Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: October ::
Authorial Intention
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0671  Monday, 8 October 2007

[1]	From: 	Martin Mueller <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date: 	Thursday, 4 Oct 2007 09:23:47 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0664 Authorial Intention

[2]	From: 	Mark Alcamo<
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date: 	Thursday, 4 Oct 2007 09:11:30 -0700
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0664 Authorial Intention

[3]	From: 	Peter Bridgman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date: 	Thursday, 4 Oct 2007 20:14:18 +0100
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0664 Authorial Intention

[4]	From: 	R. A. Cantrell <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date: 	Thursday, 4 Oct 2007 21:18:40 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0664 Authorial Intention

[5]	From: 	R. A. Cantrell <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date: 	Thursday, 4 Oct 2007 21:44:02 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0664 Authorial Intention

[6]	From: 	John Drakakis <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date: 	Friday, 5 Oct 2007 12:26:28 +0100
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 18.0664 Authorial Intention

[7]	From: 	Joseph Egert <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date: 	Friday, 5 Oct 2007 12:57:53 -0700 (PDT)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0657 Authorial Intention

[8]	From: 	Alan Horn <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date: 	Monday, 8 Oct 2007 21:53:20 +0900
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0664 Authorial Intention


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Martin Mueller <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date: 		Thursday, 4 Oct 2007 09:23:47 -0500
Subject: 18.0664 Authorial Intention
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0664 Authorial Intention

Michael Luskin writes with an impatience that I can partly understand

 >I am not so interested in theory as in discussion of what is going on.

But how do you ever know what is "going on" in the first place? One  of 
the most thoughtful books of the last forty years, Michael Oakeshott's 
"On Human Conduct" (Oxford, 1975), starts with a long reflection on what 
he calls a "going-on," anything that attracts our notice. He 
distinguishes between two types of 'goings-on', which "predicate 
categorically different orders of inquiry." There are  goings-on "the 
identification of which includes the recognition that they are 
themselves exhibitions of intelligence . . . (a biologist at work, the 
engagement of the audience at a place, a boy learning Latin)," and there 
are goings-on that can be recognized and nderstood but are not 
themselves "exhibitions of intelligence: for example, a rock formation, 
a wave breaking on the shore, . . .  melting ice." Elsewhere he 
distinguishes between 'processes' and 'procedures': the 'blinking' of an 
eye is a process, a 'wink' is a procedure "the identification of which 
includes the recognition" of an exhibition of intelligence.

Was that a blink or a wink? The writing of a play is a procedure, most 
certainly involves "exhibitions of intelligence." And so are the acts of 
making sense of the play. Complex human procedures trying to make sense 
of the complex procedures underlying the "goings-on" in some human event 
four centuries ago.

Figuring out what is "going on" is a pretty tricky business. What was on 
Gertrude's mind (conceding for a moment that "she" had one in the first 
place). What did Shakespeare "have in mind" when he made her say this 
but not that? What is on your mind when you resolve those questions one 
way rather than another?

If there were easy questions to those answers, we probably would have 
found them by now.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Mark Alcamo<
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date: 		Thursday, 4 Oct 2007 09:11:30 -0700
Subject: 18.0664 Authorial Intention
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0664 Authorial Intention

I threw in my two cents yesterday on this topic, so I thought I'd double 
down today.

Some of my thoughts on Authorial Intent:

As I tried to convey in my last e-mail, it is easy to get wrapped around 
the axle when a topic such as this gets too esoteric, and in my opinion, 
it gets off track. I don't mean to sound egotistic or conceited, but my 
tendency is to be irreverent at times, this is one of those times. Much 
of what I read on Authorial Intent either sounds like Philosophic 
epistemology debates (which I've never been able to comprehend) or a 
masterpiece of confusion with regard to who doubled up on what part 
(which I consider a forest for trees issue).

