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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: July ::
SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0412  Friday, 18 July 2008

From:      Cary DiPietro <
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Date:      Thursday, 17 Jul 2008 21:33:02 -0400
Subject:   SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions

This is the final digest of the current Roundtable; and, as is now the custom, 
I'm going to offer a few observations about the operation of the Roundtable 
format generally, and its use as a venue for the kinds of critical arguments 
we've seen made here. I'll begin by proposing that the Roundtable, as a 
topic-oriented and moderated forum for reflective critical discussion on 
SHAKSPER, has the potential to harness the Internet as an emergent mode of 
literacy and, in doing so, to reshape, if only marginally, a powerful discourse 
community in positive and productive ways; but I believe the current Roundtable 
has fallen somewhat short of that objective. I should note that what I'm not 
talking about is the overall quality of the discussion, which has been exemplary 
in my opinion. Rather, I'm suggesting that the Roundtable, rather than falling 
in the rift between scholarly discourse and a wider non-academic community of 
enthusiasts and practitioners, can serve as a productive bridge between them, 
much as SHAKSPER itself does, only with a much more defined critical agenda. 
And, for reasons I'll detail below, debates about authorial intention must 
remain at the very centre of that project.

We're fortunate in this case because we can compare our discussion not only to 
the first Roundtable on presentism guest-moderated by Hugh Grady, but to the 
earlier discussion on authorial intention initiated by Larry Weiss as a regular 
list thread (there were two earlier threads on authorial intention, one in 2001 
and one in 2002). That thread ran for about one month from early September to 
mid-October 2007 for a total of nineteen posts. There were 32 contributors for a 
total count of about 26 000 words. Our Roundtable will have had about nine 
formal digests from April to July, though with numerous interim postings. There 
are to date a total of 20 contributors for a total count of approximately 52 
0000 words and counting. 13 of the 20 contributors to the Roundtable 
participated in the earlier thread; more significantly, this means that 19 of 
the contributors to the thread did not participate in the Roundtable. Even more 
significantly, there was much greater participation in the regular thread by 
those members whose email domains are not academic (ending in .com, .co.uk, 
etc.), as compared to the Roundtable which was dominated by contributors 
currently affiliated with postsecondary institutions.

The data is not difficult to interpret. The discussion in the Roundtable has 
been more sustained and generally more thoughtful, at nearly double the word 
length over a comparable number of posts. Quantity doesn't necessarily equal 
quality, but the overall quality of writing on the Roundtable easily approaches 
that of peer-reviewed journal publication. The initial thread was also witness 
to many thoughtful and well-made arguments, and it was, of course, the success 
of that thread that prompted both the current Roundtable topic and the 
collaboration with _Style_. The Roundtable discussion has been, however, 
significantly less diverse and spontaneous, much of it "engineered" by way of 
topic-driven leading essays. Hardy and I have also intervened and restricted 
contributions to the discussion at different points with the goal of 
maintaining a more reflective or scholarly format and forestalling essentialist 
or under-critical commentary; this has not been a direct cause for that loss of 
diversity, however, because we only intervened significantly in the case of 
about five contributions, two of which were revised according to suggestions we 
made. It may be that the perceived possibility of intervention was itself a 
deterrent to wider participation, though I think the more obvious deterrents 
were the excellent and formidable leading essays solicited for each week's digest.

At the end of the last presentism Roundtable, Hugh Grady lamented the fact that 
so few, if any, of the participants engaged with the initial reading list he 
proposed, noting that not a single contribution quoted or referred to those 
works. The same is true in this case, though I anticipated this problem. In the 
case of presentism, there are relatively few sources to turn to, and those that 
do exist usefully lay the groundwork for further discussion. Authorship and 
intention are much larger topic areas and devising a required reading list that 
does justice to them or that anticipates where the discussion will go was a much 
more difficult task. Far more useful were the sources brought into the 
discussion by leading essayists: Alan Dessen's use of Cary Mazer's article on 
intention and the theatre, for example, led directly to Mazer's later 
participation in the forum; equally compelling were discussions revolving around 
Derrida, Wittgenstein, Searle and others, particularly in the dialogue between 
Duncan Salkeld and David Schalkwyk.

Grady also argued that in the first Roundtable contributors, perhaps as a result 
of their failure to engage with the existing scholarship, often talked at cross 
purposes. There was a much greater sense of ongoing dialogue in this current 
Roundtable, particularly between the leading essayists, but also between the 
essayists and respondents to them from the list. There is a danger for 
sophisticated conceptual arguments to devolve into abstract generalities and 
misunderstandings when participation is widened to a group such as this; this 
was the nature of the criticism, or part of it, made by Gabriel Egan towards the 
latter half of the Roundtable, and voiced by others to me off list. My feeling, 
however, was that the many theoretical and philosophical positions raised in the 
Roundtable were useful and compelling. Another criticism made both on and off 
list is that the many textual cruxes proposed by John Drakakis, Larry Weiss, 
Duncan Salkeld, and Steve Urkowitz, among others, largely fell by the wayside, 
and that the discussion tended towards the abstract rather than the concrete. 
While this is the pitfall of the intention debate, I find this starting and 
stalling of textually focused discussion curious since many of the liveliest 
threads on the regular list revolve around such cruxes. At several points during 
the Roundtable, I also attempted to steer the dialogue in certain directions, 
but these suggestions were largely met with silence.

