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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: May ::
Re: Seminars
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1046  Monday, 7 May 2001

From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Saturday, 5 May 2001 09:35:14 -0700
Subject: 12.1034 Re: Seminars
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1034 Re: Seminars

Regarding the tone of academic debate: a classic debate before an
audience, in which one side is set to defend a particular viewpoint and
the other one that is opposed to it, requires a combative stance.  It is
delightful when the combatants are so skilled that they manage to make
points while maintaining a courteous demeanor. That is part of the
enjoyment of the procedure.  The audience rarely learns much from a
debate (unless they happened to know nothing about the issues before
entering the auditorium), but usually they leave with the same point of
view that they brought in. During the debate, the debaters ignore points
that they fully accept but that would not contribute to their side of
the argument.

Debates have come down to us from the medieval schools methods of
teaching. The debate has stamped every venue since. Many books, speeches
and articles are little more than a longer, more complex exposition of
one side of some ongoing debate. In many ways this sort of intellectual
prizefight, though it energizes the search for the truth, can have us
circling it and never finding it.  How many have pursued some question
that has a long history to find that in the end, both sides were right?
Or, that both had some right ideas and some wrong ideas.

The development of the Internet and of list groups like SHAKSPER offers
an opportunity for a kind of discourse across the entire
(English-speaking) world that previously took place only in the pubs in
university towns. Of necessity there will be, not just opposing
viewpoints but also differing paradigms, not just a different formula,
but a different way of seeing the world. None of us has the truth by the
tail. To see the truth we need to correlate what we know with what other
people know. We need to listen as well as speak.

It is the possibility of such discourse that keeps me on this and other
worthwhile lists. I have learned a great deal from listening to the
discussions and hope to learn more. When I offer a thought of my own, I
usually do so in hopes that it will open some minds to another way of
viewing the issue. I cannot hope to persuade anyone to my point of view
(which is based on fifty years of reading of all sorts, and on a great
deal of thought) in one or two short posts. But I can let the list know
that there is ANOTHER way of thinking about the issues we discuss.

I think that some of the unnecessary rudeness comes from an instilled
and automatic debate response. If you're right then I'm wrong. In this
brave new world of diverse paradigms, both can be right without anyone
being wrong.  Many of the arguments we have about Shakespeare cannot be
proven one way or the other.  There is pleasure in the discourse,
nothing more is needed. If my point of view is so hateful to you that
you find nothing in it to discuss, but only wish to trod it into the
dust, it is simplicity itself to delete it, and so, for you, dust it
becomes.

Stephanie Hughes

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