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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: August ::
Re: Tillyard (Again)
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1608  Wednesday, 13 August 2003

[1]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 13 Aug 2003 11:05:12 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1601 Re: Tillyard (Still) -- Long

[2]     From:   Marcus Dahl <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 13 Aug 2003 17:07:05 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.1601 Re: Tillyard (Again)

[3]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 13 Aug 2003 11:07:32 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.1601 Re: Tillyard (Again)

[4]     From:   Roger Parisious <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 13 Aug 2003 13:25:02 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1601 Re: Tillyard (Again)

[5]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 13 Aug 2003 21:38:06 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1601 Re: Tillyard (Still)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 13 Aug 2003 11:05:12 -0400
Subject: 14.1601 Re: Tillyard (Still) -- Long
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1601 Re: Tillyard (Still) -- Long

I thank Ed Taft for his gentle response. I think it oversimplifies my
position, though: I am not saying that great artists are those who
capture Keats' "Truth and Beauty" only when it is aesthetically
pleasing: Picasso says something horrible in _Guernica_, and I hate the
painting enough not to want it in my sitting room if someone donated it
to me for the purpose---but I love it because in its capture of an awful
truth, it does exactly what it was meant to do---which is disturb the
hell out of me. To turn this into a discussion of what art is or is not
is to toss a red herring into the debate, though, Ed: my point was that
Tillyard was saying that (in the Renaissance and seventeenth century, at
least) you have to work within the framework of the received
epistemology and reach beyond it to succeed--not topple that carefully
constructed house of cards in one fell swoop.

Melancthon wasn't doing anything Socrates hadn't done, or that I don't
do myself: the best way to win an argument is to anticipate the other
side's objections and address them, and that of course extends to your
Stratford schoolboy as well as it does to the kid from Bread Street and
the kid from Moorfields: just what is that sacrificial cow doing amidst
all that pastoral loveliness in "Ode on a Grecian Urn," and isn't it
true that the fruit at its peak of ripeness in "To Autumn" is just
nanoseconds from rotting? Milton is so good at arguing both sides of the
issue that the late Christopher Hill confused him with Satan . . . and
on and on. We need not look far to see that though our technology has
advanced and our toys are more sophisticated, human beings haven't
changed that much over the millennia: the _Iliad_ or the _Aeneid_
demonstrate that (or have humankind since progressed beyond an
underling's resentment of his boss's pulling rank? do we no longer drag
legions of youth to their deaths to settle a personal vendetta---are you
listening, George W.?---are men no longer so obsessed with their
"missions" that they neglect their wives and children in pursuit of
their destinies?  and on and on and on).

Tillyard is not trying to impose anything sinister on the modern world
order: he is simply trying to see a unifying principle in the old one
that helps us understand why one work is a one-minute wonder (_Valley of
the Dolls_ ? _Peyton Place_) while others---_A Christmas Carol_ (in its
many reincarnations) _The Wizard of Oz_, and _It's a Wonderful Life_ ---
are enduring favorites, to put the idea in more modern terms. The latter
partake of a mythos deeper than their plot lines, speak to some sublime
apprehension of a truth we have all recognized without being able to
articulate it---maybe, because of its ineffability, not even
"recognized," in the conscious sense. Indeed: in the same passage you
quote, Tillyard says, "I hope that this book has shown to some people
how much more commonplace than they thought is the substance of some of
the writing that appears (and of course in a sense is) most novel and
most characteristic of its author.  Raleigh's remarks on the glories of
creation and on death. Shakespeare's on the the state of man in the
world seem to be utterly their own, as if compounded [sui generis] of
their very life-blood: divestedof their literary form they are the
common property of every third-rate mind of the age. The rapturous
expression apart, Spenser's philosophy is nearly as trite though rather
more genteel. The truth is illustrated that the poet is most individual
when most orthodox and of his age, _ipsissimus cum minime ipse_."