I think the greatest difficulty facing the Roundtable is, ironically, the 
electronic medium. There is a growing body of research to show that literacy 
behaviours differ significantly when readers engage with screen text versus 
traditional print media, some researchers even suggesting that reading cognition 
is itself evolving (see, for example, Coiro, di Sessa; there is also a recent 
article in _The Atlantic_ by Nicholas Carr, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?"). Even 
though SHAKSPER posts are delivered to my email client, I tend to read them the 
same way I read web pages: following the headers that interest me, reading the 
first few sentences, skimming the rest, and jumping to embedded hyperlinks or 
returning to browse subsequent posts. This is not merely a problem of interest 
and intellectual self-discipline, but may extend to higher cognitive functions 
such as being able to identify an argument, to contextualize writing in terms of 
writer and intended audience, and to formulate a critical response to it (the 
relative inconvenience of highlighting text and writing marginal comments when 
reading on electronic media is often cited as a symptomatic cause of this 
problem). The nature of the electronic medium might therefore be 
counter-productive to the kind of reflective critical encounter the Roundtable 
seeks to encourage. In short, I suspect many on the list are not reading longer 
digests, or not reading them fully, nor are they forming independent critical 
responses to them, and not merely for want of interest in the topic.

On the other side of the coin, there are many positive aspects to the global and 
electronic nature of the Roundtable, as with SHAKSPER more broadly. The Internet 
fosters diversity and plurality, and is arguably a more democratized medium for 
professional scholarship (witness recent discussions on SHAKSPER about 
institutional subscription fees and open-access publication). The Internet is 
generally global, though participation on SHAKSPER is restricted to those fluent 
in English and is usually dominated by Anglo-American perspectives. Perhaps most 
importantly, the electronic medium of SHAKSPER fosters, at least in principal, a 
critical awareness of the diverse activities and attitudes that shape not just 
our understanding of Shakespeare and the drama of his period, but our 
assumptions about Shakespeare's place in our shared and distinct cultures and 
societies, and the priorities that are assigned to his writing by markedly 
different groups.

In an article addressing critical reading and literacy, Cervetti, Pardales and 
Damico argue that the foundation of a liberal-humanist critical reading practice 
rests on epistemological and ontological assumptions that include authorial 
intention: that knowledge is gained through a process of sense making, deduction 
and rational analysis; that reality is directly knowable and can serve as a 
referent for interpretation; and that detecting the author's knowable intentions 
has traditionally been the basis for higher levels of interpretation across 
numerous disciplines. In place of humanist reading, they offer a model of 
"critical literacy": "In essence, students of critical literacy approach textual 
meaning making as a process of construction, not exegesis; one imbues a text 
with meaning rather than extracting meaning from it. More important, textual 
meaning is understood in the context of social, historic, and power relations, 
not solely as the product or intention of an author." They argue further, 
borrowing from mostly Frankfurt school critical theory, that "meanings are 
always contested (never givens), and are related to ongoing struggles in society 
for the possession of knowledge, power, status, and material resources."

These arguments should be familiar to us, and are perhaps even simplistic for 
our purposes, but their appearance in reading and literacy research offers an 
astonishing point of comparison; they could be card-carrying presentists when 
they write that "meanings emerge only in relation to other meanings and 
practices within specific sociopolitical contexts. From this perspective, 
authors create texts and individuals interpret them within discursive systems 
that regulate what it means to know in a particular setting." More to the point, 
they isolate authorial intention as being at the centre of the liberal-humanist 
tradition and attempt to decentre it when they argue for a different kind of 
reading whose goal is the development of a critical consciousness, a 
consciousness of power, social justice, and "differences across race, class, 
gender, sexual orientation, and so on."

