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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: June ::
Re: This might not be fit for the list...
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1109  Friday, 6 June 2003

[1]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Thursday, 5 Jun 2003 07:33:39 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: This might not be fit for the list...[Existentialism and
Hamlet]

[2]     From:   Rafael Acuna <
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        Date:   Thursday, 5 Jun 2003 23:58:28 +0800
        Subj:   RE: This might not be fit for the list...

[3]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Friday, 6 Jun 2003 11:25:47 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1085 Re: This might not be fit for the list...


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Thursday, 5 Jun 2003 07:33:39 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.1102 Re: This might not be fit for the
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1102 Re: This might not be fit for the
list...[Existentialism and Hamlet]

Brian Willis responds to L. Swilley's definition of existentialism as
"The belief that life is essentially absurd, and the choice to continue
to live or to die is absolutely arbitrary" and writes, "With this
definition, the 'to be' speech a declaration of existentialism?  Isn't
the speech then - in Hamlet's honesty with the speech and not the
argument that it is said for the benefit of Claudius, et al. - Hamlet's
own declaration of the absurdity of life, his choice finally (for the
moment) that he chooses to live but that the freedom of choice regarding
that life is unfortunately balanced against him?"

Well, existentialism, as I understand it, has the basic principle that
the "actual EXISTENCE of the individual" is supreme, rather than
theories and abstractions.  Satre, et al., argued that man, i.e.,
Hamlet, is "what he makes of himself" and fate plays no part in it.
This sounds more like Grebanier's take on Hamlet.  In other words,
Hamlet has free will and studies all the theories and abstractions
around him, and finally takes personal responsibility for his own
actions, and classically an existentialist, he acts, rashly at time,
never insanely, but yes, he is a "man of action."  As in Aristotle and
the views expressed of Jesus, a man is judged by his actions: you know a
tree by its fruits, and you know a man/woman by their actions.

That is why in the final analysis, in my opinion, Hamlet contextually is
a man of action, not insane, who delays to see a clear course of action,
and finally acts to right the wrong done to his father and prove the
ghost of his departed father was on the side of the angels and not the
side of the devils.  Hamlet's early dichotomy on good and bad spirits
pointed out the action he would take.  Indeed, the character of Hamlet
is PERCEIVED existentially by his actions, another tenet of Aristotle
and Grebanier and Shakespeare's brilliant portrayal of Hamlet, the
character, in the play.  Grebanier stresses the ACTION of the play
reveals the character, and I have to say I agree with him.

Existentialism, the Satre school argues, from my understanding, that
life is not abstraction but a series of events which defines our
character as others perceive it.  Surely, the other characters in the
play Hamlet attempt to define the character of Prince Hamlet.  But when
ALL is said and done, and the play reaches its final ACT, then we the
audience and readers must decide: who WAS Hamlet, and was he as DEFINED
by others in the play, or not?  As Grebanier, I conclude that Hamlet's
ACTIONS show him to have been sane, a man of action who finally figured
out who was who in the zoo.  Indeed, that world inside Shakespeare's
play Hamlet might be best described as a zoo.

Bill Arnold
http://www.cwru.edu/affil/edis/scholars/arnold.htm

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rafael Acuna <
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Date:           Thursday, 5 Jun 2003 23:58:28 +0800
Subject:        RE: This might not be fit for the list...

May I suggest *The Oxford Companion to Philosophy*?

Rafael Acuna

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Friday, 6 Jun 2003 11:25:47 +0100
Subject: 14.1085 Re: This might not be fit for the list...
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1085 Re: This might not be fit for the list...

Michael Luskin asked, in all apparent honesty:

>What is deconstruction?

It is most unfair to reply to such things as L. Swilley did:

>The belief that words have so many different meanings for each and
>everyone that communication is virtually impossible. (Logically, then,
>the deconstructionist's statement of this belief is itself
>incomprehensible, as is this, my judgement of it.) With the Knight in
>"Alice in Wonderland," the deconstructionist says, "Words mean what I
>want them to mean..."

The misrepresentation of Carroll has already be noted on this list
(wrong book, wrong character) but I am more concerned with the willful
misrepresentation of deconstruction. If a first-year English
undergraduate wrote the above nonsense in an examination it would score
no points at all for it betrays utter ignorance. I waited to see if
anyone else would jump in and point out this fact and am dismayed that
no-one did.

One does not have to be an advocate of deconstruction to want it to be
described fairly so that its merits and weaknesses may be properly
judged. If Swilley understood deconstruction he or she could doubtless
offer a proper critique of it--it has well-known problems--so one must
conclude that he/she doesn't understand it.  Such ignorance is not
shameful (Luskin doesn't understand it either) but one shouldn't then
leap in and offer a summary dismissal of the topic to another who simply
asked for help understanding it.  We can only assume that this "L.
Swilley" is not the same person as the teacher who regularly posts under
that title on "teachers.net", for no professional educator could be so
crass.

Michael Luskin could get a much better view of deconstruction from any
number of university-hosted websites. A search on www.google.com for
'deconstruction' throws up a few worth looking at, including:

http://www.sou.edu/English/Hedges/Sodashop/RCenter/Theory/Howto/decon.htm

Many sites begin with too much detail or peripheral matters, whereas the
above actually gives a sense of what a deconstructionist reading of a
text might do. The next one gives an idea of where deconstruction came
from

http://prelectur.stanford.edu/lecturers/derrida/deconstruction.html

and it also has a link to an excerpt from Richard Rorty's entry on
deconstruction in The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism.  If
Michael Luskin is looking for a small book on the subject, my personal
recommendation would be Christopher Norris's _Deconstruction: Theory and
Practice_ in the New Accents series.

Finally, shame on the philistinism of L. Swilley.

Gabriel Egan

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