The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0067 Monday, 29 January 2007
Date: Friday, 26 Jan 2007 19:29:05 +0000
Subject: 18.0038 A Question
Comment: RE: SHK 18.0038 A Question
John Cox writes:
>Those who are suspicious of this enterprise can help the discussion
>by acknowledging presentism's first point: that we indeed cannot
>entirely shed our own identity when trying to understand the past.
After consuming a Greenblatt concoction, I always walk away feeling
sated and fully nourished. How different is wading through many a
jargonaut's constipated prose, in what passes for critical theory-its
governing principle a truism, its logic confused, its reasoning
circular, its semantics muddled, requiring their own demystification.
As creatures in the present, we are the perfect issue of our past, in
fact and not just in theory. We are constantly being reminded we look
upon our forebears across the swirling mists of time with the eyes of
the present. Somewhere Brutus explains, "the eye sees not itself but by
reflection." The issue is one of focus. Presentists argue we view the
eyes of the Other not as a window but as a mirror reflecting our own
eyes staring back at us in infinite regress. Hamlet and Othello learn
the tragic effect of such self-regarding focus in mistaking their own
want of faith for that of the innocent Other, be she Ophelia or
Desdemona. Should we not aspire to look at her true face beyond the eyes?
Hugh Grady yearns for an "oppositional" discourse to discredit
capitalism and storm its ramparts. Terence Hawkes longs for studies to
function as "agents of radical change." Is truth their lodestar value?
"Facts, after all, do not speak for themselves. Nor do texts"(Hawkes).
Of course, they do; only we hear them in translation. Despite the tepid
hedging by Profs. Hawkes and Grady, the temptation for budding
Stalinists of all stripes to manufacture the past for driving their
agendas into an Orwellian abyss will become irresistible. 'Twas ever
thus, but why encourage them? Their apologists invariably descend to
maligning Horatios on the bridge like Orwell, that "guilt-racked
imperialist", that "copper's nark"-all of which may be true, but
willfully and knowingly beside the point.
Religious traditionalists and self-styled "postmodernist" ideologues are
currently joined in unholy alliance to undermine or "deconstruct"
Enlightenment values, or their distorted version of same. Listen to NT
Wright, Anglican bishop of Durham: "We postmoderns may chafe in our
slavery to the Enlightenment, but the way to freedom is to challenge the
slavemaster." Again: "it should come as a relief not to have to aim at
an impossible objectivity..." And again, with reservations: "it is part
of the task of the church today to accept the postmodern critique of
modernity." Wright concludes: "I believe postmodernity is to be
welcomed...it deconstructs, in particular, the dangerous ideology of
Esteemed colleagues, whose side are we on? Hugh Grady and Terence
Hawkes, how many fingers?
Re-guards from an Enlightenment thrall,
For further illumination, please consult the finely honed arguments of
David Lindley and RDH Wells among others in earlier go-rounds on
SHAKSPER. Also follow the link to Graham Good's 1996 "The Hegemony of
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
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.