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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: June ::
Re: Deconstruction
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1208  Thursday, 19 June 2003

[1]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Monday, 16 Jun 2003 06:57:58 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1196 Re: Deconstruction

[2]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Monday, 16 Jun 2003 09:40:21 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1196 Re: Deconstruction

[3]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 17 Jun 2003 05:58:41 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 14.1196 Re: Deconstruction


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Monday, 16 Jun 2003 06:57:58 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.1196 Re: Deconstruction
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1196 Re: Deconstruction

Gabriel Egan writes, "I suggest that this is not obviously distinct from
Roland Barthes's 'death of the author', dead in the sense of no longer
an authority over the work, nor from Derrida's claim that 'there is
nothing outside the text' ('Il n'y a pas de hors-texte') because it is
woven into the public discourse by being made of words and ideas from
which it cannot stand apart."

This discussion of labels on schools of criticism has always fascinated
me, since my grad days in English at UMass-Amherst.  Not that I gave it
much value, not interested in publishing in the genre.

But I do see a real problem in its application to literature in
general.  In the case of Emily Dickinson's poems, and surely in Will
Shakespeare's sonnets, the world has a perception of the authors through
the exegeses of their poetry.  You can pick up any article on either
author in such notable newspapers as the New York Times, or view PBS
shows, and elsewhere in print and electronic media, and read that both
authors were X, Y and Z in their personal lives, and all based on
exegeses of their poetry, while such methodology is basically considered
anathema by all the New Critics.  I call them the Marie ["Have your cake
and eat it, too"] Antoinette Critics.

If biography is irrelevant, how can these same Marie Antoinette Critics
read into poetry biographical exegeses without reference to their
respective biographies?

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

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Monday, 16 Jun 2003 09:40:21 -0500
Subject: 14.1196 Re: Deconstruction
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1196 Re: Deconstruction

Gabriel Egan writes,

>The rise of New Criticism is closely connected with the rise of English
>as a subject, especially as small rural universities proliferated in
>America.

This interests me in a number of ways, but my chronology doesn't seem to
fit. I would call New Criticism a phenomenon of the 30's, 40's, and
50's, the rise of English as something of the 1890's, and the
proliferation of small liberal arts colleges (in particular those west
of the Alleghenies and north of the Ohio) as occurring in the 1820's -
40's.

This is not to dispute his point but merely to explain my puzzlement.

Cheers,
don

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Tuesday, 17 Jun 2003 05:58:41 -0400
Subject: Re: Deconstruction
Comment:        SHK 14.1196 Re: Deconstruction

I'm inclined to be less sanguine than Gabrel Egan concerning the
a-political nature of New Criticism, nor would I take Cleanth Brooks's
account of its populist commitment to be necessarily the last word in
the matter. It's well known that the Yale University English Department
-one of the places where New Criticism became firmly rooted- was the
seedbed fo the United States intelligence activities centred in London
during the Second World War. These were later co-ordinated and
institutionalised as the CIA.  Intensive training in close reading
proved to be a sound basis for the cryptanalysis which the job often
required, and there are grounds for arguing that the careful textual
scrutiny characteristic of post-1945 New Criticism betrays the
corresponding influence of wartime training in the arts of de-coding.
The CIA's counter-intelligence chief during the Cold War, James Jesus
Angleton, was of course  a Yale graduate. His early interest in the work
of William Empson, the complexities of ambiguity and the 'wilderness of
mirrors' it seemed to generate, may to some degree have fuelled the
disastrous neuroses which finally undermined him and discredited his
department. And didn't Brooks himself hold a prestigious government post
at the Cold War's height?

T. Hawkes
Post-structuralist to the Queen

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