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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: March ::
Defects in King Lear
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0585  Tuesday, 2 March 2004

[1]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Monday, 1 Mar 2004 13:18:40 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0569 Defects in King Lear

[2]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Monday, 1 Mar 2004 07:23:11 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.0569 Defects in King Lear

[3]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Monday, 01 Mar 2004 14:12:00 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0569 Defects in King Lear

[4]     From:   Charles Weinstein <
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        Date:   Monday, 1 Mar 2004 18:14:33 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0569 Defects in King Lear


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Monday, 1 Mar 2004 13:18:40 -0000
Subject: 15.0569 Defects in King Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0569 Defects in King Lear

Ed Taft says:

 >New criticism is
 >in large part a reaction to Bradley, and in large part, it is Bradley,
 >with his emphasis on character, who emerged victorious, even though the
 >"debate" occurred after Bradley's death.

Actually, I don't think this is quite right.

New Criticism was partly a reaction not to Bradley (who was always ever
more of a critic than a scholar, and all credit to him for that) but to
Old Historicism generally, and if there was one particular target the
New Critics aimed against, it wasn't Bradley but Tillyard.

It was also a singularly venomous mix of Southern American Confederate
Poets (the Agrarian Movement) and people teaching at Kenyon College.

(OK, I'm aware that's a nonsense shorthand statement.)

I'm adding to my list of terms that should *never* +ever+ be used
without a gloss -- democracy, love, freedom -- New Criticism.

... and that's even *before* you get to the point of disentangling New
Criticism from Practical Criticism, close reading, and Eliot's anonymous
reviews in the TLS.

As a critical theory, it wasn't just directed at Renaissance poetic
texts but very precisely at the Metaphysical Poets.

(And I mean, although he disavowed it, the guy who coined the term, John
Crowe Ransom, as a poet wrote out-of-time imitation Marvell, in the
dipodic metre.)

It was also, I think, (but then I'm biased, having been trained in the
most rabid NewCrit school outside Kenyon) one of the most powerful
literary theories every.

Ain't no way you're ever going to airbrush NewCrit out of history.

Bred in the bone -- the children may not know the term or the history,
but virtually everything done today is predicated on the fight that the
New Critics fought.

They won.

No, Ed, Bradley (brilliant though he was) *didn't* win.

A lot of +Shakespearean Tragedy+ was a reverse-reading of the way the
(male) English Novel grew out of Shakespeare, character and all, and
that fight was lost with Joyce.

Over to Professor Hawkes, whom I'm sure is more competent in this area
than me.

Robin Hamilton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Monday, 1 Mar 2004 07:23:11 -0600
Subject: 15.0569 Defects in King Lear
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0569 Defects in King Lear

Edmund Taft writes

 >"Wow! Any list of the top five Shakespeare critics would include
 >Bradley.
 >
 >His contributions are immense, especially to our understanding of the
 >histories and the tragedies. Even when he's wrong, he is wrong in
 >important ways that set the stage for future criticism. New criticism is
 >in large part a reaction to Bradley, and in large part, it is Bradley,
 >with his emphasis on character, who emerged victorious, even though the
 >"debate" occurred after Bradley's death.
 >
 >Bradley doesn't write about running images or image clusters. He writes
 >about characters and what makes them tick. That's why his criticism
 >endures and will continue to do so."

Just so. There is a great deal of claptrap -- masquerading as a deep
scholarly thought -- being trafficked out there. Bradley offers insights
that are intelligent and humane. Once you make allowances for the fact
that he comes from a late Victorian value system, you can find a lot of
very worthwhile matter in his writing. By contrast, once you make
allowances for the political fixations of many contemporary critics, you
have nothing left at all.

Yes, he's quaint, but he could read and think.

d

p.s.: Dr. Johnson likewise, as I've said before on this list.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Monday, 01 Mar 2004 14:12:00 -0500
Subject: 15.0569 Defects in King Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0569 Defects in King Lear

The current production of Lear directed by Jonathan Miller and starring
Christopher Plummer, now running at the Vivian Beaumont Theater (Lincoln
Center, New York) well illustrates the point that a well performed
coherent production makes quibbles such as these entirely academic.
This is undoubtedly the best stage production of Lear I have ever seen,
giving the lie to the canard that it is unplayable on stage.  It is
simply set and traditionally costumed and, so far as I could tell,
included almost all of the text (which appeared to be a conflated
version grounded on F).

There were two thirtyish men sitting next to me who appeared to be
reasonably well spoken and educated.  Astoundingly, they did not know
the story; nonetheless they were thoroughly engrossed in the performance.

If I have any complaint -- and I always have a few -- it is: (1) the
actor playing Edgar had trouble making himself understood and both he
and Cordelia were unable to project sufficiently for such a large house;
and, more importantly, (2) Plummer did not anticipate Lear's madness,
which had a sudden onset.  Even "Reason not the need," which I think is
the transition speech, did not come across as the ranting of a man who
is losing his hold on reality.  Perhaps this failing is a natural
consequence of Plummer's (or Miller's) decision to portray the king as a
robust man who has decided to take early retirement so as to better
enjoy his sporting pastimes.  Except for an idiosyncratic mental block
about Burgundy's name, Plummer's Lear showed no sign of deterioration
and, in fact, retained his sense of humor and rationality until the
storm scene (and even then).  This is a legitimate interpretation, but I
think there should be some anticipation of the king's dementia.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Weinstein <
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Date:           Monday, 1 Mar 2004 18:14:33 -0500
Subject: 15.0569 Defects in King Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0569 Defects in King Lear

As I recall, Kenneth Muir's introduction to the Arden 2 edition of Lear
contains a point-by-point refutation of Bradley's alleged defects.  This
edition has since been replaced by R.A. Foakes' Arden 3, but can
probably still be found in public and university libraries.

--Charles Weinstein

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