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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: June ::
The Big Question
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0534  Tuesday, 6 June 2006


[1] 	From: 	L. Swilley <
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	Date: 	Monday, 5 Jun 2006 16:29:57 -0500
	Subj: 	The author as moralist

[2] 	From: 	Bill Lloyd <
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	Date: 	Monday, 5 Jun 2006 22:36:38 EDT
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0530 The Big Question


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		L. Swilley <
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Date: 		Monday, 5 Jun 2006 16:29:57 -0500
Subject: 	The author as moralist

To my remark that,

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

Bob Grumman answered,

 >I suppose so, but does that make every narrative writer a moralist?

  [Yes. Although that may not be his immediate intention.]

 >Does his having characters who act and thus create a psychological
 >dimension make him a psychologist?

  [Yes. Although, etc.]

 >Does the fact that his characters
 >can be politically or theologically analyzed make him
 >a political theorist and theologian?

  [Yes. Although, etc.]

 >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?

  [Yes. Although, etc.]

 >Are all writers composers because words
 >have an auditory component?

  [Yes.]

Etc.

 >Another problem: should we not distinguish the sort of writer
 >Upton Sinclair was from the kind P. G. Wodehouse was?

  [For the purpose of this point, no.]

 >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.)

[To write anything is to be a moralist in some sense, inasmuch as the 
writer is there as a voice and therefore as a character-as-narrator]

 >I have a dopey question for you, too: what about a narrative
 >writer whose characters do not make choices?  (If one exists.)

  [How could a character who does not make choices - either by acting or 
by failing to act - exist?]

 >How is not
 >making a choice outside the "moral dimension" you speak of?

  [It isn't]

 >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.

  [Moral philosophy and Aesthetics are *dimensions* of every work of 
literature. We can't avoid it.]

       [L. Swilley].

Edmund Taft wrote,

 >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?

  [A particular effect may not be conscious or intentional.]

 >Thus, it follows ineluctably
 >that the structures and patterns in a work reveal the
 >author's fully conscious and fully articulated intentions.
 >
 >Right?

  [Granting reasonable extrapolation and interpolation, yes.]

  [L. Swilley]

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Bill Lloyd <
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Date: 		Monday, 5 Jun 2006 22:36:38 EDT
Subject: 17.0530 The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0530 The Big Question

If the Big Question and Morality with a capital M can be thought of as 
ultimately being composed of a series of smaller dilemmas and ethical 
questions, perhaps some answers might be found in Laurie Maquire's 
forthcoming book "Where There's a Will There's a Way: or, All I Really 
Needed to Know I Learned From Shakespeare", due from Penguin/Perigee in 
November. According to Amazon:

"When life becomes one big drama let history's greatest life coach help 
you rewrite it.

"Bard expert Laurie Maguire brings her knowledge and love of Shakespeare 
to bear on the great-and small-challenges that all readers face today. 
As she illustrates in this witty, accessible, and unique self-help book, 
all one really needs is Shakespeare when it comes to understanding life.

"Covering such universal subjects as identity, the battle of the sexes, 
family relationships, love, loss and death, Maguire shows how the 
dilemmas illustrated in Shakespeare's plays can help readers explore 
their own emotions and judgments. Together, Maguire and Shakespeare 
offer suggestions, comfort, empathy, and encouragement as they set out a 
timeless principle for living. To read Shakespeare is to understand what 
it means to be human. To read Where There's a Will There's a Way is to 
better understand how to deal with it."

Bill Lloyd

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