Unless 'Authorial Intent' is a misnomer, I believe we need to recognize 
Shakespeare is an 'Author' first and foremost, and his work is 
'Literary.' I understand this flies in the face of current scholarship 
about the collaborative nature of theatre and what kind of day the Globe 
Scribe (I read his bio, but I forget his name) was having (fair or foul) 
... [ See 'quagmire.' ]  ...

We all know the power of Shakespeare's poetry: It's complexity, the 
multi-layered (inside out, upside down) (Human) nature of it, it's 
fractal nuance ...  More than one credible critic has used considered 
terms as 'inexhaustible' and 'unfathomable.' To paraphrase Ron Rosenbaum 
(Shakespeare's Wars) it sounded to me like he tried to understand some 
passage of Shakespeare and he felt like he lost his equilibrium. And to 
be honest, I remember once trying to pick apart a passage and really 
understand it all the views of it ... (and this is absolutely True)  - I 
'felt' Shakespeare and his Muse laughing at me! It was very strange ...

In a nutshell (Disclaimer: my opinion):  Attempting to shoehorn 
Shakespeare's Art into the constraints of 'his Zeitgeist' is like saying 
you can only get out of the Bible what you 'experience' in Cecil B. 
DeMille's filmography.

In a nutshell:  What was Shakespeare's Intention? (My opinion ...) To 
make us think. i.e.)  His Art is intentional. He intends to confuse the 
hell out of us. He intends to make us work (think) to understand him.

Of course I have to agree, there is a lot to gain by studying 
Shakespeare's Times and how his Art had to fit in. For instance, we know 
'Renaissance' England was actually a brutal regime. I would volunteer it 
was easily as brutal as any in the world today, including the deposed 
Sadam Hussein (but excluding Africa) (Who honestly knows what insanity 
goes on there). They routinely executed 'non conformists' and placed 
their heads on pikes on London Bridge to keep the Public 'informed.' 
Shakespeare had relative's heads on display (Somerville Affair), and by 
all accounts we have today, it was largely just another routine 
arbitrary Abuse of Power. How could the Artists respond? This was not an 
environment where Harold Pinter could write his plays and then call a 
News Conference to 'raile against all the first borne of Egypt.'

I'm going out on the limb here, but I always tend to give Shakespeare 
the benefit of the doubt. I see in much of what he writes not 'just' a 
mirror on his times, but if you read close, you may find not just some 
oblique shots at Big Brother, but some blistering commentary on the 
Powers-that-Be.

For example, Henry V has always been seen in two lights, Warrior V. 
Peace Monger.  I don't need to 'project' my own 'enlightened' attitude 
to see that Shakespeare himself fell in the second category.  If you 
read Harold Goddard's comments (The Meaning of Shakespeare) on the play 
it will get you going in this direction, and I'm certain there are other 
critics who see it the same way.  Henry V is a character study of a 'Not 
Ready for Prime Time Player King.'  Just L-oo-k at the excuse for just 
war.  I honestly wonder how the Elizabethan Actor kept from laughing, 
did he have to stick a needle in his thigh while spouting this nonsense? 
  I know someone may volunteer 'that's what Holingshed's (or whoever) 
says,' and I say fine, fiction has to be plausible, but we need to 
understand why Shakespeare included it.  Just 'cause?  Absurd ...

Apparently people as renown as Peter Brook have spoken of his quest for 
secret plays in Shakespeare's work and Clare Asquith (Shadowplay) goes 
through quite a bit of effort to show coding in his plays.  We all know 
the cliche of plays within plays in Shakespeare (and other Elizabethan 
Playwright's) work, and I have to say, I see many examples of it, and 
it's not coded, it's in your face if you catch the light just right.

