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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: September ::
Redheads
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0581  Wednesday, 5 September 2007

[1] 	From: 		Bob Lapides <
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	Date: 		Tuesday, 4 Sep 2007 09:26:40 EDT
	Subj: 		Re: SHK 18.0578 Redheads

[2] 	From: 		Anthony Burton <
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	Date: 		Tuesday, 4 Sep 2007 11:42:06 -0400
	Subj: 		Re: SHK 18.0578 Redheads


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Bob Lapides <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 4 Sep 2007 09:26:40 EDT
Subject: 18.0578 Redheads
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0578 Redheads

Peter Bridgman writes that "Bruegel (for example) painted the Holy 
Family as Flemish peasants, rather than as Palestinian Jews."

Actually, there were no Palestinian Jews at the time of Jesus. The term 
"Palestine" was created by the Romans more than a hundred years later, 
following the failed Jewish revolt. They imposed this name on Judaea in 
an attempt to crush the Jews' lingering sense of nationhood. It was also 
a way of adding insult to injury, as the Philistines had been in the 
relatively distant past the enemy of the Hebrews.

One wonders why this piece of history isn't better known. My own answer 
is that unless a non-hegemonic group has the power to make the 
mainstream pay attention, the hegemonic version will prevail.

I've recently written something about Dickens's "Life of Our Lord," a 
book about Jesus he wrote for his children's instruction.  Although 
radical in some ways -- it takes the Unitarian position that Jesus was 
not divine -- it obscures the fact that Jesus was Jewish more than was 
possible in the Gospels. I wanted to know how unusual this was in 
Dickens's day, so I looked into other Victorian re-tellings of the life 
of Jesus and whatever discussion of these efforts I could find. Several 
20C historians noted that it was because of pressure from Jewish 
scholars that a more accurate depiction of Jesus's connection to his 
background finally began to emerge.

Previously, Jewish villains were described in great Jewish detail, but 
Jewish heroes were "universal."

Also, I don't see Peter's point in mentioning that Jesus and Mary are 
referred to by their Hebrew/Aramaic names in the Aramaic version of the 
NT. How could it have been otherwise?

Bob Lapides
Professor of English
Manhattan Community College,  CUNY

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Anthony Burton <
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 >
Date: 		Tuesday, 4 Sep 2007 11:42:06 -0400
Subject: 18.0578 Redheads
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0578 Redheads

Peter Bridgman writes:

 >"The question comes down to their degree of consciousness.
 >
 >Look at Titus Andronicus performed in 1595 ...
 >
 >Titus (holding the spear) wears a toga, but the Roman soldiers  behind 
Titus are in Elizabethan dress.  We may ask was this cost- cutting or 
laziness on the part of WS and his company?  Or was it  ignorance?
 >
 >Contemporary European paintings of Christ being scourged by Roman 
soldiers invariably show the soldiers in contemporary dress.  In  other 
words, artists before the Enlightenment did not share our  concerns for 
historicity.
 >
 >And if Bruegel (for example) painted the Holy Family as Flemish 
peasants, rather than as Palestinian Jews, wasn't he doing exactly  the 
same thing as non-European Christian artists are doing today,  i.e. 
responding to the universality of the Gospels? "

It seems that the last suggestion listed would cancel and contradict the 
imputations of cost-cutting, laziness, and lack of concern for 
historicity, and it appeals to me as the best way to understand the 
matter of "contemporary" dress in medieval/Renaissance art and letters 
without making the sophomoric mistake of announcing where the geniuses 
of the past "got it wrong."  (I am not saying that Peter is unaware of 
this.) If the Christian narrative is true for all time, as other 
religious narratives are also in their separate ways, it would be 
counterproductive to present them always and only in "historical" dress 
and setting.  To do so would turn what is felt to be eternal into 
something antiquarian, and would surely distance the audience and 
readership from that sense of continuing relevance upon which the 
presumed value of religious texts and teaching always depends. 
Depicting or enacting the cosmic/divine story in a fashion that connects 
the "then" and "them" with "now" and "us" is in my humble view the best 
if not only possible approach for depicting its importance for the 
present.  Indeed, one might ask if the use of then- contemporary 
settings and dress reflects an appreciation of the core insights of 
presentism avant la lettre, as the artist's own program for reducing the 
inevitable distortions which intervene over time and across cultures.

Of course, the specific problems which confronted artists at any 
particular time in the past are embedded in their own uniquely 
unrecoverable cultural moment; and thus our understanding of the 
solutions reached at any time in the past is no less problematic than 
what presentism describes now about any other interpretive issue 
regarding the intent, content, and received meaning of any other 
creative work of the same place and period.  But it would be a mistake 
to assume that the artists (or clergy) of the past were naive about the 
problem, about the need to give what is universal and divine a local 
habitation and a name, while still retaining the sensed qualities of 
universality and divinity.

Is there such a thing as a cultural history of presentism? 
Paleopresentism?  Do I hear clamors for a new and extended roundtable, 
perhaps an ovaltable?

Tony Burton

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