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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: July ::
CFP - Shakespearean Intertexts in Canada
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1429  Wednesday, 14 July 2004

[1]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 13 Jul 2004 09:47:09 -0400
        Subj:   Shakespearean Intertexts in Canada

[2]     From:   Jack Heller <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 13 Jul 2004 08:53:47 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1417 CFP - Shakespearean Intertexts in Canada

[3]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 13 Jul 2004 19:55:40 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 15.1417 CFP - Shakespearean Intertexts in Canada

[4]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 13 Jul 2004 16:05:27 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1417 CFP - Shakespearean Intertexts in Canada


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Tuesday, 13 Jul 2004 09:47:09 -0400
Subject:        Shakespearean Intertexts in Canada

David Bishop's recent, lucid posts raise two questions that lurk deep in
the collective unconscious of this discussion of "jargon" / "technical
terms." First, before getting to these questions, let's admit that
technical terms and jargon can be useful and have a place in
professional discourse. We all know that when accountants write for
accountants or lawyers to lawyers, these professionals use terms and
phrases that the rest of us tend to have a hard time with. Perhaps the
best example is when mathematicians "talk" to each other in pure
mathematics: "Help!" says the average Joe, who never did quite catch on
to Calculus.  We also know that professions use "jargon" because it's
easier and more accurate (for them!) to communicate with each other
using a specialized vocabulary that is shared by the community to which
they are writing.

So far so good? OK (as Bill A. would say). But here's the kicker: Are
jargon and a specialized vocabulary needed by literary scholars and
critics? Have we developed a series of technical terms because we really
need them? Or has this happened in a futile attempt to raise the
prestige of a profession that is, in the public eye, rapidly sinking?

And a related question: Would we win more friends and influence more
people if we eschewed obfuscation and emulated instead those masters of
the familiar essay Charles Lamb and E. B. White? If we copied these
latter two renowned (and much loved) stylists, wouldn't we have a better
chance of persuading the public that we have useful and interesting
things to say? In other words, hasn't the mania for a professional
jargon in literary studies backfired, big time? And, to the average Joe,
doesn't the use of such jargon make us look like idiots and fools?

Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
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Date:           Tuesday, 13 Jul 2004 08:53:47 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 15.1417 CFP - Shakespearean Intertexts in Canada
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1417 CFP - Shakespearean Intertexts in Canada

 >It indicates carelessness, perhaps laziness, in the writer,
 >as well as in readers who find it "lucid"--a description that seems to
 >me an excellent example of Newspeak. The explanation that "they are
 >using the two terms more or less synonymously in an attempt to avoid
 >repetition" seems a bit odd as a defense against the charge of redundancy.

I figured sooner or later Orwell would enter into this discussion. So
I'll ask a non-Shakespearean, though perhaps pertinent, question: Are
the abuses of language as presented in 1984 really of the kind as the
abuses of language described in Orwell's famous essay "Politics and the
English Language." Is Newspeak jargon, or is it both simple and a
violent re-ordering of signs?

Jack Heller

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Tuesday, 13 Jul 2004 19:55:40 +0100
Subject: CFP - Shakespearean Intertexts in Canada
Comment:        SHK 15.1417 CFP - Shakespearean Intertexts in Canada

David Bishop writes about his puzzlement when "Holger Schott says that I
will learn, on further study, that 'the kind of agency implied by
"quotation" is precisely what the notion of intertextuality seeks to
undermine'", because "I don't know what 'kind of agency' the word
'quotation' implies."

However, he very soon demonstates that he does in fact understand the
kind of agency quotation implies: "If I quote Hamlet on this list am I
acting as an agent of quotation? Does undermining that notion mean I do
not have the ability to quote Hamlet?"

The problem that intertextuality addresses is that it is demonstrably
impossible to "quote Hamlet", as if there were a universal,
transhistorical, transcultural, monolithic "Hamlet" that existed as a
text cut free from all of its contexts. Only if such a context-free text
(of anything, whether it be Hamlet, King Lear, Citizen Kane, Guernica,
or a table leg) existed would it be possible to "quote" it - that is,
transfer it from one place to another without disturbing its "essence".

If and once this is accepted, the difficulty inherent in Bishop's
conclusion, "Spin whatever theories you like, but only when you get down
to the play itself (if I may speak so loosely) does the rubber meet the
road", becomes obvious.

The play itself? What's that? One would indeed have to speak loosely of
such a thing, because it is quite impossible to speak precisely of it.

I also thought it was odd that, despite Gabriel Egan's suggested
scepticism about Freudian psychoanalysis, Bishop felt it necessary to
direct us to sources devoted to demolishing it. I can't imagine that
there are any Freudians lurking on SHAKSPER.... are there? Oh, except
all those Bloomolaters, of course...! Silly me.

m

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Tuesday, 13 Jul 2004 16:05:27 +0100
Subject: 15.1417 CFP - Shakespearean Intertexts in Canada
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1417 CFP - Shakespearean Intertexts in Canada

David Bishop asks rather too many questions to be answered without
taxing the patience of the list. I'll confine myself to a few of them:

 >If I should keep in mind "that neither text nor signifying system refers
 >simply to strictly linguistic structures" what then do these terms refer
 >to?

