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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: May ::
Re: Tragic Hero
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1271  Wednesday, 30 May 2001

[1]     From:   Evelyn Gajowski <
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        Date:   Monday, 28 May 2001 10:02:36 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1249 Re: Tragic Hero

[2]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Monday, 28 May 2001 13:35:18 -0400
        Subj:   Re: Tragic Hero

[3]     From:   Florence Amit <
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        Date:   Tue, 29 May 2001 03:11:10 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1249 Re: Tragic Hero

[4]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 29 May 2001 04:23:49 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1249 Re: Tragic Hero


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Evelyn Gajowski <
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Date:           Monday, 28 May 2001 10:02:36 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.1249 Re: Tragic Hero
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1249 Re: Tragic Hero

Is anyone besides me troubled by the fact that the three listmembers who
have been singled out for various intellectual and personal shortcomings
and defects -- including nothing less than "madness" -- are all female?
Let's all take a few deep breaths, shall we, and reread (or, surely, in
some cases, read) Elaine Showalter's classic essay, "Representing
Ophelia."  I agree with those who have made the point about "piling on,"
and, in future, would be most appreciative if SHAKSPER listmembers would
confine their remarks to one another's arguments.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Monday, 28 May 2001 13:35:18 -0400
Subject:        Re: Tragic Hero

Brevity may be the soul of wit, but re-reading my own post and Mike
Jensen's response has made me realize that I was too brief, and thus a
bit misleading.  It makes little sense to limit oneself to one and only
one response on all occasions. So I concede this point to Mike right off
the bat.  Often, an initial post leads to a response, a
counter-response, and so forth. And sometimes these threads are followed
with great interest by list members.

I suppose that one way of getting at what I want to say is to refer to
the two classical types of dialogues: Socratic and Ciceronian. The
former is really a one-sided discussion in which Socrates knows the
truth and his adversary is a fool. The point of the dialogue is to
expose the fool and then glory in Socrates' triumph.  The latter type of
dialogue is rarer, but a real gem when it happens: BOTH parties
contribute to an evolving position that NEITHER party completely
championed at the start of the discussion.

It's usually clear within a short time which type of dialogue one is in.
For example, just about a year ago, during a thread on M for M, Terence
admonished me that "characters don't think!" Literally, of course,
Terence is right, but my position on this issue is that characters in a
Renaissance play often invite us to ask what they are really thinking,
and that's because Renaissance art holds the mirror up to nature. Just
as we often wonder what other people think, we also sometimes wonder
what other characters are thinking -- and, in my view, we are not wrong
to do so.

This is an example of a Socratice dialogue -- except that both Terry and
I wanted to play the role of Socrates. So, both of us had our say --
rather quickly -- and then parted friends. There's no point in going on
with it.

On the other hand, about two years ago, Larry Weiss and I discussed the
battle scenes in H5, and we each offered various ideas about why they
were written as they were, and what they might mean. Both of us admitted
that we were really unsure about what was actually going on, and we
traded hypotheses and possible insights back and forth. I'm not sure if
we got as far as we would have liked, but this was a Ciceronian dialogue
in which posts and counterposts were appropriate and productive. I
learned something from them, and maybe Larry did too.

I think it's usually clear relatively early on which type of dialogue
one finds oneself in. I might say, Mike, that most of my exchanges with
you have been Ciceronian -- at least on your part!  And that is to your
great credit. A Ciceronian dialogue can only take place when both sides
are capable of admitting that they are/can be wrong. In a public forum
like SHAKSPER, that capacity is sometimes (often?) lacking.

So, you see, Mike, it's all a question of genre. Maybe Northrop Frye had
it right after all.

Best wishes,
Your friend,

--Ed

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Florence Amit <
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Date:           Tue, 29 May 2001 03:11:10 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.1249 Re: Tragic Hero
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1249 Re: Tragic Hero

Please forgive me, but because of unavoidable preoccupations at home I
may not be able to respond on time for today's posting or perhaps
tomorrow's. I want to answer fully, so I hope that you will bear with
me.  In the mean-time there are three pages on my web site
(www.tmov-caskets.com) that may be regarded. However I have just enough
time to write a few words about etiquette.

The expectation of civility is for the implantation of culture so that
people may communicate in words rather than grunts and grimaces. Since I
am glad to respond to questions of interpretation, I have chosen not to
remember the uncivil letters that I have received privately, or comments
that, as Ed Taft notes, are extraneous, to show legitimate doubts.
However, such expressions make one unsure of the reliability of those
who make them. Therefore it will not be surprising that I will direct my
answers toward the people who seem ready to regard them with an open
mind.