Thus, until the discovery of _De Doctrina Christiana_ in November 1823
by Robert Lemon, Sr., Deputy Keeper of His Majesty's State Papers, in a
cupboard  in the Old State Paper Office in the Middle Treasury Gallery
in Whitehall, Milton's "heretical" _Paradise Lost_ rested comfortably
next to the Bible on coffee tables all over England---though of course
his subversive divorce and antiprelatical tracts were anathema, and
quoted from without being spoken of or cited. (See John T. Shawcross, _
John Milton: 1732-1801: The Critical Heritage [The Collected Critical
Heritage]_, Routledge, 1996.) Once the cat was out of the bag, even _PL_
fell into disfavor. Very simply, if one locks horns outright with the
age (and confrontationally points out the flaws in its thinking---as
Donne does in the _Anniversaries_ or Swift does in _Gulliver_ or Milton
is said to do in the _DDC_) instead of holding a mirror up to Nature and
letting her see for herself that, "let her paint an inch thick, to this
favor she must come," the message will largely be ignored---especially
in the Elizabethan period, which is the beginning of the end of the Old
World Order, and too uncomfortably Protean already for those who are
swept into the vortex. The changes that would occur in Western
epistemology from the time of Luther to the time of Charles I are
mind-boggling, and I have argued elsewhere that they result in the
extreme cynicism of the eighteenth century, and the nihilism of the
nineteenth.

Recently, having read a brilliant critical observation made by a
colleague on a much-debated topic, I wrote him to say so: "Such a
simple, obvious, statement---but only after it's been made. That's the
perfect counter to Johnson's 'missing middle' . . . : and what all of us
who agree with you that there is some sort of redemptive quality to the
'rousing motions,' a 'thy will be done' obedience and willing
subordination of the self and self-interest to a higher cause that makes
_Samson_ a Christian comedy rather than the Greek tragedy it starts out
to be, have been seeing without articulating as clearly. I haven't the
[grounding in classical prosody] to express it the way you did, but I
have always seen SA as both Christian comedy and Greek tragedy , so I
was really glad that you took on the Greek structure in the explication
of 'beyond the fifth act.'" I felt it, but he *said* it, better than I
could have if I tried, and he didn't say it by calling everyone who
preceded him in Milton criticism a Neanderthal.

Though _EWP_ is not without flaws or overgeneralizations of its own, I
don't think Tillyard can be accused of stretching his point any farther
than that---and I do think his work has to be considered within the
larger context of the critical approaches and attitudes of his
contemporaries and peers.

With apologies for a long post to those who find the subject tiresome,
Carol Barton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marcus Dahl <
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Date:           Wednesday, 13 Aug 2003 17:07:05 +0100
Subject: 14.1601 Re: Tillyard (Again)
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.1601 Re: Tillyard (Again)

Sorry Gabriel

But what exactly do you mean here:

>We will mistake ideology for a set of "prevailing ideas" rather than
>a confluence of conscious ideas, feelings, unconscious impulses, and
>habits of behaviour.

Sounds like waffle to me.

And Marx, thank our lucky souls, is dead.

Cheers,
Marcus Not a Jot of that Mumbo Jumbo Dahl

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Wednesday, 13 Aug 2003 11:07:32 -0700
Subject: 14.1601 Re: Tillyard (Again)
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.1601 Re: Tillyard (Again)

Ed Taft accuses Carol Barton of subscribing to "an 18th-Century view of
art: we recognize greatness when we encounter what has oft been thought
but never so well expressed." He then goes on to argue that "It implies
that we are all -- or should all be -- exclusively concerned with
beautiful craftsmanship and how it reflects long-standing, universal,
unchanging truths."

Sincerely,
Sean Lawrence.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roger Parisious <
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Date:           Wednesday, 13 Aug 2003 13:25:02 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.1601 Re: Tillyard (Again)
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1601 Re: Tillyard (Again)

Tillyard seems merely a name here on which to hang a larger ideological
controversy . I further suspect that Tillyard would be astonished to
find himself cast in the role of propagandist for a world view which he
had ,on the whole, very accurately summarized without professing to be
in entire sympathy.

