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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: May ::
Re: Seminars
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1291  Thursday, 31 May 2001

[1]     From:   Richard Burt <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 30 May 2001 13:42:10 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1275 Re: Seminars

[2]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 30 May 2001 12:10:59 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1275 Re: Seminars

[3]     From:   Graham Bradshaw <
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        Date:   Thursday, 31 May 2001 07:42:52 +0900
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1275 Re: Seminars


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Burt <
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Date:           Wednesday, 30 May 2001 13:42:10 -0400
Subject: 12.1275 Re: Seminars
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1275 Re: Seminars

Well put, John!

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Wednesday, 30 May 2001 12:10:59 -0700
Subject: 12.1275 Re: Seminars
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1275 Re: Seminars

I'll ignore most of what John writes, because for all this claim not to
care about my personal life, he's spending a disproportionate amount of
time talking about my assumed personal motivation, tactics, etc., none
of which would matter, even if he'd got them right.

The following seems closer to some sort of actual question:

>Second point: The issue that began this discussion had to do with the
>epithet 'civilized' in relation to academic discussion.  When you
>decided to throw 'ethics' into the melting pot, then this raised another
>potentially interesting question concerning the possibility of an
>'ethical' criticism of Shakespeare.

Perhaps it did.  Certainly, this wasn't how I read the discussion,
though perhaps I should have picked up on your use of the term
'civilized', in 12.1034, though really, I can't see how anyone could be
expected to see that something you'd ironized in scare quotes was
actually the center of your attention.

I'm not sure if the burden of evidence is on proving "the possibility of
an 'ethical' criticism of Shakespeare" (and why are you still using
scare-quotes? this practice always strikes me as retailing suspicion
instead of furnishing argument).  If ethics is fundamental, if it is, as
Levinas says, 'first philosophy', then our criticisms will be informed
by our ethics in any case.  The question is whether one can really avoid
it, or only evade it, and what sort of evasion was going on in your
efforts to do away with the 'civilized'.  This isn't to say that
something subconscious is going on when you're making this criticism,
only that such arguments about the deployment of terms tend to avoid
(even, tend to be designed to avoid, tend structurally to avoid) the
very real ethical issues towards which such terms gesture.

>Third point: You didn't stick to that agenda.  You now seem to be intent
>on proving to the world and its uncle how well read you are.  On that
>score, I need no convincing.

It certainly seemed to me, and still does, that your usual response to
interlocutors is to say that they just haven't read enough or thought
enough.  It is therefore worth pointing out that people don't oppose you
because they're naive; they oppose you because they subscribe to other
schools of thought.

>I'm sure that all the sources you cite
>have passed before your eyes.  You seem, however, unwilling to formulate
>the fruits of your labours as anything remotely resembling a coherent
>response. Of course, it is your democratic right to commune with your
>own 'subconscious influences', and I would oppose any attempt to deprive
>you of it. It becomes a very different matter, however, when you decide
>to enter into a public debate. Notice I use the word 'public' here,
>since I'm not really interested in your 'private' life, and I firmly
>resist the temptation to draw any conclusions concerning your private
>life from your writing.

Then why do you keep bringing it up?  Why do you think I am communing
with my subconscious influences?  Why do I have a burden of evidence
when it's sufficient for you to just make ironic references to mafia
films or drop words into square quotes?  And why are you so ruthlessly
associating ethics with the 'private', when everyone from Buber on down
find the origins of ethics in an inter-humanity?  I really don't get it.

>Everybody has read Wimsatt & Beardsley, not to mention Barthes and Foucault.

Actually, I have to admit that I haven't read the first two.

>So: the question STILL remains, what has an 'ethical' criticism to
>contribute to the study of Shakespearean texts? That, I submit, is a
>question that might be of some interest to subscribers to this list, and
>it is of particular relevance considering the way in which 'ethics' is
>invoked in certain discussions on the subject of postmodernity.

The question is rather:  how can we have a criticism which is not
ethical?  How can we not evade, or even betray, our ethical commitments
(or rather commitedness, since the commitment is prior to the freedom of
the ego)?  What is the risk of doing away with a system that governs our
relations with one another?  Of course, the expectations that make up
the 'civilized' might have political motivations, might be biased or
used towards pernicious ends.  Nevertheless, they represent, as I
believe you admitted in an earlier response, a certain ethos, and
therefore a certain recognition of the ethical.    Doing away with them
might only be an effort to remove any remaining fetters to the will to
power, to escape any sense of responsibility altogether.  In this way,
the various efforts to critique or deconstruct might ultimately be more
romantic than anything else.  Are we actually getting at the other side
of the play of differences in such arguments, or are we just forbidding
reference beyond them?

The discourse, as I understand it, is between a view that ethics is
socially constructed and that it's inevitable.  My disagreement is not
with the premise that specific ethoses (is that a word?  anyone here a
latinist?) are socially constructed, but with the implication that such
a construction exhausts the ethical.  Knowing that some morals are
socially constructed, should we not nevertheless continue to talk about
ethics itself?  Or should we allow this suspicion simply to stand as a
barrier to discussing the ethical?

I look forward to looking at John Joughin's contribution to the volume
you mention; thank you for the reference.

Cheers,
Se

 

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