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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: April ::
Re: Towards a New Dunciad
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0923  Wednesday, 3 April 2002

[1]     From:   Jack Heller <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 02 Apr 2002 12:24:14 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad

[2]     From:   Thomas Larque <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 2 Apr 2002 18:41:38 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad

[3]     From:   R.A. Cantrell <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 02 Apr 2002 11:48:12 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad

[4]     From:   Hugh Davis <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 02 Apr 2002 12:55:25 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad

[5]     From:   Sam Small <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 2 Apr 2002 19:20:34 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad

[6]     From:   Annalisa Castaldo <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 2 Apr 2002 13:54:09 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad

[7]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 2 Apr 2002 20:01:28 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad

[8]     From:   Steve Roth <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 2 Apr 2002 11:56:43 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad

[9]     From:   David Wallace <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 02 Apr 2002 18:17:07 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad

[10]    From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 2 Apr 2002 22:13:00 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad

[11]    From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 2 Apr 2002 20:12:51 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad

[12]    From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 2 Apr 2002 18:39:12 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
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Date:           Tuesday, 02 Apr 2002 12:24:14 -0500
Subject: 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad

>2.  Professors of English Literature have no special competence to
>expound films.  They cannot speak of directing, acting, editing,
>scoring, costume design, production design or cinematography with any
>professional knowledge or authority.

Hmm. I haven't written any plays nor poetry. None of my fiction has been
published in a few years. I guess I really have nothing to say about
anything in Renaissance literature. Should I return my degrees?

Jack Heller

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
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Date:           Tuesday, 2 Apr 2002 18:41:38 +0100
Subject: 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad

> Since some listmembers have failed to grasp my points, let me summarize
> them.
>

> 1.  The plays are masterpieces; the films are not; and the plays and the
> films are not interchangeable.
>
> 2.  Professors of English Literature have no special competence to
> expound films.  They cannot speak of directing, acting, editing,
> scoring, costume design, production design or cinematography with any
> professional knowledge or authority.
>
> 3.  Whatever the angle or perspective, no matter how approached or how
> viewed, these movies aren't good enough or important enough to be the
> subject of an academic discipline.  Scholars who devote attention to
> them are wasting their time; those who give courses in them are
> depriving their
> students of a proper education; those who publish books and articles on
> them are contributing to the decline of academic, intellectual and
> artistic standards.  They are hastening the reign of Universal Darkness.
>
> 4.  Shakespeare on Film is a sham, and the economics of academia cannot
> justify its perpetuation.
>
> --Charles Weinstein

Is there any reason why Charles Weinstein would reject the very same
points with the words "On Film" removed and the words "In Production" in
their place?  Most unbiased observers would suggest that there are good
and bad Shakespeare films in the same way that there are good and bad
Shakespeare productions on stage.  Does Charles Weinstein loathe the
stage to the same degree that he loathes the screen?  If not, why not?
Does he believe that trained Literary scholars are incapable of
understanding and reviewing stage productions, just as he believes they
are incapable of understanding and reviewing film?  If so, why does
Charles Weinstein keep on posting acrid reviews of stage productions
that he does not like?  Is he not a Literary scholar?  It would appear
from this posting that he is certainly nothing to do with the study of
film.  If Weinstein thinks that study of Shakespeare on the stage is
allowed, but that study of Shakespeare on film is not, then he might
like to explain what proportion of stage productions he considers to be
superior to (for example) Akira Kurosawa's "Ran" as interpretations of
Shakespeare.  If Weinstein hates both stage and screen, as is sometimes
suggested by his postings, then he seems to have been born in the wrong
century.  Does he read anything written more recently than Charles Lamb?

Thomas Larque.
"Shakespeare and His Critics"
http://shakespearean.org.uk

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           R.A. Cantrell <
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Date:           Tuesday, 02 Apr 2002 11:48:12 -0600
Subject: 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad

I could not agree with you more. One point that you may have not brought
into focus is the intent of those who are hastening the night. This is
not an inadvertent result of ill considered policy, but desideratum.

All the best,
R.A. Cantrell
<
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[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hugh Davis <
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Date:           Tuesday, 02 Apr 2002 12:55:25 -0500
Subject: 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad

I have been watching Dr. Weinstein's thread of discussion, but today I
feel compelled to respond (perhaps I should have still followed my
initial inclination to ignore).

Charles Weinstein writes:

>1.  The plays are masterpieces; the films are not; and the plays and the
>films are not interchangeable.

