form, so clearly much less respectable).

I guess we all use Latin in this way, but why? It certainly seems not to
have been a renaissance usage, when all the learned had at least "small
Latin". Perhaps Shakespeare understood that the unlearned enjoyed sex,
and joked about it, just as much as those who could read Ovid (or
Aristophanes).

So why has Latin become so rich a vein of euphemism, at a time when even
the learned cannot always manipulate the inflexions precisely?  In my
part of the English midlands we would describe this as being "Anus over
face" (or something like that.)

Peter Hillyar-Russ

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Allan Blackman <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Mar 2000 05:37:37 -0500
Subject:        Bottoms

Concerning what "bottom" could mean in Elizabethan times, I would point
to the character Mistress Frigbottom in Dekker's The Shoemaker's Holiday
(1600).   Could someone familiar with the play enlighten us further?

Allan Blackman
 

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