A global electronic critical forum, especially one about authorial intention, 
should therefore be well-poised to meet this goal of critical consciousness; of, 
more specifically, widening participation, democratizing conventional 
scholarship in an open-access environment, and developing an awareness of the 
contestable power relations of scholarly discourse. As David Schalkwyk argued at 
one point, "the argument about what kinds of things we want to do as 
institutionalised beings (professional scholars, critics, historians, and so on) 
is a matter of institutional debate, politics, and power." The Roundtable and 
SHAKSPER more generally are uniquely poised to challenge those very 
institutional debates from the electronic margins. But the fact that the 
majority of the discussion on the current Roundtable has been restricted to 
mostly academic dialogue reinforces the point that scholarly discourse is 
largely impenetrable and self-serving. As a critical forum, the Roundtable has 
worked remarkably well. It's been far more productive and educating for me than 
many of the conference seminars I've attended or organized; the responses and 
consequent dialogue, in particular, have been far more substantial than is 
possible in the typical two-hour seminar format. Also very successful was the 
dialogue, though engineered, between different textual practices from criticism 
and theory to editing, performance and theatre history. I'm particularly proud 
of this aspect of the Roundtable; this kind of exchange is rare in professional 
circles. However, it would have been even more productive to hear from the 
perspective of actual theatre practitioners and those engaged in different 
aspects of popular culture and Shakespeare production.

While there are clear resonances between the literacy article I've quoted above 
and the debate we've seen here, the Roundtable has also demonstrated the 
necessary and irremediable complexity of authorial intention, not only across 
different textual practices such as editing and performance, but, as I've tried 
to argue, to literary criticism as a distinct discipline. The poststructuralist 
argument against intention is well-rehearsed, but I would like to have seen 
greater intersection with narrative studies and narratological theory, which is 
more directly concerned with literary aspects of the text and the text's 
reception within reading communities. This was a view shared with me off list by 
John V. Knapp, editor of _Style_, and this is a goal we'll seek to meet as we 
make the transition to the journal, with a particular emphasis on the utility of 
narratology to the study of drama.

In summary, what I think the Roundtable should aim to achieve is, as Hardy has 
maintained from the start, a mode of reflective critical discussion comparable 
to what you would find in a conference seminar or similar professional outlet, 
but making the most of the convenience and ease of access SHAKSPER offers. From 
my own perspective, I think the Roundtable should aim to widen scholarly 
discussion to new communities of readers and writers, to rethink for whom and by 
whom such knowledge is produced, and to develop a meta-cognitive awareness of 
the uses to which such textual understanding is put. Some brief practical 
suggestions: (1.) I would dispense with the initial reading list or greatly 
abbreviate it, but instead compile an ongoing bibliography;  (2.) in an ideal 
world, this bibliography would be mounted on a web page and hyperlinked to PDF 
files, as would in-text citations; (3.) when possible, contributors might 
annotate sources or relevant aspects of sources for readers; (4.) contributors 
of longer posts (leading essayists, for example) might also abstract their own 
contributions, allowing readers to read the short version and refer to the 
longer version if interest compels them; (5.) younger scholars and graduate 
students might be motivated to participate if a model entry for participation in 
the Roundtable were mounted on the SHAKSPER website, to be included under the 
"Professional Activities" section of a scholarly CV; finally, (6.) I would 
suggest that future topics for the Roundtable, in keeping with the electronic 
medium, continue to stir things up, challenging the parameters of conventional 
scholarship and thinking.

The digest below includes a total of thirteen contributions, all previously 
published to the list. I reproduce them below in chronological order. The 
discussion may continue from here, but will do so in a regular thread list. In a 
few days, I'll be posting to the list a CFP for the _Style_ issue. By way of 
conclusion, let me extend my warm thanks to the many contributors over the past 
several weeks, including, but not limited to, our outstanding leading essayists. 
Considerable thanks must also go to both Hardy and John Knapp whose presence on 
the sidelines of the discussion has been indispensable.

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Duncan Salkeld <
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Date:      Friday, 27 Jun 2008 11:11:06 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
Comment:   SHK 19.0364 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions

Hugh Grady raises a fascinating point - - the relationship of the 'aesthetic' to 
intentionality. But it's not so easy to see how a distinction between 
'conventional' and 'aesthetic' language (if it can be drawn at all) ties in with 
an equivalent distinction between 'non-intended' and 'intended' language. As a 
side issue, I can see very good reasons for regarding genres as shared 
conventional literary modes with their own social purposes but also as exemplars 
of writerly intention.

David Schalkwyk seems content to hold that intention may be 'indispensable' or 
'inescapable' but ultimately doesn't matter. For him, you can drop talk of 
intention and just stick to the evidence. But since evidence must be evidence of 
something, and sometimes of intention or purpose, that is precisely what you 
have to address. I don't think the debate comes down to a loaded choice between 
Shakespeare the fixed intending genius in one corner and the changing world of 
performance in the other. Cary DiPietro gives a very honest assessment of the 
pedagogical issues intentionality raises, and sensibly recommends that 
consciousness merits a place in the discussion. In philosophy, as in literary 
criticism, intentionality raises tricky problems not easily resolved. I simply 
maintain that avoiding talk of authorial intention at all costs seems an odd and 
limiting way to go about Shakespeare studies.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Kenneth Chan <
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Date:      Monday, 30 Jun 2008 10:33:26 +0800
Subject: 19.0364 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
Comment:   Re: SHK 19.0364 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions

