Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: June ::
The Big Question
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0530  Monday, 5 June 2006

[1] 	From: 	Scot Zarela <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date: 	Friday, 02 Jun 2006 13:06:22 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: "Big Question"

[2] 	From: 	Bob Grumman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date: 	Friday, 2 Jun 2006 15:53:12 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0525 The Big Question

[3] 	From: 	John Crowley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date: 	Saturday, 03 Jun 2006 08:18:09 -0400
	Subj: 	Fwd: Moralist

[4] 	From: 	Edmund Taft <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date: 	Saturday, 03 Jun 2006 13:29:31 -0400
	Subj: 	The Big Question


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Scot Zarela <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date: 		Friday, 02 Jun 2006 13:06:22 -0400
Subject: 	Re: "Big Question"

Sam Small's question which began this topic makes an assumption about 
the purpose of moralizing -- that it aims to reform other people, make 
them stop doing the bad that they're doing, straighten up and fly right. 
   Then moralizing can be judged a success or failure by the results.

But is this the aim of moralizing?  (It may be the hope, but is it the 
aim?)  Historically, the aim of the moralist has been to arrive at a 
right judgment of actions.  Some would think, with Shaw perhaps, that 
Shakespeare gave too much to the free play of his imagination, and to a 
gloomy (Catholic?) apprehension of human nature -- disabling his art 
thereby of the clarity necessary for right judgment.  Others would think 
that the imaginative freedom, and the gloom as well, were themselves 
necessary to complexify the represented actions:  Shakespeare, in this 
view, created a true grounds for right judgment -- by making judgment 
uneasy.

-- Scot

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Bob Grumman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date: 		Friday, 2 Jun 2006 15:53:12 -0400
Subject: 17.0525 The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0525 The Big Question

 >Bob Grumman writes,
 >
 >>If you define an artist as one who constructs works
 >>intended to appeal to our aesthetic sense PRIMARILY,
 >>and a moralist as one who tells people how to behave
 >>PRIMARILY, there's no problem.
 >>
 >>I have no problem with making artworks a subject of
 >>moral study, incidentally--but that doesn't make their
 >>makers moralists.
 >
 >Any writer who creates characters who make choices creates a moral 
dimension, a moral philosophy, whether he intended that or not.
 >
 >L. Swilley

I suppose so, but does that make every narrative writer a moralist? 
Does his having characters who act and thus create a psychological 
dimension make him a psychologist?  Does the fact that his characters 
can be politically or theologically analyzed make him a political 
theorist and theologian?  Does the fact that it is impossible to write 
something that does not have an aesthetic dimension make every writer an 
artist, including one caring about nothing other than your voting for a 
certain political candidate?  Are all writers composers because words 
have an auditory component?  Etc.

Another problem: should we not distinguish the sort of writer Upton 
Sinclair was from the kind P. G. Wodehouse was?  Just what is the point 
in claiming that all writers are moralists?  (And here I'm ignoring 
poets and writers who don't write about people.)

I have a dopey question for you, too: what about a narrative writer 
whose characters do not make choices?  (If one exists.)  How is not 
making a choice outside the "moral dimension" you speak of?

All this is important to me because of the fairly complex taxonomy of 
verbal expression I've worked out.  It begins by dividing forms of 
verbal expression into informrature, advocature and literature, or 
verbal expression whose main function is to inform, verbal expression 
whose main function is to advocate (the work, that is, of moralists), 
and verbal expression whose main function is to give pleasure.  I am 
also an anti-Puritan, intolerant of those who seem unable to take 
literature seriously unless it instructs us morally--as I take most of 
those who claim all literature is moral to be.

--Bob G.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John Crowley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date: 		Saturday, 03 Jun 2006 08:18:09 -0400
Subject: 	Fwd: Moralist

 >Donald Bloom writes:
 >
 >To combine two puzzlements in a single post:
 >
 >As it baffles me how we can distinguish autobiography from fiction, so
 >it baffles me how an artist can avoid being a moralist.
 >
 >Unless they're dead artists have to be moralists, and the dead don't
 >write much. Or are they moralists only if we dislike the moral content
 >of what they write?

The puzzlement seems to me to turn on what is meant by a "moralist", 
which to me implies a professional philosopher, cleric, or other person 
who is either regarded as or puts himself forward as an authority on 
morals or a critic or analyst of morals.  It's true that Johnson (a 
moralist) regarded Shakespeare, and all writers he most admired, as 
doing that. Those who like their plays and stories to pronounce on or 
illustrate morals as their chief raison d'etre were sometimes attracted 
to Bacon as the possible real Shakespeare because he was indeed a 
moralist.  Many persons in Shakespeare ponder what is right or wrong, 
who has sinned against whom, what duties are owed to others, etc., but 
though Shakespeare gives great force to all or most of them, a lot of 
them are quite contradictory, because they belong as much to the 
characters speaking them as to the author.  As much and not more.  I had 
an argument with my Shakespeare teacher in college (Georges Edelen), who 
insisted that Shakespeare was a brilliant constructor of characters, and 
unerringly came up with sentiments such characters would express, but 
didn't himself hold those sentiments.  I said that no one could have 
conceived the line As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, they kill 
us for their sport unless he believed it -- at least for as long as he 
wrote it.  Shakespeare was not a moralist:  He did not at one and the 
same time "believe" or promote the idea that the quality of mercy is not 
strained, and that the gods kill us for their sport, and that life is a 
tale told by an idiot signifying nothing, and that there is a special 
providence in the fall of a sparrow. Or he believed it all.  Shakespeare 
had morals (probably), he thought about morals, his characters speak of 
morals in many different ways, they surely speak thoughts that 
Shakespeare felt the force of in his life (so I believe), but 
Shakespeare was not a moralist.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Edmund Taft <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date: 		Saturday, 03 Jun 2006 13:29:31 -0400
Subject: 	The Big Question

L. Swilley writes, "Any writer who creates characters who make choices 
creates a moral dimension, a moral philosophy, whether he intended that 
or not."

Quite true. (As long as the work is substantial enough to accommodate "a 
moral philosophy.") But doesn't your observation contradict your own 
theory of formalism?

Isn't your position that the author consciously and intentionally 
creates a miniature world in a work of art? Thus, it follows ineluctably 
that the structures and patterns in a work reveal the author's fully 
conscious and fully articulated intentions.

Right?

Ed Taft

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the 
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the 
editor assumes no responsibility for them.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.