I would never argue that plays and films are interchangeable, but I
would also never make such a sweeping generalization as your first
point.  There may be some point in each play which is worthy of study,
but are all of Shakespeare's plays truly masterpieces?  Or have we
simply elevated all of them to the same status, thus creating the
honorific notion that Shakespeare=good?

>2.  Professors of English Literature have no special competence to
>expound films.  They cannot speak of directing, acting, editing,
>scoring, costume design, production design or cinematography with any
>professional knowledge or authority.

I agree that one whose only field of study is English literature is not
the most qualified to discuss elements of cinematic production, but
should we assume that no one who discusses Shakespearean film has
learned about these elements?  I would not presume to write about them
if I had no facility with these terms or how to use them.  By the same
token, professors of English literature are trained to discuss the
literary aspects of a work, not the dramaturgical ones, yet
dramaturgical elements are also considered critical writings on
Shakespearean works.  Am I to understand that, by this logic, the most
capable Shakespearean scholars are, in effect, the most limited of
"Renaissance men"?

I challenge that writing about Shakespeare on Film creates any sort of
Dunciad, new or old, real or imagined.  It does clearly create a divide
among scholars, and I am sorry to see that such elitism controls
perception.  I grant that the mere inclusion of Shakespeare does not a
great work make, nor does the use of a reworked plot always indicate a
film deserves study.  I do, however, believe such reworkings and
allusions are worth noting (however momentarily), for it is through
these variations that most people encounter Shakespearean texts.  My
students know _Romeo Must Die_ at this point, and they have seen the HBO
Animated Shakespeare.  I feel ignoring those introductions is a
disservice to my students, and I instead use those as starting points.
I suppose I remain in the dark, on this side of the digital divide.

Hugh Davis

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sam Small <
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Date:           Tuesday, 2 Apr 2002 19:20:34 +0100
Subject: 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad

Charles Weinstein wrote, (amongst other things) Shakespeare on Film is a
sham, and the economics of academia cannot justify its perpetuation.

I agree with all Charles says on this topic.  In fact to take it
further, Shakespeare can never be a cinematic experience.  Most of the
lines are blank verse poetry - words that stimulate the mind - imagery
that sets synapses clicking and popping - lines that make the soul
soar.  The cinema is, and always will be a visual experience illustrated
with words - simple words.  Cinema dialogue is, and always will be,
simple and short.  Everything about Shakespeare plays and everything
about film is in opposition.  They will never come together.  You can
film a stage play, like Olivier's Othello, but it is boring cinema and
poor theatre.

Open air stages have all but gone, so we are left with what 2002 can
give us.  Perhaps radio is best for poetic drama but I like to see the
eyes of the actors and actresses.  Theatre seems the obvious place for
modern Shakespeare but it is proscenium rather than in-the-round and
very often poor amateur acting.  This leaves us with television the only
medium that can pull it off in our present time.  Great actors can be
obtained - faces can be seen up close - sets can be minimal - and if the
play is long, it needn't be cut, just chopped into smaller bits like a
mini-series.

SAM

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Annalisa Castaldo <
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Date:           Tuesday, 2 Apr 2002 13:54:09 -0500
Subject: 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad

"Professors of English Literature have no special competence to expound
films.  They cannot speak of directing, acting, editing, scoring,
costume design, production design or cinematography with any
professional knowledge or authority."

Why not? It may surprise you to know that some of us have learned the
language of films. More to the point, do you discount the authority of
every reviewer now working who does not have an advanced degree in film
studies? I believe that most do not, and yet by a study of their field
and the viewing of many, many films, they attain a level of expertise
that is more than adequate to their job. I feel the same is true of the
poor slobs in English who dare to talk of films.

"these movies aren't good enough or important enough to be the subject
of an academic discipline.  Scholars who publish books and articles on
them are contributing to the decline of academic, intellectual and
artistic standards.  They are hastening the reign of Universal
Darkness."

The idea that I might have any influence - good or bad - on "the reign
of Universal Darkness" would make my day if I could only believe it. It
is remarkable to me that something you consider a "sham" should have so
much power. Indeed, Universal Darkness must be very slow in arriving,
since Shakespearean film studies has been going strong since at least
Jack Jorgens' book in 1977. Do you have any idea how much longer we
might have to wait?

Annalisa Castaldo
(destructor of academic, intellectual and artistic standards since 1998)
Temple University

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Tuesday, 2 Apr 2002 20:01:28 +0100
Subject: 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad

> From:           Charles Weinstein <
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> Since some listmembers have failed to grasp my points, let me summarize
> them.
>
> 1.  The plays are masterpieces; the films are not; and the plays and the
> films are not interchangeable.

