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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: February ::
Re: Cressida
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0387  Friday, 16 February 2001

[1]     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Thursday, 15 Feb 2001 17:17:30 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0381 Re: Cressida

[2]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 15 Feb 2001 12:35:36 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0381 Re: Cressida


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Thursday, 15 Feb 2001 17:17:30 -0000
Subject: 12.0381 Re: Cressida
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0381 Re: Cressida

>But I think we should constantly remind ourselves -- as the
>Roman conquerors were reminded -- we are only human, and cannot
>transcend our time and place, our here and now.  Tragic?  You bet.
>
>Yours, Bill Godshalk

Isn't this part of the problem - that one isn't attempting by the study
of history to 'transcend' our here and now - nothing so grand or
all-encompassing.  Rather one is enabled to recognise and to some extent
to analyze and understand, through the difference of the past, the
provisionality of our present.

David Lindley
Professor of Renaissance Literature
University of Leeds

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Thursday, 15 Feb 2001 12:35:36 -0500
Subject: 12.0381 Re: Cressida
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0381 Re: Cressida

Bill Godshalk responds to my comment about the disparity between the
modern meaning of "quaint" and the various etymological incarnations of
the homophone since Chaucer's time (theWyf's noun is not the same as the
modern adjective):

>Well, actually, your anecdote proves my point.  A person living in the
>late Middle Ages or Early Modern period would not have need to consult a
>glossary.  She would know about "quaint" and its various meanings, e.g.,
>Quaint Ariel.
>
>My point is a simple one -- you might say it's so simple that it need
>not be made.  We humans have to reconstruct the past from our position
>in the present. I think it's admirable that we humans are dedicated to
>doing so.  But I think we should constantly remind ourselves -- as the
>Roman conquerors were reminded -- we are only human, and cannot
>transcend our time and place, our here and now.  Tragic?  You bet.

But I think the distinction David is making is that, though our initial
"horizon of expectations" may not (even in modern contexts) include all
of the possible meanings of a term, we are able, with due diligence, to
transcend those time-locked prejudices. Another illustration:

I am a young post-grad student, reasonably easy on the eye, taking a
theory course from a professor who is roughly my age, and a bachelor pro
tem (his wife being on sabbatical in Europe). We are in New York.  My
paper begins with the standard cover sheet, then a blank page.  After
that, there is another page on which a single, centered line appears
(asterisks where I had bolded italics):

"I'd give *anything* to make you *MINE*!"

The next page says, "Where would you like your pick and shovel?"

The paper is on reception theory, and explains that a young, attractive
professor on Long Island (hundreds of miles from the nearest coal mine)
would not be likely to recognize the alternative meanings for "mine"
under those circumstances unless there were some other contextual clue
to make him do so.

It runs about thirty-five pages, but I don't think he read that far. I
got an "A."

Even in modern terms, we are prisoners of our own perception; but just
as my professor could slap himself upside the head and think "of course
it could mean that!" when he "gets" the joke, so I can learn that
Hamlet's "country matters" and Alisoun's "queynte" are related
references in their respective contexts, whether my first reaction to
Hamlet's speech is a confusion of pastoral imagery, or I think there
must be an hiatus in Chaucer's orthography (or Caxton's printing) or
not.

And I think that's what David mean, too. Our first job as scholars is to
try as hard as we can to transcend the prejudices of our own time,
place, and practice.

Best,
Carol Barton
 

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