A quick scan of the SHAKSPER archives shows that we've covered this
recently, under the rubric of 'spin-offs'. Since Bill Arnold can, via
the archives, avail himself of the opinion I gave on that occasion, I
suppose there's no harm repeating it here. Here's me in a posting of 9
January 2004 (SHK 15.0058):

GE>By her term 'intertextualite' Julia Kristeva meant something rather
GE>different from the uses to which people now put 'intertextuality', which
GE>is generally confined to the study of sources and reuses.  Kristeva was
GE>interested in the multiple intersections of a quasi-textual nature that
GE>go into an artistic product.

GE>One such intersection occurs between the career path of the actor Tom
GE>Cruise and the story of the Vietnam veteran told in the Oliver Stone's
GE>film 'Born on 4th July'. Prior to that film, Cruise had usually acted
GE>the all-American boy who plays by the officially-promulgated rules of
GE>that society and wins all that he could want (the girl, the job, the
GE>glory). The character in 'Born on 4th July' starts as just such a
GE>golden-boy and gets, saving your reverences, screwed by the system.
GE>Audiences coming to the film with a knowledge of Cruise's screen role
GE>types might well expect his character to triumph over adversity, and be
GE>shocked that he doesn't. In casting Cruise, one might say that Stone
GE>used the audience expectations built up by Cruise's previous work to
GE>form an 'intertextualite' with the story he wished to present.

GE>Apparently, Franco Zeffirelli claimed to have cast Mel Gibson in his
GE>film of _Hamlet_ having been impressed with Gibson's portrayal of a
GE>suicidal policeman in the film _Lethal Weapon_. The expectations
GE>generated by such a casting might count in an argument about
GE>'intertextualite'.

Nobody shouted down this attempt at an explanation of 'intertextualite',
so I'm happy to let it stand a second time. I hope David Bishop will
accept that the trajectory of an actor's career qualifies as a
signifying system, yet it is not linguistic. (The professional
associations of casting directors seem to think it qualifies.)

David Bishop didn't like my attempt to illustrate the psychoanalytical
term 'displacement':

 >Aside from the conceptual problems of the psychoanalytic enterprise,
 >the great objection to it from a literary point of view, I would say, is
 >illustrated by Gabriel Egan's reply (whether he believes what he's
 >saying or not). It produces many misleading and mistaken statements
 >about Shakespeare.  Shylock's "threatening to cut into Antonio's chest
 >in MV could be said to be displacement upwards of castration anxiety."
 >First of all, whose anxiety are we talking about here?

I suppose we have a number of candidates, including Shakespeare, the
implied audience, and the characters in the play. These aren't
exclusive, and I can't see how asking whose anxiety it is could count as
an objection to the assertion that such an anxiety might be at work.

 >Second, is the assumption that castration is a fate worse
 >than death?

That assumption isn't necessary to my illustration, no. I can't see the
point of the question, though.

 >Third, in my opinion, this is a red herring that leads away from
 >what's happening in the play.

I believe that some rather good interpretations of the play have been
informed by psychoanalytical theory. Anyone is entitled to reject them,
of course, but the matter we're discussing isn't whether such readings
are valid, only whether terms in the original CFP are intelligible.  One
might, for example, offer the editors who issued the CFP an essay
indicating problems with the term 'displacement', perhaps showing how
indeed it has produced misguided criticism of the play.  This would be
an entirely reasonable endeavour and would doubtless be seriously
considered by the editors. However, let us recall that these editors
stood accused by SHAKSPERians of making no sense ("babble", according to
Bill 'Okay' Arnold) and it was this calumny that prompted others,
including me, to respond.

 >As for the utensils, I don't recall seeing Shylock taking them
 >to the feast. Could Gabriel supply the reference?

This is surely a jest, as David knows that I was referring to what might
happen in performance.

 >I also wonder about the phrase "were Antonio to have had
 >a bad dream" about these utensils. The familiar proscription
 >on treating characters as people would seem to apply in spades
 >to psychoanalytic criticism, yet here what a character
 >might have done somehow comes into it too.

In performance one might easily give an audience access to what a
character is dreaming, and I needn't fear invoking the "familiar
proscription" in saying so. For example, the juxtaposition of images of
Prospero fitfully sleeping and images of the storm at the beginning of
Derek Jarman's film version of _The Tempest_ gives the impression that
Prospero is dreaming of the storm.

Incidentally, the storm in Jarman's film is, to my eyes, a piece of
stock footage that one can also see in the episode called "The Emigrant"
of the BBC television comedy _Hancock's Half Hour_. I suppose that
'intertextualite' could usefully help in Film Studies to explore the
phenomenon of stock footage reuse. One might, for example, want to
historicize the (now risible, formerly acceptable) jolting that one
finds in _Tarzan_ when that familiar segment of animals bolting and
birds flying away (in different film tones and clearly shot on different
days in different places) comes through the gate for the hundredth time.

Gabriel Egan

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