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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: October ::
Re: Isabella - and Feminist Criticism
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2010  Wednesday, 2 October 2002

[1]     From:   Chris Stroffolino <
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        Date:   Saturday, 28 Sep 2002 15:20:10 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1978 Re Feminist Criticism

[2]     From:   Anna Kamaralli <
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        Date:   Sunday, 29 Sep 2002 19:12:16 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1978 Re: Isabella - and Feminist Criticism

[3]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Sunday, 29 Sep 2002 12:13:53 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 13.1947 Isabella - and Feminist Criticism

[4]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Monday, 30 Sep 2002 08:29:33 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1992 Re: Isabella - and Feminist Criticism


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Stroffolino <
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Date:           Saturday, 28 Sep 2002 15:20:10 -0700
Subject: 13.1978 Re Feminist Criticism
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1978 Re Feminist Criticism

Ted Dykstra's reading of Ms. Marmaralli claims that the "existing
unacknowledged imbalance" to which she refers in that quote refers to
the PLAYS, when it seems to me that Ms. K is clearly referring to most
CRITICISM of the play.

I am glad to see this issue coming up as a debate again, because
obviously a lot of people still seem to think that, say, mid-20th
century criticism (say Barber or others) on Shakespeare is more in line
with Shakespeare's alleged intentions than say "revisionist" "feminist"
criticisms, especially those that argue perspectives in which women
characters are granted more of an authority (whether seen as moral or
ethical or simply "strategic") than they often were in traditional
criticisms. Granted, as others have pointed out, such emphasis on female
characters is only one strand of much feminist criticism. But, for me,
of all the various "new knowledges" or "new approaches" that came
somewhat more in vogue in the last 20-25 years in Shakespeare studies,
feminism has clearly done the most to "redress an existing imbalance" in
criticism of Shakespeare (I'm leaving aside for the moment the question
of Shakespeare's intentions, which remain open to interpretation and
debate....)

Chris

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Anna Kamaralli <
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Date:           Sunday, 29 Sep 2002 19:12:16 +1000
Subject: 13.1978 Re: Isabella - and Feminist Criticism
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1978 Re: Isabella - and Feminist Criticism

>If there IS an imbalance in a play or work of any kind, to attempt to
>"redress" it (perhaps the wrong word was chosen? I hope so!) is
>ridiculous.  Write your own plays, paint your own paintings. Don't try
>and put into others works what isn't there!
>
>[Ted Dykstra]

Calm down, Ted. If you glance back at my post I think you'll find I was
talking about criticism of a play, not the play itself.

>I tend to think that Annalisa Kamaralli's version risks overstatement.
>With regard to the history of criticism of Measure, for example, one
>important strand is the notion of the play, in whole or in part, as a
>Christian allegory. One may or may not accept that interpretation, but
>it is difficult to see how there can even be meaningful discussion of it
>if the idea of the author's intention is eliminated. The concept of
>allegory seems indispensably to connote the concept of authorial
>intention. I find it difficult to think it right that the literary genre
>of allegory (which certainly does predate Shakespeare) can be dismissed
>a priori in this way.

[Matthew Baynham]

No one dismissed such discussion, a priori or otherwise. I mentioned in
my initial post that genre might be associated with what Vickers meant
by authorial intention, which would make his statement understandable to
me. I don't agree, however, that one can't discuss allegory, or other
issues of genre or theatrical convention, without discussing the author.
In discussing the use of allegory in a work we are discussing the work.

And by the way, Annalisa really is a different person, not me trying to
bump up the female quotient of the argument.

Anna.

P.S. I meant to call Proteus the rude names, not Valentine. I hope I
didn't upset any Two Gents fans.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Sunday, 29 Sep 2002 12:13:53 +0100
Subject: Isabella - and Feminist Criticism
Comment:        SHK 13.1947 Isabella - and Feminist Criticism

Louis Swilley asks,

>Am I incorrect in estimating that the feminist
>critics tend to abandon the appreciation of that
>deeper, common humanity of both men and
>women, that emphasis on *person* that every
>great author seeks and displays in his/her
>characters (one of the chief beneficial effects
>of great literature being the sexes' deepest
>appreciation of and sympathy for one another).

Typically, they don't "abandon" this appreciation but rather they argue
that the sexual equality that your statement assumes ("common humanity")
has yet to emerge anywhere in the world. By almost any index (eg income,
access to positions of power, obligations regarding childcare) their
assertion would appear to be correct, so an urgent matter for politics
is how to achieve this ideal, and for literary scholarship there is the
task of explaining how some people have managed to delude themselves
that it has already been won.  (It's literary scholarship's domain
because it seems that narrative and rhetoric are at work in that
nebulous thing called 'ideology' where such delusions engage with the
everyday matters of reproducing ourselves, the economy, and a shared way
of life.)

>In their attention to women *as women,*
>then, are not feminist critics turning from that deeper concept of
>*person*, and therefore from the unifying,  philosophic, essentially
>artistic/literary and universal elements of  literature to pursue the
>lesser aspects of  politics, psychology and  sociology?

I suspect that my repeating what you've doubtless heard before is not
going to persuade you, but a typical feminist answer to your assertion
would be that the "artistic/literary and universal elements" are already
political, not least in the way that they help sustain the illusion that
the sexes have achieved some kind of "common humanity".  Put another,
'ideology' serves to make people believe, or at least act as though they
believe, that women aren't discriminated against. (Lest anyone should
think my sense of 'ideology' is rather narrow, let me declare that it's
quite a job explaining pornography's place in all this.  Porn's makers
and consumers scarcely bother to pretend they don't hate women, as a
cursory glance at any newstand's top shelf will confirm.)

Gabriel Egan

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Monday, 30 Sep 2002 08:29:33 -0700
Subject: 13.1992 Re: Isabella - and Feminist Criticism
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1992 Re: Isabella - and Feminist Criticism

This strikes me as one of those debates where everyone is right, at
least partly so, but combatants are focused on different things.  Can we
agree that there is both good and bad feminist criticism?

At the San Francisco SAA I heard examples of both in the same paper.
There was a brilliant exposition of *Cymbeline* showing how the
prevailing attitude of the play, and the society that produced it, was
that men assumed responsibility for the sexuality of women, both real
and fictional.  This is an excellent context for understanding the play
and its producing culture, and helps us grasp some of the choices of the
characters.  The same speaker went on to make some gag reflex testing
comments that told us much about her, but nothing about the play or
Elizabethan/Jacobean society.  This struck me as feminist criticism at
both its best and worst.

Are not most SHAKSPER members who have commented on this privileging one
aspect over the other, and therefore not having a balanced reaction?

All the best,
Mike Jensen

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