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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: June ::
Eight Hamlets
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1057  Tuesday, 7 June 2005

[1]     From:   Michael B. Luskin <
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        Date:   Monday, 6 Jun 2005 12:26:26 EDT
        Subj:   Eight Hamlets

[2]     From:   Nick Clary <
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        Date:   Monday, 6 Jun 2005 12:45:14 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.1053 Eight Hamlets

[3]     From:   Sherri Fillingham <
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        Date:   Monday, 6 Jun 2005 13:44:11 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.1053 Eight Hamlets

[4]     From:   Jan Pick <
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        Date:   Monday, 6 Jun 2005 18:47:27 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1053 Eight Hamlets

[5]     From:   Hugh Grady <
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        Date:   Monday, 6 Jun 2005 14:30:15 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1053 Eight Hamlets

[6]     From:   David Bishop <
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        Date:   Monday, 6 Jun 2005 16:06:15 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1053 Eight Hamlets

[7]     From:   Joseph Egert <
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        Date:   Monday, 06 Jun 2005 20:13:47 +0000
        Subj:   Re 16.1042 Eight Hamlets

[8]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 07 Jun 2005 02:18:03 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1042 Eight Hamlets


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael B. Luskin <
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Date:           Monday, 6 Jun 2005 12:26:26 EDT
Subject:        Eight Hamlets

I'm sure that other critics mentioned are more valuable than the ones I
gave, but I am surprised to see that some people find that Harold Bloom
is at all insightful. I have always found him breathless, only too ready
to show how great he himself is, to "stand in awe" of this or that, to
use words that nobody understands, and to show that he can write
sentences that nobody, at least a few professors I have asked, can
understand.  I have always been amused by his line, "the plays are
reading us," although that is at least capable of being parsed.  Not all
of his are.  But I am not at all sure that all his sentences are meant
to be understood, just admired.

I propose either as a continuation of this thread or as a new one, a
discussion of great Shakespeare critics. I have read some Goddard,
Hazlitt, G. Wilson Knight, Bradley, etc.  But anybody I read has
something to teach me, though.  I have in fact read articles by
Traversi, and one or two of the others mentioned and found them
enlightening.  And Greenblatt is fascinating as well.  I in particular
like Goddard and Hazlitt, since it is so clear how much they love what
they are writing about, AND that they want me to love it also.

One other thing about Bloom, almost all that I have come across by him
are collections of works by others.  Aside from Invention of the Human,
which is composed of introductions to the plays, far less comprehensive
and insightful than the intro in any Arden edition, has he written much
about Shakespeare?  And the basic thesis of Invention seems pretty
obvious, Homer had figured it out 2500 years earlier.  And many
characters in the Bible to be fleshed out and fully human as well.
David, Samuel, Joseph...  Sophocles and Aeschyles.  Plutarch.  I find
all Bloom's breathless "bardolatry" can be paraphrased as follows:
"Shakespeare is even a greater genius than I, if that can be believed,
though he does not have so large a vocabulary as I do."

But what makes great Shakespeare criticism?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nick Clary <
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Date:           Monday, 6 Jun 2005 12:45:14 -0400
Subject: 16.1053 Eight Hamlets
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.1053 Eight Hamlets

How about Norman Rabkin (in Shakespeare and the Common Understanding)?

Nick Clary

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sherri Fillingham <
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Date:           Monday, 6 Jun 2005 13:44:11 -0400
Subject: 16.1053 Eight Hamlets
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.1053 Eight Hamlets

Since I don't know the audience, and I might not be in that audience (as
a non-academic scholar of Shakespeare, I would consider both John Dover
Wilson's "What Happens in Hamlet" (which is in my local Borders ... one
of your criteria, I believe) and Harley Granville Barker's Preface to
Hamlet.

Sherri Fillingham
Communications Assistant to the Dean
Howard University School of Divinity

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jan Pick <
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Date:           Monday, 6 Jun 2005 18:47:27 +0100
Subject: 16.1053 Eight Hamlets
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1053 Eight Hamlets

Fatal to ask for opinions of most influential Hamlet crits!  Everyone is
heavily biassed - usually leaning towards the ones who they agree with
most! Go for the ones you think - you will never please everyone, but it
is fun to jump up and down and shout when a personal favourite is
'overlooked'.

