Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: July ::
Re: Bloom on Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1519  Monday, 28 July 2003

[1]     From:   Bruce Young <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 25 Jul 2003 14:40:02 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1506 Re: Bloom on Hamlet

[2]     From:   Martin Steward <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 25 Jul 2003 23:14:22 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 14.1517 Re: Bloom on Hamlet

[3]     From:   Hugh Grady <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Saturday, 26 Jul 2003 11:12:34 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.1517 Re: Bloom on Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bruce Young <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 25 Jul 2003 14:40:02 -0600
Subject: 14.1506 Re: Bloom on Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1506 Re: Bloom on Hamlet

"Theory" at root means a way of seeing (from Greek "theoria," a looking
at, viewing, contemplation).  The discomfort some have with theory may
come from its focusing so much on the way things are seen rather than on
the things seen.  It is as if a group of "lensists" were pointing out to
everyone that everything is seen through one lens or another
(eyeglasses, telescopes, microscopes), while a group of "anti-lensists"
maintains, "No, some of us see things directly."  The lensists then
point out that even people without glasses still have lenses in their
eyes and a complex apparatus of nerves and brain cells and other tissues
required to perceive and interpret.

The lensists of course are right.  But they don't, for the most part,
notice that their focus has shifted to the apparatus for seeing and away
from the things seen.  They also vastly underestimate the extent to
which the "things seen" are seen by just about everyone as part of a
shared experience of the world and the extent to which the apparatus for
seeing is roughly and unavoidably the same for everyone.  They
exaggerate the peculiar differences between different ways of seeing and
reify as a particular lens (i.e. "theory") something that is really only
part of the interpretive process.

C. S. Lewis commented on the shift from the things seen (or experienced)
to the process of seeing (experiencing) and also on the encouragement
this shift gives to the reductive impulse, the impulse to explain things
away ("What you take as valuable or significant is really only a
chemical reaction, a bunch of meaningless matter, an arbitrary
construct, etc., etc."):

"It is a disastrous discovery, as Emerson says somewhere, that we
exist.  I mean, it is disastrous when instead of merely attending to a
rose we are forced to think of ourselves looking at the rose, with a
certain type of mind and a certain type of eyes.  It is disastrous
because, if you are not very careful, the colour of the rose gets
attributed to our optic nerves and its scent to our noses, and in the
end there is no rose left."  ("Bulverism" from _God in the Dock_)

"At the outset, the universe appears packed with will, intelligence,
life and positive qualities; every tree is a nymph and every planet a
god. . . . The advance in knowledge gradually empties this rich and
genial universe: first of its gods, then of its colours, smells, sounds
and tastes, finally of solidity itself as solidity was originally
imagined.  As these items are taken from the world, they are transferred
to the subjective side of the account: classified as our sensations,
thoughts, images or emotions.  The Subject becomes gorged, inflated, at
the expense of the Object.  But the matter does not end there.  The same
method which has emptied the world now proceeds to empty ourselves.  The
masters of the method soon announce that we were just as mistaken (and
mistaken in much the same way) when we attributed 'souls,' or 'selves'
or 'minds' to human organisms, as when we attributed Dryads to the
trees.  . . .  We, who have personified all other things, turn out to be
ourselves mere personifications. . . .  And thus we arrived at a result
uncommonly like zero."  (Preface to D. E.  Harding's _Hierarchy of
Heaven and Earth_)

"Up to a point, the kind of explanation which explains things away may
give us something, though at a heavy cost.  But you cannot go on
'explaining away' for ever: you will find that you have explained
explanation itself away.  You cannot go on 'seeing through' things for
ever.  The whole point of seeing through something is to see something
through it.  It is good that the window should be transparent, because
the street or garden beyond it is opaque.  How if you saw through the
garden too?  . . .  If you see through everything, then everything is
transparent.  But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world.  To
'see through' all things is the same as not to see."  (_The Abolition of
Man_)

Interesting thoughts, and I think relevant to the discussion.

Bruce Young

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 25 Jul 2003 23:14:22 +0100
Subject: Re: Bloom on Hamlet
Comment:        SHK 14.1517 Re: Bloom on Hamlet

"Where Shakespeare is concerned, I prefer to research the theories that
were widely held in his time and speculate from there, because those
theories held relevance for him and his contemporaries. Critical theory
was not then in practice."

Plato?

Aristotle?

Longinus?

Horace?

Sidney?

Daniel?

Jonson?

Hamlet?

etc.

"The thing we share is humanity and that is not only reason and
intelligence, but also my physical, emotional, and spiritual being."

Another Theory - "humanism". Would Shakespeare and his contemporaries
(Francis Bacon!!) have recognized that?

They might have asked, as I would, how I could share "my physical,
emotional, and spiritual being" with anyone.

Obviously if you're still in thrall to humanism (or should that be
"Humanism"?), it is no surprise that you should "truly believe the
literary Theories of the 20thC from structuralism onwards have offered
little in the way of adding to Shakespeare scholarship". The problem is
not with these  Theories, but with the exclusivity of your Theory.

m

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hugh Grady <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 26 Jul 2003 11:12:34 -0400
Subject: 14.1517 Re: Bloom on Hamlet
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.1517 Re: Bloom on Hamlet

In William Stutton's latest reply to the debate about theory, I believe
we are getting down to one of the basic enabling paradoxes of a debate
which here veers toward the "presentism-historicism" dialectic that
Terry Hawkes, I, and several others have been raising in various
publications in the last few years. Theory is inescapable, whether to
early 21st century readers or to early 17th century writers.
(Importantly, theory in this sense need not mean static, Scholastic
systems of concepts such as have sometimes been put forth or taken as
the only form theory can take.) Manifestly as well, Shakespeare's
theories could not be the same as our own. Does that mean, as Sutton
suggests, that only theorists contemporaneous with Shakespeare are
relevant? A bit further reflection on this--and above all, further
research into the history of Shakespeare criticism over the
centuries--will show, I think, the pitfalls of such an assumption.

The main problem here, of course, is that there is no innocent
interpretation of the theories of Shakespeare's contemporaries. Just to
pick an example on which there is nearly universal contemporary
consensus, E. M.  W. Tillyard presented a highly truncated,
ideologically informed "Elizabethan World Picture" in an attempt to do
exactly what Sutton proposes, focus on Shakespeare's contemporaries to
illuminate his plays.  Numerous critics have by now been able to show
the extent to which Tillyard's version of Elizabethan culture was in
turn constructed by him from a set of assumptions and ideologies of his
present. Stephan Greenblatt, for my money, is a much more illuminating
and interesting historicist, but he is an aesthetic and theoretical
Postmodernist (in the broad sense) who has achieved his high standing
among contemporary Shakespeare scholars, in my view, precisely because
he has found an idiom through which to interpret Shakespeare for a new
age and new readers under the transformed conditions of Postmodern
culture. In short, no historicism without a latent presentism.

Cheers,
Hugh Grady

_______________________________________________________________
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.