I think I may be one of the listmembers who fail to grasp this.

"The plays are masterpieces" -- what (or which) plays?  The Quartos or
the Folio?  The 16/17thC staged versions? After or before 1660?  The
pre-or -post Garrick live stagings?  Where is the line in the sand?
Live vs.  filmed (on broadscreen or the box?)

Sorry, I'm +still+ confused.

Robin Hamilton.

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Roth <
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Date:           Tuesday, 2 Apr 2002 11:56:43 -0800
Subject: 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad

Charles Weinstein:

>4.  Shakespeare on Film is a sham, and the economics of academia cannot
>justify its perpetuation.

What about Shakespeare in Performance (covering stagings of the plays in
"theatres")? Is this worthy of academic study?

If yes, are all productions worthy of study?

If no, by what criteria does one determine which productions are worthy?

Thanks,
Steve
http://princehamlet.com

[9]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Wallace <
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Date:           Tuesday, 02 Apr 2002 18:17:07 -0800
Subject: 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad

  Charles Weinstein writes:

> Since some listmembers have failed to grasp my points, let me summarize
> them.

> 1.  The plays are masterpieces; the films are not; and the plays and the
> films are not interchangeable.

> 2.  Professors of English Literature have no special competence to
> expound films.  They cannot speak of directing, acting, editing,
> scoring, costume design, production design or cinematography with any
> professional knowledge or authority.

Am I grasping the point? Professors of English Literature may not
expound on films because they lack competence in that field. Film
directors cannot produce satisfactory productions of Shakespeare's plays
because they lack... what? Competence in English Literature? What a pity
that drama professionals lack the insight into literature that might
produce masterful films of masterful plays. How regrettable that
literary professionals haven't the insight to intelligently comment on
the merits and shortcomings of film makers. The Renaissance is over,
therefore no one may aspire to be a Renaissance (Wo)Man.

If we agree that there are, indeed, films that may be described as
"masterpieces" then we must admit the possibility that a superior film
of one of Shakespeare's plays is (at least in theory) possible. Or is it
Charles Weinstein's argument that film is, inherently, a medium
inadequate to Shakespeare? Come on. Many films are dismal. Some merely
competent. Some good. A few are genuine treasures. The same can be said
of the theatre. I try not to take it personally.

Shakespeare's Comedy Of Errors is not a masterpiece. Neither is Two
Gentleman of Verona. The trio of Henry VIs do not resonate for me. Do we
omit the study of these "apprentice" plays? No. They are of interest.
Many film versions of Shakespeare's plays, whatever their shortcomings,
are also of interest. Close literary study of Shakespeare's less
successful work is of value. Intelligent scrutiny of less than
successful films of Shakespeare's masterpieces is of value.

Had I a time machine and could witness the plays in their original
productions, I might well have some quibbles. I doubt everything
Shakespeare mounted on stage was equal to his gift as a dramatist.
Indeed, I imagine I would be totally bewildered by the acting style and
theatrical conventions of the time. (Some young lad in skirts is not my
idea of a definitive, say, Lady Macbeth.) But let's face it. Whatever
invaluable scholarly insights I might gain by this (fanciful) adventure
- I would be witnessing cultural artifacts whose full import (in their
own context) I could scarcely begin to understand.

As to Mr. Weinstein's assertion that scholar's "who publish books and
articles on them (these films) are contributing to the decline of
academic, intellectual, and artistic standards....(and) are hastening
the reign of Universal Darkness" - well - that bit of hysterical
hyperbole is not up to his usual engaging rhetorical standard. Even in
this tiny corner of the universe most people don't speak English and
don't give a damn about Shakespeare. I'm sure the wider universe has
more pressing concerns.

Regards,
David Wallace

[10]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Tuesday, 2 Apr 2002 22:13:00 -0500
Subject: 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad

> Scholars who devote attention to
> them are wasting their time; those who give courses in them are
> depriving their
> students of a proper education; those who publish books and articles on
> them are contributing to the decline of academic, intellectual and
> artistic standards.  They are hastening the reign of Universal Darkness.

Pope first issued his apocalyptic vision in 1728, focused on a scholar,
Louis Theobald.  A year later he had decided that the greater threat was
posed by actors and playwrights like Colley Cibber.  Somehow the values
the actor and playwright Charles Weinstein echoes survived until 2002.
What can we learn from this?

Dunciadically,
David Evett

[11]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Tuesday, 2 Apr 2002 20:12:51 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad

> 1.  The plays are masterpieces; the films are not;
> and the plays and the
> films are not interchangeable.

