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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: June ::
Degree in Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0422  Friday, 29 June 2007

[1] 	From: 	Larry Weiss <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 28 Jun 2007 00:54:51 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0416 Degree in Shakespeare

[2] 	From: 	Al Magary <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 27 Jun 2007 23:14:44 -0700
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0416 Degree in Shakespeare

[3] 	From: 	Kathy Dent <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 28 Jun 2007 12:12:03 +0100
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 18.0416 Degree in Shakespeare

[4] 	From: 	Donald Bloom <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 28 Jun 2007 11:53:05 -0500
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 18.0416 Degree in Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Larry Weiss <
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Date: 		Thursday, 28 Jun 2007 00:54:51 -0400
Subject: 18.0416 Degree in Shakespeare
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0416 Degree in Shakespeare

 >Who will take on Brian?  How much effort would it take? Would it
 >be worth it?  Will Brian be a happy, balanced and mature person
 >without that effort?

Sadly, Brian may well prove to be happy, regardless of whether he is 
balanced and mature.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Al Magary <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 27 Jun 2007 23:14:44 -0700
Subject: 18.0416 Degree in Shakespeare
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0416 Degree in Shakespeare

Sam Small asked--rhetorically?--about a young character in what is 
called reality TV, "...what is the future for Brian?  He clearly is very 
irritated--even aggressive when even overhearing talk of art and 
literature.  Who will take on Brian?  How much effort would it take? 
Would it be worth it?  Will Brian be a happy, balanced and mature person 
without that effort?"

If Brian's 19 years of living and dozen years of elementary schooling 
haven't acquainted him even with Romeo and Juliet as perennial stars of 
pop culture, I doubt he is worth any further educational efforts.  Brian 
has obviously shut out all experience he doesn't know or like, and is 
past the age where he might by accident have some tiny epiphany about 
the great world outside of himself.  Best to let a clod like him slip, 
frictionless, through the remainder of his life.  He won't be that 
unhappy or, in this economy, unproductive in his abysmal stupidity and 
permanent immaturity.  Troubled humanitarians like Sam Small would be 
better rewarded, and the world would be marginally improved, by shedding 
any liberal guilt about people like Brian and instead expending 
resources on people who desire a little saving effort.

This elitist opinion aside (shocking stuff, I say, from a kneejerk lib 
Dem in San Francisco), I'd like to hear some devil's advocacy on whether 
Shakespeare--in any amount, in any style--is fundamental.

Al Magary

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Kathy Dent <
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Date: 		Thursday, 28 Jun 2007 12:12:03 +0100
Subject: 18.0416 Degree in Shakespeare
Comment: 	RE: SHK 18.0416 Degree in Shakespeare

Sam Small writes:

 >I ask this list what is the future for Brian?  He clearly is very
 >irritated - even aggressive when even overhearing talk of art
 >and literature.   Who will take on Brian?  How much effort
 >would it take? Would it be worth it?  Will Brian be a happy,
 >balanced and mature person without that effort?
 >
 >Troubled.
 >
 >SAM SMALL

Dear Troubled Sam Small,

Get real.  MOST people aren't interested in Shakespeare.  End of.

(I must admit to having been awestruck that Brian has negotiated his way 
through the British education system without even hearing of the 
existence of Shakespeare!  It shows a single-minded determination to 
learn NOTHING that might impede his progression towards being a yoof 
role model.  His future is secure: express crass opinions, get money and 
become a celebrity by the shortest possible route.)

Kathy Dent

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Donald Bloom <
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Date: 		Thursday, 28 Jun 2007 11:53:05 -0500
Subject: 18.0416 Degree in Shakespeare
Comment: 	RE: SHK 18.0416 Degree in Shakespeare

Reading Shakespeare (or any great literature) should make one a better 
person, but doesn't necessarily do so.

You could make a comparison to going to church (here standing for any 
organized religious ritual or instruction). It should cause you to walk 
more humbly before the Lord and love your neighbor more than you would 
otherwise. I would call this better.

It may instead, however, teach you hate, violence, self-glorification 
and hypocrisy. I would call this worse.

It also may teach you nothing at all, as you literally or figuratively 
doze through the lessons.

Reading literature (by which I mean fiction, drama or poetry of some 
depth or insight) can and should make you more aware of your fellow 
humans, their hopes, fears, successes and failures, acts of generosity 
and of selfishness, spite and cruelty, deeds of courage and cowardice: 
the whole nine yards. It should make you more sympathetic toward them, 
and more humbled by your own follies, cruelties, and failures. Of 
course, it doesn't always.

One of the ways that you define yourself and your attitude toward 
literature (and, for some of us, your reasons for teaching it) is by the 
degree to which you think that there is some lasting and absolute value 
in experiencing what other people experience, so that you can be both 
inside another person and outside that person thinking about what you're 
experiencing.

All literature works that way to the degree that you are able experience 
it. The agony of Samson is different from the agony of Jake Barnes, but 
the suffering of both men is very real, at least to me.

To turn back to the sole begetter of this list, one of his characters 
that I have struggled with for decades is Falstaff. On the one hand, his 
quick wit and his total irresponsibility are so refreshing that it is 
hard not to love him. On the other hand, he is a liar, a cheat, a thief, 
a con-man, a braggart and a coward. You can learn a lot about yourself 
from mulling over why you think one side of Falstaff is more important 
than the other, and so also with Hamlet, Shylock, Macbeth, and, to one 
degree or another, all the rest.

Your students (if you are cursed / blessed with such objects) will have 
their own set of responses which you can, with pluck and luck, get them 
to explore. This will teach them things not only about the work in 
question, but about the nature of literature, humanity generally, and 
themselves.

That, I think, is the point.

Cheers,
don

p.s. Pray for give the pontificating sound of this post. It's something 
I've thought about off and on for a long time and take rather seriously. 
  I hope it isn't too dreadfully pompous.


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