Here are just two examples from the play I am currently studying, As You 
Like It:

1) In the famous 'Sweet are the uses of Adversity' speech (II, i) if you 
are 'willing' to consider the nasty weather (Winter) as an allusion to 
the Powers-that-Be, after commenting on 'painted pompe' and 'envious 
Court' Duke Senior says,

This is no flattery:  these are counsellors
That feelingly perswade me what I am:

...  and I have to say, it wasn't difficult for me to imagine a 
conversation between Shakespeare and the Queen (paraphrasing):

     Shakespeare:    Your Highnesse, hast thou ever considered thy 
fawning courtiers mightst be blowing smoke up thou Royal skirt?

     The Queen:    This is no flattery:  these are counsellors
                 That feelingly perswade me what I am:

(I can't help it, this is the sense of humor I project on Shakespeare.)

2) And then later when Jaques is musing about being a fool and cleansing 
the infected world if they but patiently receive his medicine (II vii). 
(Wonderful, who doesn't feel that way?)  But Duke Senior has a comeback 
that is typically rich because of the cavalcade of thoughts it might 
spring, but which might also be summarized as, 'Ha, you'd screw it up, 
IT'S A CHARACTER ISSUE.  And then Jaques reply doesn't respond to Duke 
Senior's charge at all, he not only provides us Shakespeare and 
Company's alibi (Plausible Deniability), but also, not in code, but 
right there in black and white, indicts the status quo.

Why who cries out on pride,
That can therein taxe any priuate party:
Doth it not flow as hugely as the Sea,
Till that the wearie verie meanes do ebbe.
What woman in the Citie do I name,
When that I say the City woman beares
The cost of Princes on vnworthy shoulders?
Who can come in, and say that I meane her,
When such a one as shee, such is her neighbor?
Or what is he of basest function,
That sayes his brauerie is not on my cost,
Thinking that I meane him, but therein suites
His folly to the mettle of my speech,
There then, how then, what then, let me see wherein
My tongue hath wrong'd him: if it do him right,
Then he hath wrong'd himselfe: if he be free,
Why then my taxing like a wild-goose flies
Vnclaim'd of any man. But who come here?

- TAX with impunity.  And it's funny because scholars have struggled 
over 'wearie' - well, we know how Liz (God=Sea) liked to dress well ... 
weary, wary, where were we?

- Oh - unworthy shoulders.  'You, Your Highness?  Well no, obviously 
that was Mary Queen of the drunk Scots I was referring to, Oh my.

- And the Leaping Lords?  Reportedly God's (Second) Gift of Greek & 
Roman Heroes ... actually, you ARE riding the backs of the poor also. 
Remember, food for cannon?  Someone has to pay for those rags, it's not 
the rich.

- And the bottom line, I don't wrong you, I just hold the mirror for 
you.  If the shoes fit, how many pair can I put you down for?

...  And there are many many many more of these type allusions 
throughout what I've read.  I haven't got to the Scene yet where 
Touchstone speaks of feigning poetry, but remembering the first or 
second time reading it, I was pretty floored.  For me, it was like 
Shakespeare was saying, 'You people, you just don't get it ...'

(Sorry for such a long comment, but I wanted to be clear, and 
(hopefully) ...  substantive.)

Mark Alcamo
Bremerton, WA.

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Peter Bridgman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date: 		Thursday, 4 Oct 2007 20:14:18 +0100
Subject: 18.0664 Authorial Intention
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0664 Authorial Intention

Michael B. Luskin writes ...

 >How do we separate the Catholic and Protestant threads
 >in Hamlet, Wittenburg, Purgatory, Is the lay to be read
 >from one point of view or the other? Why are they so
 >intertwined, and to my mind, so inseparable? Why did
 >Shakespeare do that?

Because it would be very surprising if WS was himself clear on the 
religious question.

When Elizabeth came to the throne, England was still (outside the urban 
centres at least) largely a Catholic country; when she died, England was 
largely Protestant.  During those decades the allegiances and 
consciences of the English people were being pulled in two directions. 
Hamlet's indecision reflects the tug of war that most English people 
felt.  On the one hand he represents the younger Protestant-educated 
generation; on the other hand he is prepared to make a wager of a 
thousand pounds that the Ghosts's words (and presumably therefore, the 
existence of Purgatory) are true.  Like his generation, he is mixed up.

