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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: April ::
Re: Towards a New Dunciad
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0981  Tuesday, 9 April 2002

[1]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Monday, 8 Apr 2002 07:37:20 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0961 Re: Towards a New Dunciad

[2]     From:   P. D. Holland <
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        Date:   Monday, 8 Apr 2002 16:19:47 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0965 Re: Towards a New Dunciad


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Monday, 8 Apr 2002 07:37:20 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 13.0961 Re: Towards a New Dunciad
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0961 Re: Towards a New Dunciad

Charles Weinstein writes, "A hundred years ago, upon the establishment
of English Literature as an academic discipline, an Oxford professor
famously remarked that it would all be nothing more than 'mere chatter
about Shelley.' He struck a definite nerve, for his statement has been
remembered.  I often see it quoted, not as an obvious example of
fossilized benightedness, but as a continuing challenge to the academic
and intellectual legitimacy of the discipline.  Eng Lit scholars with a
conscience about such matters meet this challenge by, inter alia,
maintaining definite standards as to what deserves sustained
intellectual analysis.  They realize that a discipline governed by the
sole criterion of 'Anything Goes' cannot be taken seriously.  'Chatter
about Shelley' is a gauntlet flung in their faces, a dare that may not
be ignored or discounted, a test that keeps them up to the mark.
Substitute 'Shakespeare' for 'Shelley:' the meaning is unchanged, and it
brings the statement into line with our subject.  What would the Oxford
professor have thought if he could have peered forward a century to see
the devolution of English Literature into 'chatter about Shakespeare
movies?'"

Devolution or Evolution?

To bricklayers making buildings English literature is all cock and bull
stuff, anyway.  To Harvard MBAs it's all cock and bull stuff, anyway.
To an EMT saving someone's life in an accident on the interstate it's
all cock and bull stuff, anyway.

However, to professors of Film teaching in Los Angeles, the Heart of
Hollywood, the Film Capital of the world, English literature is all cock
and bull stuff unless it's imprinted in Celluloid, anyway.

There was a time before Shakespeare called the Dark Ages when the bloody
stuff of melodramatic plays by secular playmakers was viewed by
Ex-cathedra classicists inside their Ivory Towers as cock and bull
stuff, anyway.

Dunciad?  The realm of Popish Dullness represented by Poet Laureate
Theobald's English literature has been replaced by the splash and color
of movies which charm an audience in ways moldy and fusty old theatres
stopped doing when silent film became talkies, and no amount of words
are going to turn the clock back.  Many think it evolution, as
Shakespearean playwrights thought their plays evolution from the
medieval dramas of Ivory Tower thinkers.

Our new Poet Laureate speaks cock and bull stuff Ex parte, anyway.

Bill Arnold

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           P. D. Holland <
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Date:           Monday, 8 Apr 2002 16:19:47 +0100
Subject: 13.0965 Re: Towards a New Dunciad
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0965 Re: Towards a New Dunciad

I'm sorry that David Wallace misunderstood my point about the word
'masterpiece'. The Comedy of Errors, a play I adore, admire, respect,
venerate, etc., etc, might, I think, given its complex anticipation of
so much that Shakespeare explored in later plays, usefully be thought of
as a work that marks a part of Shakespeare's transition in
accomplishment from a craftsman to a master. Highly though I think of
the play, Errors is not, I believe, as great an achievement as, say,
Twelfth Night though I will spare SHAKSPER readers a long set of reasons
for that statement.

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