Jan

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hugh Grady <
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Date:           Monday, 6 Jun 2005 14:30:15 -0400
Subject: 16.1053 Eight Hamlets
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1053 Eight Hamlets

In re, David Bishop's post,

 >I'm planning a book tentatively called Eight
 >Hamlets. It will analyze and compare eight of the most prominent
 >readings of the play. By prominent I mean a combination of public fame
 >(as far as one can speak of fame here) and professional influence. The
 >critic should have a book or essay on Hamlet that considers the whole
 >play...Here is my first draft of the eight. 1. Harold Bloom 2. Stephen
 >Greenblatt 3. Marjorie Garber 4. Northrop Frye 5. A.C. Bradley 6.
 >Freud's legacy: Stanley Cavell and Janet Adelman 7. Jan Kott 8. Harold
 >Goddard...I'd appreciate any thoughts."

I was quite interested in this posting because I just finished drafting
an essay on the history of Hamlet criticism that necessarily had to
select representative and influential critics. My criteria were a bit
different from Bishop's. Like him, I wanted critics who were prominent
and of influence, but I also was looking for those who reflected their
own time most clearly and who were most sensitive to changing ideas of
art and the influence of those aesthetic paradigm shifts on
interpretation. I agree with Bishop about the last chapter of
Greenblatt's "Hamlet in Purgatory," on Marjorie Garber's brilliant
section on "Hamlet" in "Shakespeare's Ghost Writers; and on paying
homage to Freud-but in that regard I'd mention Lacan's 'Desire and the
Interpretation of Desire in "Hamlet" and of course Ernest Jones' "Hamlet
and Oedipus" in addition to Adelman and in conjunction with Garber and
perhaps instead of Cavell.

I think Eliot has to be listed for his registering of a revolt against
the nineteenth-century Hamlet, even though the essay is in my reading
non-coherent and point-missing. There's a similar case to be made about
G.  Wilson Knight's remarkably perverse "Ambassador of Death" essay from
his "The Wheel of Fire"-it's a brilliantly developed example of the
Modernist approach to Shakespeare criticism for all its interpretive
problems. And I just slightly amend the recommendation of another
contributor today to say that Maynard Mack's essay "The World of Hamlet'
is among the best essays on Hamlet from the Modernist era-when the play,
however, suffered something of a loss of prestige.

I think homage must be paid to the "Romantic" Hamlet, which still
defines the play in the public sphere across the world. Goethe's
discussion of "Hamlet" in "Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship" is more
nuanced and insightful than many summaries of it have captured and is
the inspiration, directly or indirectly, for both Coleridge and Bradley,
and I think subtler and more complex than either of those two.

Besides Greenblatt, Lacan, and Garber as representing the Hamlet of the
Postmodernist era, I would add Terence Hawke's thrice-printed "Telmah"
as a highly influential and brilliantly argued piece of perversity as
(principled) methodology, overcoming through its theoretical
self-consciousness the problems inherent in Knight's inverting
essay-perhaps discussed in conjunction with Derrida's remarks on the
"hauntology" of "Hamlet" in his "The Specters of Marx."

Michael Luskin already said what I think deserves saying about Harold
Bloom's book, "Hamlet: Poem Unlimited":

 >Does Harold Bloom have any influence or depth at all at all?  I think he
 >is the shallow and breathless Walter Winchell of Shakespeare.  I also
 >think his books are more meant to demonstrate his brilliance than his
 >subjects'.

All the best,
Hugh Grady

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Monday, 6 Jun 2005 16:06:15 -0400
Subject: 16.1053 Eight Hamlets
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1053 Eight Hamlets

I appreciate the comments on Hamlet critics, even though most seemed
more about which critics are best than about which most people with an
interest in Shakespeare today think are the best. But that too helps me
get a fix on the flow of current opinion. I will be looking again, or
sometimes for the first time (Michael Long), at the critics mentioned.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph Egert <
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Date:           Monday, 06 Jun 2005 20:13:47 +0000
Subject:        Re 16.1042 Eight Hamlets

I'd include Lionel Charles Knights and Cesar Lombardi Barber, though I'm
not sure if C.L. had an essay focused on Hamlet alone.

Regards,
Joe Egert

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Tuesday, 07 Jun 2005 02:18:03 -0400
Subject: 16.1042 Eight Hamlets
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1042 Eight Hamlets

James Joyce's discussion in Ulysses should not be overlooked.

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