Peter Bridgman

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		R. A. Cantrell <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date: 		Thursday, 4 Oct 2007 21:18:40 -0500
Subject: 18.0664 Authorial Intention
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0664 Authorial Intention

 >How do we separate the Catholic and Protestant threads in Hamlet,
 >Wittenburg, Purgatory, Is the lay to be read from one point of view or
 >the other? Why are they so intertwined, and to my mind, so inseparable?

Perhaps the Ideas, Catholic and Protestant, are presented in collision. 
Hamlet is out of Wittenberg (the University),per Luther, and Laertes is 
out of Paris (the University), as were many of Luther's persecutors at 
his trial.

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		R. A. Cantrell <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date: 		Thursday, 4 Oct 2007 21:44:02 -0500
Subject: 18.0664 Authorial Intention
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0664 Authorial Intention

 >I don't think we can talk about an implied author in the same sense in
 >relation to Shakespeare's plays--or anyone else's plays, for that
 >matter--since the author of a play is not in the same sense a "persona"
 >of the work.

It must always be born in mind that Shakespeare did not publish his 
plays. His "intent" was to get his living at the playhouse.

Authur Miller left us some fine exegetic pieces that illustrate both the 
validity and the difficulty of "authorial intention."

 >Miller has
 >said that his "Crucible" was intended to be a commentary on the
 >McCarthy-era "witch hunts," which certainly makes sense when you know
 >his biography, even though it isn't immediately deducible within the
 >confines of the play.

This is a particularly fine irony. Even though Macarthy was right about 
everything he said and did, his work is till this day called a "witch 
hunt," and Miller, who was just one of the rabble piling on with the 
Murrow crowd, continues to be lionized for his "art" and his supposed 
suffering. Though Willy Lohman will live for a long, long time, "The 
Crucible" will come to be studied as an example of "art" affecting the 
thought of the polity for ill.

-- All the best, R.A. Cantrell

[6]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John Drakakis <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date: 		Friday, 5 Oct 2007 12:26:28 +0100
Subject: 18.0664 Authorial Intention
Comment: 	RE: SHK 18.0664 Authorial Intention

To respond to Michael Luskin, the problem is that we shall never know 
what Shakespeare 'intended'. All we can be certain of is, to use Terence 
Hawkes pregnant formulation, 'what WE mean by Shakespeare' (my 
emphasis). Of course, we can indulge in historicist speculations about 
the ways in which contemporary Elizabethan-Jacobean culture produced 
meanings, but we would be ill advised to delude ourselves into thinking 
that we can be totally objective in our speculations. In the same way 
that we are always being most ideological when we think we aren't, so we 
are being most 'presentist' when we think we are being objectively 
historical. Ironically, the best historians think that too.

Ain't no such thing as simplicity in the adult world.

Cheers
John D

[7]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Joseph Egert <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date: 		Friday, 5 Oct 2007 12:57:53 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 18.0657 Authorial Intention
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0657 Authorial Intention

Will Sharpe writes:

 >"Texts have meanings, but they always come from
 >collaborations between readers/viewers and authors."

Not so. As I see it,"meanings" may be taken in two senses: either the 
intended meanings (here a useful tautology) by the authors, or the 
extracted meanings/interpretations by the recipients of a text. These 
two sets of meanings may coincide or diverge. In no case is there 
collaboration.

Sally Drum writes:

 >"AI [authorial intention], unless specifically stated by the
 >author, dies with the author.[...] The creation leaves creator
 >behind[...]"

Not so. The authorial intent, like any objective historical fact for any 
given instant, remains immortal and eternal. This intent may indeed be 
seen to change from instant to instant, depending on how fine is the 
focus of examination---which is why any editor worth his salt is always 
attempting to reconstruct  an ideal copytext of intent (be it the 
proofread final draft, the proofread fair copy, the proofread 
promptbook, or the proofread later revision, etc) with hirself as the 
final proofreader.