Florence Amit

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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Date:           Tuesday, 29 May 2001 04:23:49 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.1249 Re: Tragic Hero
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1249 Re: Tragic Hero

Mike Jensen raises some important points which deserve a fair hearing
and some discussion.  SHAKSPER is a seminar -- a very large, online
seminar, but a seminar nonetheless.  Some of us may have had experiences
in actual seminar situations where it has been necessary, and
beneficial, to pause from time to time to discuss the communication
practices being used.  One of my grad school professors ended every
meeting with five minutes of "for the good of the seminar" discussion.
In that spirit, I want to thank Mike and add a few comments on his
letter.

> LAST WORD
> There is power in a point of view having the last
> word. If I make my
> point, and someone says, "Oh, yeah!" and repeats the
> same drivel they
> stated before, they get the last word. I wonder if
> that doesn't send the
> wrong message, especially to less experienced list
> members?  Not that I
> care that Mike Jensen has the last word. It may be
> me, or anyone who can
> argue better. The point is that the best argument be
> seen, in a
> political sense, to triumph. Am I wrong about this?

Well, in the SHAKSPER environment, there really is no such thing as a
"last word" except in those (rare) circumstances when Hardy announces
that he is going to pull the plug on a particular thread.  The option is
always open to continue the discussion.  It seems to me that when
someone has offered a "oh, yeah? [repeat drivel]" response, AND there
has been no (at least immediate) rebuttal, it may be because EVERYONE
recognizes it for what it is: a "political" gambit attempting to squeeze
in the last word, and as such, not really worth the time to reply.
While less-experienced list members *may* (mis)perceive these
"political" rhetorical strategies as "the last word" (i.e. the *correct*
word), if they continue with the list, over time they will learn that
this is not the case.  Although I share your concern that people not be
fed disinformation, it may not be entirely in our power to prevent this,
apart from pointing out, as you, I, and many others do, misleading or
mistaken assertions.  Having done that, it may be an inevitable part of
the learning curve for new members to sort out the dynamics of the
list's exchanges and debates for themselves.  I know it was for me.

> I was clearly winning the argument, but I
> was not winning the
> person.  A member of the board for this list
> encouraged me to continue,
> writing something close to, "The more she says, the
> more she exposes the
> vacuousness of her argument." That made sense to me.

This is a good point.  It also reflects what happens in "real life"
(whatever that is!) scholarly debate.  Most of us know people whose
interpretations, theoretical orientation, or what have you, are
diametrically opposed to our own.  There is a choice: "agree to
disagree," which may be the best option if there is a personal
friendship involved which is valued more than the friction-laden
academic argument of the moment; or, to simply continue the
discussion/debate -- sometimes for years.  Most of us know that we will
never "win the person" but the *process* keeps us on our toes, helps us
refine our argument(s), and leaves open the possibility of discovering
new, potentially valuable, insights from unexpected sources.

> There are a lot of silly beliefs around, beliefs
> based far more on
> prejudice than sound evidence.  Should we do nothing
> while such beliefs
> win converts, as has happened in the past?  Is
> making our point, then
> stopping rather than piling on, enough to stand up
> to this madness?  It
> hasn't been, at least at some times in the past.  Am
> I wrong about this?

No, you are right, but at the same time I think we
each need to choose our battles.  For example, I
continue, periodically, to thrash at the issue of
colorblind casting because I believe, as you say, that
the arguments against are based more on prejudice than
on sound evidence.  And further, the issue itself is
sufficiently serious in a larger, sociocultural sense
to justify (in my view) my continued efforts.  As you
say, it matters.

Not every off-the-wall, wrongheaded, or just plain stupid remark that
gets posted here (and I've posted a few myself!), though, is equally
serious in this larger sense.  List members will, I think, have to
evaluate for themselves whether any given absurdity requires them to
"pile on."  Some cases matter more than others, and in those cases
piling on is entirely appropriate.  In other cases, it may be the
intellectual equivalent of deploying nuclear weapons against
Luxembourg.  We all need to think and decide for ourselves, based on our
own principles and values.

Anyway...thank you, Mike, for caring enough about the welfare of the
list to contribute your thoughts in such detail and depth.

Cheers,
Karen E. Peterson
University of Wales, Lampeter

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