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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: December ::
Presentism
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0830  Thursday, 20 December 2007

[1] 	From:	Evelyn Gajowski <
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	Date:	Wednesday, 19 Dec 2007 18:37:26 -0800
	Subj:	Presentism

[2] 	From:	Duncan Salkeld <
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	Date:	Thursday, 20 Dec 2007 11:37:38 +0000 (GMT)
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0828 Presentism

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Evelyn Gajowski <
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Date:		Wednesday, 19 Dec 2007 18:37:26 -0800
Subject:	Presentism

To all once and future presentists,

For the record, please note that I organized and chaired a research 
seminar, "The Presence of Shakespeare and War," at the 35th Annual 
Meeting of the Shakespeare Association of America in San Diego last April.

Prof. Adrian Kiernander (of Australia) and I also co-organized and 
co-chaired a research seminar, "Performing Shakespeare and Gender in the 
Present," at the 8th World Shakespeare Congress in Brisbane, Australia, 
in July 2006.

Before that, we organized and co-chaired a research seminar, 
"Shakespeare, Gender, and Sexual Orientation in the Present," at the 
33rd Annual Meeting of the Shakespeare Association of America in Bermuda 
in March 2005.

These seminars were all fully subscribed and involved participants from 
many nations around the globe. None of the participants were "acolytes" 
of anyone else.

Unlike many posts on this thread, the papers that seminar participants 
wrote on these occasions

  (1) approached the subject of presentism with an open mind and made 
honest attempts at understanding it;

  (2) attempted to engage the ideas in recently published research and 
scholarship on the subject;

  (3) made honest attempts at analyzing Shakespeare's texts through a 
presentist lens;

  (4) were enlightening.

Are the members of this list who are exhibiting such hostility to 
presentism aware of these conferences, which are among the most 
significant professional gatherings in the discipline of Shakespeare 
studies? Do they attend them? Are they aware of recent publications on 
the subject? Do they read them?

Perhaps it is time for a return to a more substantive, deliberative 
discussion of the kind offered by the forum of the roundtable. Of 
course, participating in such a forum would require actually having read 
some of the recently published research and scholarship on the subject 
and making an honest attempt to engage with the ideas therein. Perhaps 
that's why our original attempt at a roundtable discussion on the 
subject earlier this year had fewer participants than the present thread?

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year,
Evelyn Gajowski
Department of English
University of Nevada

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Duncan Salkeld <
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 >
Date:		Thursday, 20 Dec 2007 11:37:38 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: 18.0828 Presentism
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0828 Presentism

In their introduction to _Presentist Shakespeares_ (Routledge, 2007) - a 
lively and shrewd book - Hugh Grady and Terry Hawkes write, 'We choose 
the facts. We choose the texts. We do the inserting. We do the 
perceiving. We order the priorities which govern everything. Facts and 
texts, that is to say, don't simply speak, don't merely mean. We speak, 
we mean, by them.' (p. 3). My difficulty with this viewpoint is that it 
tends to freeze past and present into different stand-points, or worse, 
'entities': the past as passive, silent and inert; the present as 
active, vocal, flexible, and theoretically sophisticated.  Almost ten 
years ago, in a SHAKSPER thread on 'Presentism', David Lindley urged 
that in ways large or small, 'the past talks back and refuses, 
repudiates, or wriggles out from under the constructions we put upon it. 
. . .'. Taking reconstructions of the Globe as an example, he argued 
that, 'attempts to reconstruct the Globe theatre have been significantly 
affected by the culture within which the reconstructions were attempted 
(see any sequence of drawings of The Globe); but, surely, it must be 
true that the more detailed and accurate the archeological and other 
evidence upon which such reconstructions are based, the less scope for 
such variation there might be.

Hugh Grady, in his essay in the above volume, goes some way towards 
acknowledging the point. He writes that "In art there is always a 
renewability within the flux of time that creates a complex kind of 
temporality negotiating between past and present" (p. 161).

In line with David Lindley's point, my response re: Presentism 
(developed in a chapter forthcoming) is that critics today are, in 
however minimal a way, indebted to past inscriptions, and those 
inscriptions qualify, shape and condition what may reasonably be made of 
them today. Aby Warburg's phrase 'Das Nachleben Der Antike' ('the 
survival/agency of antiquity') fits the argument usefully, I like to 
think. But should that sound too abstruse, I'll close with a joke.

In Plautus's Bacchides (c.200 BCE), Pistoclerus shakes his fist at 
Parasite and threatens to give him 'one of these toothcrackers'. The 
original for 'toothcracker' in the Latin text is 'dentifrangibula'.

Duncan Salkeld
Department of English
The University of Chichester


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