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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: July ::
Less said the better, it seems
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1221  Tuesday, 19 July 2005

[1]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Monday, 18 Jul 2005 11:11:22 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.1211 Less said the better, it seems

[2]     From:   Bruce Young <
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        Date:   Monday, 18 Jul 2005 16:28:47 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.1211 Less said the better, it seems

[3]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Monday, 18 Jul 2005 20:31:12 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1211 Less said the better, it seems

[4]     From:   Kareen Klein <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Jul 2005 12:41:41 +0200
        Subj:   Less said the better, it seems


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Monday, 18 Jul 2005 11:11:22 -0500
Subject: 16.1211 Less said the better, it seems
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.1211 Less said the better, it seems

Terence Hawkes quotes me: "Don Bloom concludes 'WS has lasted through
the centuries because there remain plenty of us who simply love reading
and watching and talking about and teaching his work.'

and then remarks:

"Oh dear. At such moments, am I the only person into whose mind words
such as 'sentimental', 'simple-minded' and  'codswallop' gently drift?
So does the word 'circular', but perish the thought."

I knew there was a risk when I wrote what I did, but I meant it and
believe it, so there we are. As to my remarks being sentimental, I fail
to find that either insulting or critical. There is bad (inappropriate,
forced) sentimentality, but there is also good. It is not infrequently
found in the work of WS.

I am not sure whether by "simple-minded" TH means "simplistic" or
"stupid." If the former, then I simply plead guilty. I knew that I had
already gone out on a limb in speaking so sentimentally. Having gauged
the quantity of alligators in the swamp below I did not wish to go any
farther.

If he means that it is stupid to love Shakespeare's work -- well, I
leave him to explain that. I cannot.

As to "codswallop," it is a delightful word but I am unclear as to its
precise meaning. Obviously negative. Perhaps suggesting "sentimental
effusions."

Avoiding the limb and the alligators as best I can, I will say that I
have thought a great deal off and on about what identifies some
literature as great. As near as I can tell, it is so because enough
people care enough about it to devote their lives to it. I have my own
ideas about what causes this devotion in these people-but that is
another swamp, another set of gators.

If I have sounded rather like Florence Gertrude Margaret Taylor, the
sentimental, overly dramatic and intellectually contemptible drama
teacher in my junior high school, so be it. Sometimes the Mrs. Taylors
of the world are right, and it can't be helped.

Cheers,
don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bruce Young <
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Date:           Monday, 18 Jul 2005 16:28:47 -0600
Subject: 16.1211 Less said the better, it seems
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.1211 Less said the better, it seems

I'm going to analyze Terence Hawkes's astonishment at Don Bloom's words
and then offer an assertion.

Hawkes wonders if he is "the only person into whose mind words such as
'sentimental', 'simple-minded' and 'codswallop' gently drift."

"Sentimental"=I suspect this is a reaction to the thought of people
"simply lov[ing]" doing things; perhaps the word "sentimental" betrays
an embarrassment at emotion, especially enthusiastic or positive
emotion.  Cerebration in its various forms is certainly safer, less
potentially embarrassing, and more respectable in academic discourse
than enthusiastic emotion.

A side note: Because much recent work on Shakespeare has ignored or
distanced itself from emotion, I look forward with interest to the
seminar on "Emotion and Affect in Shakespeare" at next year's World
Shakespeare Congress.  (The seminar description begins as follows:
"Recent tendencies to view literary texts as the effects of impersonal
forces of history or structures of language and ideology have occluded
the place of emotion and affect.  Can these concepts be returned to
critical view within current historicist or presentist projects, or is a
new theoretical or philosophical framework required?")

"Simple-minded"=Perhaps this is a reaction to Don Bloom's argument that
"WS has lasted through the centuries because there remain plenty of us
who simply love reading and watching and talking about and teaching his
work." Rather, many would more sophisticatedly argue, WS has lasted
because he has become the vehicle for cultural values or power
circulation or perhaps, more genially, because Shakespeare's oeuvre is
so sizable and complex that it has offered plenty of material for
centuries of interpretation and analysis.  (But, it is sometimes added,
the work of any number of other writers could have had the same fate if
the same cultural energies had chanced to latch on them instead of on
the work of Shakespeare.)

"Codswallop" (i.e., "nonsense, drivel")=I take this as simply a
redundant combination of the preceding two epithets.

"Circular"=This deserves further thought, but my initial reaction is
that Don Bloom's statement couldn't be both "simple-minded" (not an
adequate explanation of WS's lasting power) and "circular" (an
overadequate and obvious explanation of WS's lasting power).

My assertion: I think Bloom is right.  His explanation is not a complete
or tremendously nuanced one.  But I think it might be possible to prove
that, yes, people's love of "reading and watching and talking about and
teaching [Shakespeare's] work" is indeed the main reason (and certainly
the sine qua non) for his lasting power.

I don't believe cultural energies attach themselves simply by chance to
a body of work.  The body of work needs to be large enough and of
sufficient complexity that it can do the cultural work it is called on
to do.  (For instance, not every playwright could sustain the dozens of
festivals, with many weeks of performances repeated year after year,
that Shakespeare has managed to sustain.)  But more important even than
bulk and complexity is the love-the enthusiastic emotion, the
affect-that motivates thousands of people to direct, act in, watch,
write about, think about, talk about, teach, and otherwise be involved
with this particular body of work.  Some portion of those thousands may
have the enhancement of their own power, prestige, or self-image as a
stronger motive, but I think it could probably be demonstrated, with the
proper tools, that for most people love of the material itself (in its
multifaceted incarnations) is a stronger motive and that, unless it were
so, Shakespeare's popularity would not have lasted so long and at such a
high level.  In other words, from that love issues most of the energy
that, year after year, inspires and carries the various activities,
including analysis, criticism, and scholarship, along with it.

The question that remains is why so much enthusiasm for Shakespeare has
arisen.  I think the answer has to be something in the work itself as
well as in the various cultural accretions that now accompany it.

Bruce Young

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Monday, 18 Jul 2005 20:31:12 -0400
Subject: 16.1211 Less said the better, it seems
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1211 Less said the better, it seems

 >Children's literature, including the works of Dodgson, Lewis, Baum,
 >Geisel and Rowlings, have legs largely because children who are
 >enthralled with them grow up to become parents and then want to share
 >the experience with their own children.

True enough, but begging the question why only a few of the thousands of
books for young people published every year show up library shelves for
decades thereafter. That's a version of the question, of course -
Terence, is this stupid stuff? - why Shakespeare rather than  Heywood
continues to occupy you and me and others.

David Evett

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kareen Klein <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Jul 2005 12:41:41 +0200
Subject:        Less said the better, it seems

Interestingly, the "favourite movie" of the Genevans is "The Merchant of
Venice" at the moment:

http://geneve.cinemas.ch/home.php

So Shk does still sell ...

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