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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: July ::
Shakespeare and Islam
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0664  Friday, 14 July 2006

From: 		Cary DiPietro <
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Date: 		Friday, 14 Jul 2006 03:55:09 +0900
Subject: 17.0657 Shakespeare and Islam
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0657 Shakespeare and Islam


To begin, V K Inman responds to passages of my last post which were not 
authored by me, but quoted from an earlier post by Nabie Swaray.  As I 
wrote then, I share Inman's reservations about the language of the 
posts, and while I find the analogy between contemporary Western 
perceptions of Islam (admittedly ignorant and Eurocentric) and those of 
Shakespeare and his contemporaries (equally ignorant and Eurocentric) 
potentially interesting, as I wrote before, I'm very cautious about 
positing the possibility of continuity between the two.

S/he goes on to write:

'Your thinking is so 'modern' it is surprising you quote the 
post-moderns so well. Try seeing Titus through other than the 
Eurocentric 'meta-narrative.''

Again, there is a confusion here between Swaray and myself, but the 
point is not amiss.  What this position amounts to is an essentially 
materialist (and, therefore, one might say modern) mapping of the play 
which remains alert to the objections to an unqualified materialism 
which might be raised along post-structuralist principles (Foucualt or 
Derrida).  Am I wrong to suggest that this is also Said's objective in 
Orientalism, reworking poststructuralism for a materialist analysis, 
arguably hegemonic?  And is this not the principal difference between, 
for example, Said and Homi Bhabha.  Well, especially when we take on 
Bhabha, my use of such highly theorized critical paradigms becomes 
transparently colonizing anyway, and anything I might happen to say 
therefore inevitably Eurocentric.  C'est la vie.

But I think in Inman's last post, s/he has missed the point.  What I'm 
suggesting is the possibility of reading a Eurocentric meta-narrative 
back to Titus, as opposed to reproducing it ignorantly.  I make no 
claims to understanding Islam or stepping outside of my own Eurocentric 
perspective, but I am aware of my own culture's willed misperceptions of 
Islam (many of which continue to serve economic imperialist ends), and 
I'm curious to know where they begin, and if, when I pick up an edition 
of Titus or see it in the theatre, a nascent form of that cultural bias 
(diverse, heterogeneous, polymorphous) isn't obfuscated or concealed. 
When I see video images of the now-dead Al'Zarqawi about to behead what 
are to me familiar Western faces, I wonder if the Elizabethans shared in 
the same fear and horror generated by experiencing, not a genuine 
Muslim, but an early modern English theatrical representation of an 
Orientalized other, bringing back the heads of Titus' mutilated sons. 
And what I want to know is how and why such representations were 
manipulated to generate such fear, and what ends that fear served to 
justify and possibly continues to justify.  Inman writes in an earlier 
post, 'Shakespeare had a conception of the Muslim, but it was hardly a 
realistic one.  For the purposes of the study of Shakespeare, it is 
important to reconstruct this spectral Muslim, but also remember its 
distance from reality.'  I couldn't agree more.  In fact, I'm surprised 
such qualifications need to be made at all, but I apologize now for not 
making them.  And in any case, I'm not trying to suggest any final 
determinations on that possibility (standing at some impossible 
Archimedean point outside my own Eurocentric bias, staking my claim like 
Walter Raleigh on a 'new' critical landscape already peopled with 
ancient inhabitants).  Indeed, I share Larry Weiss' observations that 
such claims about Aaron's use of language and acts of violence are 
specious because all the characters (except the Christian clown) are, in 
a sense, violent 'infidels' - the point's been made before.

Inman writes further:

'Much of what you are thinking about has already been discussed. Try 
interacting with what has already been suggested.'

But what strikes me about the literature I've come across (and you'll 
remember that my initial query was a call for direction towards relevant 
sources, so criticism of my admitted ignorance seems inappropriate) is 
the widespread reluctance, specifically, to see Aaron as an Orientalized 
other in the context of Shakespeare's possible awareness of Islam 
vis-

 

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