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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: July ::
Re: Shakespeare as Bible
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1407  Friday, 14 July 2000.

[1]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Thursday, 13 Jul 2000 21:58:39 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1370 Re: Shakespeare as Bible

[2]     From:   Florence Amit <
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        Date:   Friday, 14 Jul 2000 08:26:41 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1331 Re: Shakespeare as Bible


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Thursday, 13 Jul 2000 21:58:39 -0700
Subject: 11.1370 Re: Shakespeare as Bible
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1370 Re: Shakespeare as Bible

Clifford claims that the charge of being "totalizing" is
incomprehensible. I refer him to an earlier thread, where he says that
"it's material all the way down", thereby claiming a place for politics
which excludes all else in literary and (for that matter) every other
sort of analysis, as an illustrative example of totalizing thought.  If
he doesn't want to be held to this statement, he can always recant.

I would further refer him to Levinas's _Totality and Infinity_, a work
by a well-known Talmudist, showing how monotheism implies something
coming from without, rather than the mystificism of rapture or the
"inhuman determinism" of politics.  This work was admired not only by
the current Pope, who invited Professor Levinas to the Vatican, but also
by Jacques Derrida, who delivered his funeral oration.  The theses of
the work have been taken up by a large number of thinekrs, notably
Jean-Luc Marion, whose works such as _God without Being_ argue for
something coming to the totalizing system from without.  It is cited
with some admiration, though not with entire agreement, by Derrida in
the footnotes to "Comment ne pas parler?"  So much for my being an
"antipostructuralist New New Critic".

Cliff claims to have used the argument that everything ultimately relies
upon politics only once.  He did, however, strenuously defend the thesis
that "it's material all the way down" on an earlier thread, and his
argument against my rhetoric is an effort to show "that all that you
take as concrete presence is merely linguistic difference masquerading
as such". Leaving aside the fact that I have consistently argued for
otherness which is not present (as vorhandensein, say) but absent as the
infinite distance of a command coming from afar, I might point out that
this pseudo-argument provides yet another example of making the system
all-inclusive or, as I would unapologetically say, totalizing.

Yet a further example is provided in his respond to Mike that "purely
aestheticist critics, or those who claim that such a thing is possible"
rely fundamentally on history, once more arguing that there is no
escaping history.  The example of the changing meanings of a word does
not in any way disprove my strong claim that it is not elephants all the
way down, that ethics or aesthetics have independent grounds which are
not fundamentally products of politics however much they may be
imbricated in politics.  This does, however, provide a further example
of what is clearly a habitual argument, that there is no outside of the
political/material/linguistic/let's-all-just-call-it-Bob system.

Moreover, I have always been willing to admit that politics is, that is
has a basis and a logic all too painfully and often at odds with ethics
or aesthetics.  I challenge him to find a single instance in which I
claim that politics is not, or that it does not have its own logic and
structure. He has never once, as far as I can recall, admitted a place
for ethics and aesthetics which would be independent of politics.  You
say that "there is nothing in historicist criticism that prevents making
use of [exploiting?] aesthetic and structural elements in developing a
reading of literary works," but such a reading would remain a
historicist reading.  It would not provide a position outside the
system.

This is all I have been arguing for, and I'm willing to believe that
it's all anyone on this list has been arguing for, the right to do other
types of criticism unapologetically, to escape the command of that
mysterious god who has made all things politics.

I should end on a note of bewilderment.  Cliff argues against the market
on ethical grounds in another thread, that the market is only "fair"
insofar as labour is not seen as people:

> As long as you never succumb to the temptation to see people as
> human beings, or to the delusion that human suffering is relevant to the
> market (beyond helping to set the level of "market wages") you can pass
> free market capitalism off as "fair."

More power to you, since we seem strangely to be agreeing.  My question
is why, having said this, are you unwilling to admit an outside of
politics? Why does the system's anonymity and amorality offend if we
call it the market, but not if we call it politics (i.e., the market of
power) or language (the market of meaning)?  Surely if there is an
outside the market, which allows the market itself to be judged, this
argues also for an outside of language and politics.  So why do you come
along like the Grand Inquisitor when someone tries to make an argument
for reading and writing in terms which are not variations on the
political, to tell them that they are doing politics (i.e., that it's
elephants all the way down)? For that matter, why is it that every
discussion of character or beauty or ethics becomes--as if inevitably--a
discussion of politics?  How is it possible to think and write
otherwise?

Cheers,
Se

 

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