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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: July ::
Less said the better, it seems
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1234  Thursday, 21 July 2005

[1]     From:   Bob Grumman <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Jul 2005 10:39:15 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1229 Less said the better, it seems

[2]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Jul 2005 10:36:16 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.1229 Less said the better, it seems

[3]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Jul 2005 12:17:14 -0400
        Subj:   Less Said the Better, It Seems

[4]     From:   Duncan Salkeld <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Jul 2005 18:53:55 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1229 Less said the better, it seems

[5]     From:   Al Magary <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Jul 2005 11:20:47 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1229 Less said the better, it seems

[6]     From:   David Bishop <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Jul 2005 01:51:30 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1229 Less said the better, it seems


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bob Grumman <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Jul 2005 10:39:15 -0400
Subject: 16.1229 Less said the better, it seems
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1229 Less said the better, it seems

Kathy Dent writes:

 >Given that the dictionary definition of sentimentality is "disposition
 >to wallow in sentiment; self-conscious working up of feeling;
 >affectation of fine feeling; sloppiness" I find it hard to see what kind
 >of sentimentality could be defined as good.

 >It's a pity that the trenchant insults of Professor Hawkes are wasted
 >because their recipients are too simple-minded to use a dictionary.

I'm not involved in this thread, but couldn't keep from jumping on Kathy
Dent for her assumption that dictionaries are some kind of Important
Authority on the accurate use of words.  Most of them simply give their
rarely very precise opinions as to how words are generally used, which
doesn't necessarily have much to do with what they mean for the
intelligent. In any case, my nearest dictionary has this as its first
definition of "sentimental": "marked or governed by feeling,
sensibility, or emotional idealism."  It defines "sentimentality" as
"the quality or state of being sentimental esp. to excess or
affectation."  It can thus have a "good" meaning.

I have for some years felt we need a better term for excessive
sentiment--or a term for expression of sentiment.  "Sentigooality" for
the first?  Can't think of anything for the second--except "sentimentality."

--Bob G.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Jul 2005 10:36:16 -0500
Subject: 16.1229 Less said the better, it seems
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.1229 Less said the better, it seems

Oh, dear. Here I am in the center of things, where I don't like to be
(preferring the periphery where I can take potshots at passing generals
like a Civil War sharpshooter).

First, my thanks to those who have expressed agreement with some or all
of what I said originally.

Second, as to sentimentality, for which I was duly ripped by Kathy Dent
("Given that the dictionary definition of sentimentality is "disposition
to wallow in sentiment; self-conscious working up of feeling;
affectation of fine feeling; sloppiness" I find it hard to see what kind
of sentimentality could be defined as good.  _All_ sentimentality is
inappropriate and forced: that is its very essence."), if she re-reads
the passage, the word I used originally was "sentimental." As in, "A
Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy." My American Heritage
dictionary offers these definitions for "sentimental":

1)      a. Characterized by or swayed by sentiment. b. Affectedly or
extravagantly emotional; mawkish. 2. Resulting from or colored by
emotion rather than reason or realism. 3. Appealing to the sentiments or
romantic feelings.

Well, you go to your dictionary; I'll go to mine. But I stand by my use
of sentimental as defined above.

Third, in my querying about whether "simple-minded" meant "simplistic"
or "stupid," I accepted the first definition because I realized that I
was indeed simplifying (perhaps over-simplifying) a complex matter. I
did so consciously (and not naively) because I believe we all need to
remember these basic things on occasion.

Fourth, S. L Kasten agrees with TH that my effusion "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" is circular.

He writes, "I think that in using the word "circular" T. Hawkes is
pointing out that the portion of the quote before the word "because" and
the portion after mean roughly the same thing, (has lasted = there
remain) or that these portions could be interchanged, in which case the
resulting sentence would still make sense, albeit a cynical rather than
a sentimental sense."

The point has merit. If Shakespeare's lasting *consists of* there being
enough people over the years who love his work, it cannot be a matter of
strict causality.

