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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: September ::
WashPost: Ourselves in Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0591  Monday, 10 September 2007

From: 		Joseph Egert <
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Date: 		Sunday, 9 Sep 2007 13:41:39 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 18.0586 WashPost: Ourselves in Shakespeare
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0586 WashPost: Ourselves in Shakespeare

Many thanks to John Drakakis for his clarification. I've followed his 
intercalations with my own replies, as "JE:".

 >Joseph Egert writes,
 >
 >>John Drakakis, unclear as to what I mean by 'fact',
 >>asks how he would recognize it. The answer, which
 >>JD himself provides later in the "Gobbo" example, is
 >>simply to gather, weigh, and judge the available evidence,
 >>perhaps in conference with fellow jurors, then decide
 >>what most likely happened in fact.
 >>
 >>Think of actual history as a reel of 3D film unspooling in time. Each
 >>cel then constitutes an objective universal permanent record of each
 >>instant. Different scholars may wish to study different parts of a given
 >>cel, or different segments of the reel over time (say, a particular year
 >>or decade), then reason together as to what probably occurred in fact.
 >>Naturally, like sand-blind Hindus examining different parts of the
 >>elephant, they bring their own interests, perceptions, and judgments to
 >>the process, all conditioned by society and history (There's that truism
 >>again.). The actual facts, while prior to and independent of their
 >>valuations, nonetheless form the basis for them.
 >>
 >>Some may recognize that the "Gobbo" example and attendant quotes were
 >>taken directly from Dr D's own "Present Text" piece in PRESENTIST
 >>SHAKESPEARES---in the (vain?) hope JD would respond to the problems
 >>posed. Let's try one more time:
 >>
 >>1. Does JD agree that past and present form one evolving continuum and
 >>therefore cannot be in overall "dialectical relation" to each other?
 >
 >[NO, I don't. History is created through a dialogue between past and
 >present. One version of it is Kojeve's 'History is the desire of the
 >desiring subject' it has to be dialectical otherwise we stay still ergo
 >no history.]

JE: I'm afraid Dr D and I may be talking past each other by confusing 
the actual past/present continuum with the subjective valuations and 
desires of its subjects. The objective past and present of an evolving 
continuum cannot be in overall dialectic relation, though conflicting 
and reinforcing currents may co-exist within its rolling river.

 >>2. Must we wait to learn what name he would advise his fellow editor to
 >>use in the stage direction example, and why?
 >
 >[Yes you will, until next year]

JE: I'm asking Dr D how he would advise a fellow editor, not what he 
would do himself  :-)

 >>3. Does Dr D still believe "speculating about authorial intention" to be
 >>a "trap" or "guilty" endeavor? JD himself suggests he would accept which
 >>name to use, had he Shakespeare's own manuscript. Even here I'd argue:
 >>the fundamental question is not what he wrote but what he intended to
 >>write. We'd still have to try to construct a perfectly proofread
 >>manuscript from what was handed to us.
 >
 >[It's fun to speculate, but pretty futile. In any case, we need to
 >rethink our concept of authorship. The purpose of textual bibliography
 >is to enable us to subtract from a hypothetical manuscript the input of
 >the printing house. Once we have done that we can speculate on what a
 >hypothetical mss. may have contained. As for authorial intention and the
 >'authority' that it implies, how do we deal with the speech prefixes in
 >Q1 Much Ado that name Dogberry 'Will Kemp' -- was this Shakespeare
 >writing, or Will Kemp writing Shakespeare? And in any case wouldn't a
 >Shakespeare text be a palimpsest of citation? So much for the romantic
 >fiction that Shakespeare was 'original']

JE: But John, if we presume the printing house was working from an 
unmediated author's holograph, we would no longer need to speculate what 
the post-subtraction mss contained. However, we would still need to 
proofread that manuscript in line with the author's own intention. Your 
"Dogberry/Kemp" example is an excellent case in point. Perhaps you can 
tell us which speech prefix you would use in your edition, and why---or 
must we wait a year for this as well? Also, doesn't the very 
organization and moulding of the palimpsest constitute an author's 
originality regardless of how many sources? Or have you outlawed the 
concept of "originality" in your LitSpeak? And isn't "Kemp writing 
Shakespeare" one more example of that tortured Orwellian phrasing for 
which pseudo-radical inquiry has become notorious?

 >>4. What then would Dr D choose as the model for his edition of a play
 >>"by William Shakespeare"? -- a perfectly proofread final draft? a
 >>perfectly proofread opening night script or promptbook?
 >
 >[The term 'model' is misleading. The copy text for The Merchant of
 >Venice is the quarto of 1600 that was minimally corrected in the print
 >shop of James Roberts. I say minimally corrected since we only have
 >evidence from the small number of surviving copies. If we had more then
 >we would be able to find out more about its progress through Roberts' 
shop]

JE: Yet Dr D seeks to subtract the printer's input of "corrections" and 
errors in reconstructing the actual 1600 quarto copytext. Would not a 
perfectly proofread author's final draft or opening night 
script/promptbook serve as an even better "model" copy text for his 
edition "by William Shakespeare"? Should we not direct our efforts 
toward that goal rather than emphasizing time and again its futility?

 >>5. Does Dr D truly believe all scholarship should be sieved through a
 >>"current social value" filter? I still don't know how John distinguishes
 >>between "progress" and "reaction". Does he agree with Cary DiPetro that
 >>"our priority must be to consider how and why these texts mean for us
 >>now"? Or is this more noncense?
 >
 >[I didn't say it 'should' be. It IS. What presentism does is to make
 >us aware of the ways in which it is, of which Cary di Petro's
 >observations constitute only a part]

JE: Dr D (in fact) wrote in "Present Text": "Indeed, if literary texts 
[...] are to have any current social value at all beyond that of the 
antiquarian 'veneration of monuments' (Jay 1996: 278), then we need to 
take very seriously the *dialectic* relation between the [past and 
present...]"  Let the reader judge whether "should" is implied. Indeed, 
John has yet to tell us how he would distinguish "reaction" from 
"progress." I wonder why.

Regards,
Joe Egert

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