Tillyard followed in the footsteps of another secularist, Unitarian A.O.
Lovejoy, whose "Great Chain of Being" was required reading in both
medieval and modern literature in my day at Columbia(l960's) and had
been for some generations prior to that. If Tillyard gives comparatively
scant acknowledgment to Lovejoy it is because he has scant interest in
metaphysic. Lovejoy's young Sunday School pupil, T.S.  Eliot, had, on
the other hand a very great interest in metaphysic (defined as  the
reality which cannot be touched by flux)and tended to prefer other
consciously metaphysical poets.

Now one can have a traditional society and the West as well as the East
always did have at least one(depending where one fixes the geographical
boundaries) up to the Reformation. A traditional society embodies its
metaphysics in a myriad applications(Metaphysical poet Yeats's remark,
"A man may embody truth though he may not know it," is much to the point
here)and spares you and me the problem of trying to figure out what we
are supposed to be doing with our respective individual abilities.

If Shakespeare were a truly fortunate traditional man he had some
metaphysical mentor like Lancelot Andrews (Bishop at
St.Giles-outside-Cripplegate ,Will's sometime parish, and head
translator of the King James Bible) to structure his traditional
thinking for him.

Clergyman, metaphysical poet, John Donne, on the contrary,(clerical
cloth or not) was already a modern. He speaks in his own name, not with
the force of seventeen hundred years of tradition behind him, and must
justify the past in terms of his own apprehension.

Hence the book "For Lancelot Andrews" and the great essay on Dante. The
author of "The Wasteland" (who certainly never recognized fellow giant
W.B. Yeats as the closest thing to Shakespeare we have been granted
these last three hundred years)would claim that he had no choice but to
go the intensely consciously metaphysical writers. Eliot would say that
once that Unity of Being (certainly never the product of some
Machiavellian political ploy as some here have suggested!)was shattered
you simply did not (as Yeats claimed)"hammer your thoughts into a
unity".

Tillyard and Lovejoy were simply well qualified academics, neither was
an intentional partisan of his object of exposition, while Yeats and
Eliot(true students of the tradition) were merely concerned with
minimally explaining themselves insofar as was necessary for the
public's comprehension of their more creative work.

If one wants to get what they were talking about in expositional form
Ray Livingston's, "The Traditional Theory of Literature" from the mid
l960's would not be the worst place to start. Livingston is summarizing
the work of a friend of Yeats and an acquaintance of Eliot's, Ananda
K.Coomeraswamy. The more daring might wish to obtain Coomeraswamy's two
volume "Selected Works" in the great Bollingen series.

AKC never did a specific Shakespeare treatment, but he cites Tillyard as
presenting a good academic study of the last traditional world which we
are still in a position to, more or less, directly comprehend. And
Shakespeare(and ironically the more traditional he was the less likely
he was to consciously have realized his own cultural importance)is de
facto one of that world's last and most eloquent spokesmen.

Of course, the more political or philosophical(Montaigne) we make
Shakespeare or(it come to the same thing in the present context)  the
more consciously esoteric(Bruno or the Rosicrucians) we make him ,we are
still removing him further and further from the Elizabethan World
Picture.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 13 Aug 2003 21:38:06 -0400
Subject: 14.1601 Re: Tillyard (Still)
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1601 Re: Tillyard (Still)

Apologies, all: I should have cited John T. Shawcross's _John Milton and
Influence: Presence in Literature, History and Culture_ (Duquesne
Studies.  Language and Literature Series, Vol. 12, 1991), ISBN:
0820702358 rather than the bibliography in my earlier post. (For anyone
who may be interested in the rather curious ebbs and flows of Milton's
reception by the public, this is the work to consult.)

Best to all,
Carol Barton

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