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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: January ::
Re: Johnson's Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0141  Tuesday, 23 January 2001

[1]     From:   Pat Dolan <
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        Date:   Sunday, 21 Jan 2001 13:55:47 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0132 Re: Johnson's Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Monday, 22 Jan 2001 11:42:03 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 12.0132 Re: Johnson's Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pat Dolan <
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Date:           Sunday, 21 Jan 2001 13:55:47 -0600
Subject: 12.0132 Re: Johnson's Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0132 Re: Johnson's Shakespeare

>Such judgments involve much more than merely literary expertise but depend on
>one's view of everything that matters.  In other words, the assumptions
>you bring to the questions will likely determine your answers.

I thought that was Prof. Hawkes's point. Whatever "moral purpose"
Shakespeare may or may not have had has certainly been long occluded by
the moral purposes--royalist, libertarian, Victorian, post-modern,
democratic, Catholic, Protestant, aristocratic or emergent
bourgeois--that we (and our students) have found in/read into his work.
Prof. Hawkes's graduate students, being clever students (as were most of
us) are unlikely to become his students and unlikely to survive his
tutelage unless their assumptions can coexist to what he takes to be the
relevant ones for the discipline. Dr. Johnson, for all his virtues,
wouldn't do well in a contemporary graduate program, since he writes in
a showy manner from an outmoded point of view. I doubt that would bother
him. I'd flunk any class he'd condescend to teach.  Doesn't bother me.

The point I'm making is about how those of us who teach try to reproduce
ourselves in the next generation and how education works, not about
Prof.  Hawkes's strengths, weaknesses or practices as a teacher.

Patrick

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Monday, 22 Jan 2001 11:42:03 -0500
Subject: Re: Johnson's Shakespeare
Comment:        SHK 12.0132 Re: Johnson's Shakespeare

When Jack Lynch writes 'Johnson has serious weaknesses: I remain_well_
this side idolatry, and don't doff my cap in reverence to every_obiter
dictum_.  That would be. . . "pious nonsense",  I'm happy to concur. As
a potent product of his own time, Johnson doesn't need the excuses we
manufacture for him in ours.  In any case, our zeal to concoct them
misrecognises the nature of what he has to offer.  To adapt the words of
E. H. Carr, there is no more significant pointer to the character of a
society than the kind of Shakespearean criticism it writes, or fails to
write. Johnson's criticism is probably more valuable for what it tells
us about the 18th century than for anything it has to say about an
entity called 'Shakespeare'.

T. Hawkes
 

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