But this, I believe, presupposes agreement with the initial premise
about lasting merit. Shakespeare has this greatness because he has
"lasted," which consists of large numbers of people wanting to do things
with his work despite the passage of years and centuries. The fault in
logic is mine own, but again I stand by the point.

I would not have bothered making this simple (and perhaps obvious)
remark if I had not run into a depressing number of people-mostly
academics-who did not seem to agree with it, or even understand it.  But
that is a swamp of a different alligator.

Cheers,
don

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Jul 2005 12:17:14 -0400
Subject:        Less Said the Better, It Seems

I think Kathy Dent is, at a minimum, guilty of piling on. It's literally
true that Don and I never see eye to eye when interpreting Shakespeare,
so I have no ideological axe to grind here. But two points are worth making:

1. It's a fact that people love Shakespeare and have for a very long
time. Why they love him is an issue for debate. But facts are facts.

2. From discussions we've had about Shakespeare, it's clear that Don
does not subscribe to postmodernism. He sees it as a wrong turn that
criticism has made. He finds the criticism of the 1930-1950 period to be
far superior to our own in just about every respect: the style, content,
and approach of critics like Tillyard and Wilson and Campbell are, to
Don's way of thinking, far superior to our own.

3. Most of all, he believes in authorial intention and that a good
reader can discern it.

Well, there you are. I don't agree with Don, but before he get lambasted
yet again, let me remind our gentle readers that many brilliant jurists
and judges subscribe to the doctrine of "original intent" when
interpreting the US Constitution. That doesn't make them right, but it
sure as hell doesn't make them "simple-minded" or "simplistic" either.
Rhenquist graduated first in his class at Stanford. He and Don may be
wrong, but neither one is a fool.

Ed Taft

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Duncan Salkeld <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Jul 2005 18:53:55 +0100
Subject: 16.1229 Less said the better, it seems
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1229 Less said the better, it seems

In a thread entitled 'Less said the better, it seems', surely ... the
less said the better?

Duncan Salkeld

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Al Magary <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Jul 2005 11:20:47 -0700
Subject: 16.1229 Less said the better, it seems
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1229 Less said the better, it seems

My goodness, so much discussion in a thread I called "Less said the
better, it seems."  Next time I forward a Shakespop item I will include
a notice for academic folk to please pay no attention, especially when
they are supposed to be on vacation.

Cheers,
Al Magary

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Jul 2005 01:51:30 -0700
Subject: 16.1229 Less said the better, it seems
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1229 Less said the better, it seems

Professor Hawkes gives us his dependable Platonic anti-Platonism in the
usual form: "There is no", as in "there is no such thing as". This
phrase is displayed by the theoreticist all-or-nothingers as a detective
flips open his badge. In the trivial sense that versions differ,
printers made mistakes, no two readers, productions, interpretations are
the same, and so on, we can all agree. There is no such thing as "the
work itself" if you try to nail it down with a single positive
definition, as the Platonists demand. But the idea of the work itself is
negative, not positive. It is a reaction to assertions like "Shakespeare
endures simply because he merrily pinches the plump cheeks of bourgeois
self-regard" or whatever. It's also a reaction to productions that are
travesties of Shakespeare, of the kind most likely seen by Pepys, and
often on view today.

When you call an assertion about the causes of Bardolatry wrong because
it overemphasizes factors other than the quality of the work, you imply
that the quality of the work is paramount, and therefore that there is
such a thing as "the work". In arguing about interpretations, critical
or theatrical, this concept can be given some specific point, since what
is in question will not be every aspect of "the work" but an aspect
which can be relevantly, and relatively, disputed, even to the point of
citing evidence for one's position. When what's in question is the
overall quality of Shakespeare's work as a whole, and its primacy as a
ground of his reputation, saying he's reputed to be great because he is
great will probably fail to convince the sociologists. Don't they deny
there's such a thing as literary greatness anyway? That's true greatness
I'm talking about, not the false kind.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

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