Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: February ::
Re: Reviews
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0350  Monday, 24 February 2003

[1]     From:   David Lindley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 21 Feb 2003 21:37:19 GMT0BST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0312 Re: Reviews

[2]     From:   Charles Weinstein <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Sunday, 23 Feb 2003 16:13:41 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Reviews


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 21 Feb 2003 21:37:19 GMT0BST
Subject: 14.0312 Re: Reviews
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0312 Re: Reviews

Charles Weinstein writes:

>As for academic reviewers in general, I find that one page of Tynan (or
>Simon, or Brustein, or Kauffmann) is worth a dozen of their
>lucubrations,

The key question, and the one I would very much like Charles Weinstein
to answer is 'worth what, and to whom'?  Tynan may be fun to read, but
if one is trying to find out what Brook's 1957 Tempest, with Gielgud as
Prospero, was actually like in the theatre, (as I have had reason to
enquire) then Tynan's review - famous though his remarks about Gielgud's
inability to act with his body have become - is by no means the most
useful guide.

>Those who approach
>reviewing with the ingrained outlooks and habits of the Academy have
>neither the taste, judgment, individuality, cogency or writing style to
>pen effective reviews; and their ulterior motives compromise their
>critical integrity.

Oh dear - I wonder what we poor academics have done to Mr Weinstein to
deserve this flaming?  There are better and worse academic writers,
there are better and worse reviewers.  Whatever the ulterior motives of
academics are imagined to be (wanting to make a bob or two, wanting to
keep their jobs... apart from loftier ambitions) I can't believe that
the newspaper reviewer is any freer of particular pressures, prejudices,
desires to keep earning a crust and so on - nor do I believe that these
do not condition their reviews.

>Personally, I can no
>longer stomach the academically-edited "Players of Shakespeare" series:
>Who cares how Derek Jacobi created his bad performance of Macbeth ...,

Is it because they are academically edited - or just that the actors do
not conform to your private list of the acceptable? The words are not
those of an academic, but of the actors themselves, after all.

>The same lack of selectivity, the same privileging of the
>mediocre and meretricious along with the estimable, makes each of the
>slender "Shakespeare at Stratford" volumes surprisingly diffuse and
>tedious.

And this is where it gets personal.  I've tried to explain before, but
failed - so I will try once again.  Mr Weinstein, the point of this
series is not to arrive at a league table of the good the less good and
the godawful (though each of the volumes does have something to say on
such matters) - but to do something else, and something that to me at
least is a lot more interesting: that is,  amongst other things, to
explore the ways in which theatrical rendition of the plays have changed
over time; to attempt to see how those changes might be explained not
just in terms of 'good' and 'bad', but in terms of the cultural moment
of their production.  The attempt is to illuminate the ways in which it
has seemed possible to interpret the plays - and so on. In the course of
this exploration it becomes very, very clear that newspaper reviewers
are themselves inevitably compromised by the assumptions they bring to
to the performances they witness.  Like Mr Weinstein, indeed, many are
always hankering after the truly 'great' performance they once saw in
their youth.

I'm sorry that Mr Weinstein has not enjoyed the volumes in the series;
he doesn't, of course, have to read them.  But I'm afraid I do find it
difficult not to feel frustrated that he cannot seem to acknowledge that
there are more things one can do in reviewing, or writing about
performance than construct a private rank-order.

>I have actually gotten more from reviews.

More of what? Accurate accounts of a performance? Well-turned barbs?
Newspaper reviews, even taken collectively, represent the disparate
response of a particular collection of individuals, on a particular
night, to a particular performance.  They are not, inevitably, full
accounts of a production; they usually reflect the earliest state of it;
and they are written, as Peter Holland notes, in haste to sell papers.
They have a useful function - but a limited one.

David Lindley
Professor of Renaissance Literature
University of Leeds

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Weinstein <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Sunday, 23 Feb 2003 16:13:41 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Reviews

With all due respect to Graham Hall, there is nothing exotic about my
critical heroes:  that they are unknown to him does not make them less
familiar to many others.  Nor have I failed to adduce reasons for my
likes and dislikes; I have, often at considerable length.  I would point
out, however, that context and purpose do not always require
elaboration. In a medium such as the Internet, cogent and even
conclusory statements of preference or aversion are not only common but
useful, whether as terse consumer-guides, poll-like registers of
personal reaction, or provocative statements designed to catalyze
further discussion between the author and others.  They can also be good
for a laugh.  Take, for example, the following post of February 13,
2003, reproduced here in its entirety:

              "Barred from Use"

If I ruled the world--which I'm close to doing by the way--the first law
I would enact would be that any journalist or article writer who used
the term 'Bard' with regard to Shakespeare would have their nose tweaked
until they begged for mercy.

Good Day to you.
Graham Hall."

Similarly, Mr. Hall's jocular pan of "Romeo & Juliet, The Musical"
(November 25, 2002) is a string of conclusory statements conveying the
single message "It stinks" in a variety of humorous ways.

Criticism, like taste, is indeed a personal, subjective, even "cranky"
affair, as Mr. Hall cheerfully acknowledges by his metaphor of the fruit
market, where he "wanders round" filling his "poke" with whatever
mixture of "critical fruit" he needs " to suit the particular flan
[he's] baking on the day."  Of course, such casual flanthropy is far
more complacent than anything I have to offer.

Good Day to you too,
Charles Weinstein

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.