To a large degree, I agree. I don't expound that the films are
masterpieces (although Kurosawa is the only exception to this rule). If
Welles had the resources and finances he needed, he too could be fixed
in this category. Arguably, Zefferelli's R+J could be there, because it
strove for "high art" and also became a popular favorite.

> 2.  Professors of English Literature have no special
> competence to
> expound films.  They cannot speak of directing,
> acting, editing,
> scoring, costume design, production design or
> cinematography with any
> professional knowledge or authority.

Actually, to a large extent, this can be true. There are many professors
who have no trained or specialized knowledge in these areas. But
professors of Shakespeare or even Renaissance drama have no training in
playwrighting, acting, costume design, production design, or direction.
Do you really mean to tell me that NO ONE is qualified to teach
Shakespeare who does not have an extensive background in theatre? This
point does not hold. Very few professors (many of them of the highest
quality) hold the qualifications you expound. Should members of the RSC
companies be the only people to teach Shakespeare? Despite the
intelligence of some of these artists, what a poor academic discipline
we would find ourselves in.

> 3.  Whatever the angle or perspective, no matter how
> approached or how
> viewed, these movies aren't good enough or important
> enough to be the
> subject of an academic discipline.  Scholars who
> devote attention to
> them are wasting their time; those who give courses
> in them are
> depriving their
> students of a proper education; those who publish
> books and articles on
> them are contributing to the decline of academic,
> intellectual and
> artistic standards.  They are hastening the reign of
> Universal Darkness.

YOUR opinion. Yes, the nature of acting Shakespeare changes when applied
to film. Sometimes, very much for the poorer. There are some horrid
interpretations if Shakespeare on film. I think that you really disagree
with the acting and the interpretation. The plays were written to be
performed on a bare stage with a declamatory style. Film explores rich
visuals (hopefully!) and an intimate conversational style of speaking.
Your disdain for modern stage productions and for film adaptations
points to a hatred of the latter style, which has invaded stage
performances.

Yes, they were written for a certain method of performance. But that
doesn't stop these masterpieces from being translated (like Bottom) into
something equally as individual and beautiful. You may see them as an
ass, but from my perspective they tell me something about the plays that
I wouldn't have seen from a stale uniform style of performance.
Something which, like Bottom, we are trying to articulate. Many others
share my opinion and fortunately, many individuals with a great deal
more intellectual power than I possess have chosen to explore the many
layers that constitute Shakespeare in Performance. This includes
performances on film. Personally, I find much more satisfaction in stage
AND film explorations of the plays than I do out of most traditional
academic explorations of the plays or the psycho-babble contained
therein.

> 4.  Shakespeare on Film is a sham, and the economics
> of academia cannot
> justify its perpetuation.

And finally...Charles, these are the statements with which I object. I
understand your opinion and, unbelievably, even respect it. But when you
choose to repeatedly and unfruitfully insult many fine academics that I
know and one which I can only aspire to be, I must speak. These
statements call for a closed door policy, and even an extermination of
an area of intellectual discourse. Who are you to determine what can and
can not be studied? Fortunately, not someone with the power to execute
your wishes. I'm glad that I can continue to find pleasure in
Shakespearean film and in the fine instructors and colleagues who have
shared my passion and love, and have bettered my understanding, of
Shakespeare on film.

Brian Willis

[12]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Tuesday, 2 Apr 2002 18:39:12 +0100
Subject: 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0919 Towards a New Dunciad

"Whatever the angle or perspective, no matter how approached or how
viewed, these movies aren't good enough or important enough to be the
subject of an academic discipline", Charles Weinstein reiterates.

OK let's put this statement into some other contexts to demonstrate its
silliness:

"Whatever the angle or perspective, no matter how approached or how
viewed, Lamarck's theory of evolution is not good enough or important
enough to be the subject of an academic discipline".

"Whatever the angle or perspective, no matter how approached or how
viewed, the Ptolomeic model of the heavens is not good enough or
important enough to be the subject of an academic discipline".

"Whatever the angle or perspective, no matter how approached or how
viewed, the Battle of Maldon is not good enough or important enough to
be the subject of an academic discipline".

"Whatever the angle or perspective, no matter how approached or how
viewed, Shackleton's Antarctic expedition is not good enough or
important enough to be the subject of an academic discipline".

Academic disciplines do not necessarily concern themselves with that
which is perceived to be "good". Indeed, for some academic disciplines,
"good" is a fairly meaningless concept. As for "important", well - how
on earth can one establish the importance of anything, without first
studying it and its effects in context?

m

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