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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: January ::
Re: Authorial Intention
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0199  Sunday, 27 January 2002

[1]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Friday, 25 Jan 2002 09:41:12 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0182 Authorial Intention

[2]     From:   Steve Roth <
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        Date:   Friday, 25 Jan 2002 09:50:04 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0182 Authorial Intention

[3]     From:   Brandon Toropov <
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        Date:   Friday, 25 Jan 2002 10:36:02 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0182 Authorial Intention

[4]     From:   John V. Knapp <
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        Date:   Saturday, 26 Jan 2002 00:22:47 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Response to Re: SHK 13.0182 Authorial Intention

[5]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Saturday, 26 Jan 2002 13:40:07 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0182 Authorial Intention


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Friday, 25 Jan 2002 09:41:12 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0182 Authorial Intention
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0182 Authorial Intention

Of course it counts, but the proverbial grain of salt must be used
because sometimes the effect achieved is different from the one
intended. Even the director is blind to that sometimes.

It is another source (and how does one cite "DVD edition, Director's
Commentary"?) but it is still only ONE source. It should never be the
last word, even from the director.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Roth <
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Date:           Friday, 25 Jan 2002 09:50:04 -0800
Subject: 13.0182 Authorial Intention
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0182 Authorial Intention

Laura Blankenship wrote,

>perhaps in
>the case of modern film or even productions of Shakespeare, we should
>consider the author's/director's commentary in our interpretation.

For me the key word here is "consider." Why not? However, we have to
consider that commentary with the same critical eye that we do any other
kind of evidence.

It hardly bears repeating that creators often don't understand their
creations on a conscious or articulate level. ("If I could tell you what
it meant, there would be no point in dancing it." - Isadora Duncan.) And
they often have reasons for distorting their representation of the
creative process and the creative result.

While you often can't help but wonder what an author was intending,
trying to deduce auctorial intent is generally useless, IMHO, because
you have to figure out on what level of consciousness (or otherwise) the
creator "intended" something.

"Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own."

Steve
http://princehamlet.com

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brandon Toropov <
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Date:           Friday, 25 Jan 2002 10:36:02 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0182 Authorial Intention
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0182 Authorial Intention

Well *I'D* sure pay extra to see a DVD featuring Shakespeare's
commentary track, but that's probably an easy out.

Some of the "directorial intent" is to be found within the text, or so
it appears to this scribe. To explain: I've been developing a theory
about the later plays that deals with this question of theatrical
intention. In plays premiering when S may not have lived in London (and
thus been unable to attend rehearsals and clarify his intent), do others
besides me notice an abundance of "spoken stage directions"?  In other
words, dialogue that cannot persuasively be delivered WITHOUT a given
physical action taking place on stage, and that may be considered
"direction from afar"?

I'm thinking about the swords now too massy (or whatever) to be held in
the TEMPEST, and of the choppy fingers laid along the lips of the weird
sisters in MACBETH, and of Gloucester's fall (or stumble forward, or
whatever) from the nonexistent cliff in KING LEAR.  In each case, and in
many more I don't feel like bothering to look up know, a key moment in
the scene almost blocks itself as a direct result of the dialogue
surrounding it.

Surely he did this intentionally, yes? Perhaps because he knew he would
not be present for day-to-day rehearsals? My chronology about when S was
no longer living in the city is rusty, alas. Maybe someone else can help
clarify...

Brandon

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John V. Knapp <
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Date:           Saturday, 26 Jan 2002 00:22:47 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Re: SHK 13.0182 Authorial Intention
Comment:        Response to Re: SHK 13.0182 Authorial Intention

Laura --

Of course an author's comments about the work are always interesting.
However, it is rather a critical commonplace that an author's commentary
on his/her finished work is merely one critic's opinions.  Said author
may explain intentions but, as any reader knows, there's many a slip
'twix cup and lip, or between intention and reception.

Cheers,
JVK

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Saturday, 26 Jan 2002 13:40:07 -0000
Subject: 13.0182 Authorial Intention
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0182 Authorial Intention

Laura Blankenship confessed to us all that she "got into a huge
discussion" with her husband "about how much one should take into
account the director's/screenwriter's comments on the film".

I recently posted a couple of paragraphs on this subject, concerning the
Lindsay Anderson film "If..." I'm afraid they have been long-deleted,
and I wouldn't want to overstate their significance by reproducing them
again, anyway. Suffice it to say that my general drift agreed with
yours, Laura.  But then, those from a "humanities" culture have greater
tolerance for interpretative authority than those from a "science"
culture - not wanting to get too C P Snowish about it...

Your point about "Shakespeare" being a blank is a good one, but it does
not entirely answer your husband's convictions - as you say, would there
be a significant difference if the material you imagine was found?

More to the point, would we necessarily "believe" what the material told
us, anyway? This, after all, would simply be another Shakespearean text
to add to the canon of thirty-******* plays and numerous poems, equally
open to conflicting interpretations.

As always, it is Ben Jonson who provides us with the exemplary case in
these matters. He never stopped writing about his work. The stuff in
"Discoveries", "Conversations with Drummond", begging-letters, and the
various prefaces, prologues and epilogues to the plays bring invaluable
exegetical tools to interpreting those plays, but no one would be naive
enough to take it all as gospel. There is a lot of material,
"independent" evidence, for example, that his plays "Poetaster" and
"Epicoene" did not flop nearly as badly as he claims in later
commentaries. This could be read as part of the same project of
self-fashioning to which the plays themselves contribute.

When it comes to critical approaches which specifically counter the
"intentional fallacy", the classic is an essay by the "New Critics" W.
K.  Wimsatt and M. C. Beardsley published in "The Verbal Icon" (1954).
In the post-structuralist context, reader-response theory is the most
obvious stopping-off point, particularly the work of Wolfgang Iser ("The
Implied Reader", 1974) and Stanley Fish ("Is There a Text in this
Class?, 1980). Why not try Nabakov's novel, "Pale Fire" (1962) while
you're at it?

As I hinted in my previous post, critical approaches with a materialist
tendency (eg Marxism) articulate powerful modifications of these
inherently structuralist positions. I guess that's where my own
sympathies finally lie - but it is really all a case of Scylla and
Charybdis...

If we're lucky, we'll see the principles in action as other list-members
exercise their right to tell other list-members what it was that I meant
by this post. That, after all, is the source of the peculiar joy of
these kinds of fora...

m

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