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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: December ::
Presentism
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0813  Tuesday, 4 December 2007

[1] 	From:	William Godshalk <
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	Date:	Saturday, 01 Dec 2007 14:43:49 -0500
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0802 Presentism

[2] 	From:	Joseph Egert <
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	Date:	Sunday, 2 Dec 2007 17:50:15 -0800 (PST)
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0802 Presentism

[3] 	From:	John Drakakis <
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	Date:	Monday, 3 Dec 2007 11:03:46 -0000
	Subj:	RE: SHK 18.0802 Presentism

[4] 	From:	Syd L Kasten <
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	Date:	Sunday, 02 Dec 2007 09:39:22 +0200
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0802 Presentism

[5] 	From:	Edmund Taft <
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	Date:	Monday, 3 Dec 2007 10:24:09 -0500
	Subj:	Presentism/Absentism


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		William Godshalk <
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Date:		Saturday, 01 Dec 2007 14:43:49 -0500
Subject: 18.0802 Presentism
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0802 Presentism

Nicole Coonradt takes me to task for writing: "The idea that we can 
interpret the past from any other vantage point than the present, is 
simply wrong." She counters in part with: "Since the post is now, 
effectively "history," and hence part of the past-- ergo, no longer 
"present"-- can the writer even recall what was meant by his use of the 
word [i.e. wrong], given that he is only trapped in the *now* of time? 
Or would that be wrong? But maybe it doesn't even matter, maybe all that 
matters is what I think, right now, this moment, how I read it, since I 
can do no other."

By "wrong" I meant "not congruent with reality as I experience it." As 
Nicole suggests, perhaps other people are able to transcend the present, 
but since I cannot, I would not be aware of their transcendence. Perhaps 
a genuine mystical experience might be considered a transcendence of 
time. Unfortunately for me, I am caught in the here and now, and so I'd 
better try to make the most of it.

Bill

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Joseph Egert <
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Date:		Sunday, 2 Dec 2007 17:50:15 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 18.0802 Presentism
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0802 Presentism

Bill Godshalk writes:

 >Joe Egert writes to Terry Hawkes: "I'm afraid,
 >Terry, my (your?)
 >limitations deprive me of the truth of your assertion, which I find not
 >just absurdly self-destructive, but defeatist and pernicious in RA
 >Cantrell's sense as well."

 >Joe Egert finds Terry Hawkes' position "not just absurdly
 >self-destructive, but defeatist and pernicious." But true and honest,
 >I'd add. Yes, it may be difficult to accept and applaud human
 >limitations, but these limitations do not go away. They are part of
 >human life on this planet. We live in the present, and history is a
 >human reconstruction. Of course, something happened in 1600, but our
 >narrative of what happened is conjectural, based on artifacts that must
 >be interpreted in the present. If you think otherwise, tell us the
 >"truth" about the relationship of Q1 Hamlet to Q2 Hamlet. Or take
 >Pilate's position.

JE: I wonder, Bill, if you're not burning a straw man. No one here is 
denying our limitations in seeking the truth. The present sitz is merely 
one of many such obstacles--an elementary truism acknowledged by every 
competent scholar before and after Aurelius, but carried to a defeatist 
extreme by Hawkes and company. I've not yet reached Cantrell's point of 
impugning their motives. The effect, however, of such cognitive 
defeatism is much the same, i.e., reducing scholarship to a mere 
groundless rhetorical exercise. Accomplished disciplined scholars that 
they are, Hawkes, Drakakis, et al, in practice abandon their theories 
and instead rely on gathered evidence to unmask the villain du jour or 
to edit a Shakespeare play. Who are the Pilates here?

Think, Bill, think what Terry has written and what corrosive impact it 
will have on your craft should such extreme presentism sweep all before 
it: "To seek 'the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth' is 
absurdly self-destructive."

Presentism (as presently appropriated) aims a knife at the cognitive 
heart of scholarship.QED.

   Joe Egert

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		John Drakakis <
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Date:		Monday, 3 Dec 2007 11:03:46 -0000
Subject: 18.0802 Presentism
Comment:	RE: SHK 18.0802 Presentism

I'm afraid that Don Bloom's 'absentism' just won't fly, partly because 
these plays aren't modern naturalistic soap operas. Partly also because 
they take us back to issues like 'how many children had Lady Macbeth'. 
The question is: what do we do with information that comes to us by way 
of narrative whose actions we don't see? Do we assume that there is a 
part of the play going on elsewhere, that we only get to hear about? Or 
is it a question of offering a handy explanation that we don't need to 
worry about. The kind of 'absentism' that Bloom seems to favour will 
have us investigating Gertrude's affair with Claudius, Portia's girlhood 
in MV, and the ins and outs of Othello's courtship of Desdemona. All 
good novelistic stuff, but misplaced.

I thought that his 'absentism' might have meant 'symptomatic reading' 
which would take us back to Ernest Jones's Hamlet and Oedipus, although 
for me more interestingly to Macherey's Theory of Literary Production. 
The latter can be easily folded into Terence Hawkes' 'presentism', 
which, by the way, isn't 'bleak' at all.

Perhaps we should leave Joe Egert to toil in the labyrinth of truth; 
when he gets to the centre he'll find, pace Derrida, that the centre is 
not the centre. Just make sure that you take a reel of cotton with you 
Joe, it'll help you when you are trying to get out!

Very best,
John D

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Syd L Kasten <
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Date:		Sunday, 02 Dec 2007 09:39:22 +0200
Subject: 18.0802 Presentism
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0802 Presentism

Thank you Donald Bloom for the unexpected Present:  laughter!!

What a great way to start a day.

May your own stocking be filled.

Syd Kasten

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Edmund Taft <
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Date:		Monday, 3 Dec 2007 10:24:09 -0500
Subject:	Presentism/Absentism

Scholars are always looking for "the next new thing" in literary 
criticism, so kudos to Don Bloom for absenting himself from the 
discussion of presentism so as to present us with a new absence: 
"absentism." I must admit that it sounds good to me!  Why is Lear's wife 
absent? Why does the absent Falstaff haunt _Henry V_? and what about 
those pesky children of Lady Macbeth?

Happy Holidays to all.

Ed Taft

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