Tony Burton writes:

 >"In the matter of 'authorial intention', don't we all take it as a given
 >that the author was entirely competent and successful in expressing his
 >or her intended meaning? That the text does in fact express whatever
 >the author (or group of authors) intended, and the burden is on
 >ourselves to be competent auditors or readers?"

I don't believe we all assume competence in expression of intent on the 
part of the author. In fact, the author hirself, after penning draft 
after draft, may be the one most dissatisfied with hir final product. 
Or, am I misreading your expressed intent, Tony?

Cary Di Pietro writes:

 >"I've suggested locating the text's agency in the act of interpretation
 >itself, though perhaps 'agency' is not quite the right word (please
 >don't mistake these tentative musings for doctrine-this is the luxury of
 >Shaksper): we both act upon and are acted upon by the text's power to
 >make meaning[...]  An interpretation that is limited to statements 
about, for >example, Shakespeare's intentions or expectations, is blind 
to the wonderful
 >complexity of meaning process. There you have it, a statement of the
 >obvious."

In my view, the text by no means has agency. It therefore has no power 
to make meaning. Only human agents are so empowered. While Carey D is 
himself uncomfortable with his own formulaion, he nonetheless returns to 
it again and again. The issue is not one of neglecting the "complexity 
of meaning process," but rather of both discounting or minimizing human 
agency in intending meaning and then emphasizing the futility of any 
attempts to recapture or even approach that original meaning by finding, 
sifting and weighing the available evidence despite our obvious 
limitations. Scholarship, to this amateur, should seek to trace the 
entire continuum, per Aristotle, from the authors' intended meanings to 
the recipients' extracted meanings over the years up to the most 
interesting musings of one Carey DiPietro.

Warm regards,
Joe Egert

[8]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Alan Horn <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date: 		Monday, 8 Oct 2007 21:53:20 +0900
Subject: 18.0664 Authorial Intention
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0664 Authorial Intention

Carol Barton proposes a non-trivial use for the term "implied author" in 
discussing certain non-fiction works, giving the example of Milton's 
polemics: "John Milton in any of his polemics is presumably the speaker 
of his works, since he is not 'in character' per se: yet the distinction 
between ethos (what the author actually knows or believes) and dianoia 
(the posture he adopts for the purposes of his performance) is often 
discernible in his writing."

I like this suggestion very much. In this case, the author, writing in 
his own name, deliberately misrepresents his views or knowledge for 
rhetorical purposes-not in an ironical inversion intended to be seen 
through, but effectively implying a perspective that is not identical 
with his own. Note that it involves the author's self-presentation in a 
work and not merely a reader's construction of him; note too that we 
have a definite reason here for distinguishing the implied author from 
the author, not merely the possibility (or inevitability) that the 
latter's intentions are not fully transparent to the reader.

The examples Carol gives come from non-fiction works (which is outside 
the scope of narratology, where the term and our discussion of it 
originated), but I think it can be usefully extended to cover analogous 
phenomena in fiction. A novelist or dramatist might for various artistic 
and extra-artistic reasons imply agreement in their work with 
conventional social or moral values or political views or religious 
doctrines (Marlowe?) that there is reason to believe they do not in fact 
hold.

Unfortunately, as far as I know, this is the first time that anyone has 
proposed this kind of restriction on the use of the term. I remain 
skeptical about its usefulness in other cases, at least until someone 
can provide a convincing example to the contrary.

The case of Arthur Miller as presented by Carol Barton seems to me to be 
an example of whatever the opposite of an implied author might be: an 
authorial perspective that the work itself FAILS to imply is externally 
supplied by the actual author. In this reading Miller is not 
distinguishing his views from that of the (un)implied author of his 
plays; he is seeking to impose his own on him by fiat.

Alan Horn

_______________________________________________________________
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.