Hugh Grady writes:

   >The discussion on intention in this Roundtable has been a very full one,
   >but I have one more topic to add to the mix: the issue of aesthetic meaning
   >in the discussion of the interpretation of Shakespeare's works. I want to
   >emphasize the difference between a conventional message, delivered in
   >a concrete social context from a known speaker to a known audience -- and
   >the communications situation of an artwork -- let us take the drama as an
   >example -- in which language is put to fictional, emotive purposes outside of
   >normal social contexts, by an author or authors whose words are formed
   >within generic and theatrical traditions not invented by the author and mediated
   >by actors, directors, and others, to an audience of persons not personally
   >known and representing a multitude of personal biases, intellectual frameworks,
   >and familiarities with the story, language, and conventions of the drama.

Hugh Grady's point with regards to aesthetic meaning is an important one. 
Concerning authorial intention, let us imagine, for the sake of argument, that a 
playwright did carefully craft an entire play as a cohesive unit for the purpose 
of conveying a specific meaning through the emotive medium of drama, a process 
of reaching the audience by having them live through the experience. Certainly, 
we must concede the possibility that a playwright may have this intention.

The playwright, however, has to contend with the fact that language has its 
limitations. The meaning of any isolated sentence or passage may always be 
deemed ambiguous to a certain extent because of the limitations of language. 
Nonetheless, is it not an over-generalization to then conclude that it is not 
even a legitimate or useful exercise to attempt understanding the meaning of an 
entire play (as a whole unit) as the author intended? Are the limitations of our 
language so severe that even the intended aesthetic meaning of an entire play -- 
carefully crafted to convey a specific meaning -- rendered completely irretrievable?

Kenneth Chan

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Robin Hamilton <
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Date:      Monday, 30 Jun 2008 03:42:43 +0100
Subject: 19.0371 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
Comment:   Re: SHK 19.0371 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions

How to escape the regress of intention?

How do we know what the intention of the author of Hamlet/"Hamlet"/_Hamlet_ *is?

We know it because he writes _here_, that this is what he "means".

He says it (except he doesn't) *here, in a set of words:

         "This is what I meant in Amleth."

Comes down to it, it's text(s) all the way down.

I 'believe' in Hamlet in the same way that I believe in god.

         "Intention" is literary criticism's equivalent to intelligent design.

{Somewhere, some person, it might have been Derrida, but I think it was earlier 
with Kierkegaard in _The Concept of Irony With Constant Reference To Socrates_, 
points out that Socrates refused to write anything down due to his distrust of 
the written word, with the result that Plato promptly transmogrified him into a 
figure created in orthography.

Angels weep!}

Robin Hamilton

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Kenneth Chan <
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Date:      Thursday, 03 Jul 2008 12:56:14 +0800
Subject: 19.0378 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
Comment:   Re: SHK 19.0378 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions

Robin Hamilton writes:

  >"Intention" is literary criticism's equivalent to intelligent design.

I am afraid this analogy is inappropriate. There is a significant difference 
between the two.

It is because of the fact that the presence of a creator God cannot be proved 
scientifically that intelligent design is heavily disputed. That, however, is 
not the case with regards to a work of literature. Every work of literature has 
a creator, the author, and an author can certainly have intentions. Whether or 
not we can discern the author's intentions correctly is, of course, the problem.

Kenneth Chan

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Hugh Grady <
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Date:      Monday, 7 Jul 2008 11:41:57 -0400
Subject: 19.0364 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
Comment:   RE: SHK 19.0364 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions

In regard to Kenneth Chan's question, " to attempt understanding the meaning of 
an entire play (as a whole unit) as the author intended? Are the limitations of 
our language so severe that even the intended aesthetic meaning of an entire 
play - carefully crafted to convey a specific meaning - rendered completely 
irretrievable?

We don't have to simply speculate about such an experiment. The archives of 
Shakespearean criticism, and especially those dating from c. 1900 on, represent 
a huge array of such attempts, following the widely influential canons of 
positivist historical scholarship. The results: such readings for Shakespeare's 
intentions are never conclusive and continually change as history progresses.

An additional point: the purpose of my calling attention to the issue of 
aesthetic meaning was to highlight the point of the non-conceptual (but 
rational) nature of aesthetic knowledge. If we think of "intention" as a set of 
clearly expressible concepts, I believe we will be continually frustrated in our 
attempts to agree on such concepts in interpreting artworks like Shakespeare's.

Best,
Hugh Grady

[6]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Kenneth Chan <
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Date:      Tuesday, 08 Jul 2008 12:44:55 +0800
Subject: 19.0382 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
Comment:   Re: SHK 19.0382 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions

   Hugh Grady writes:

  >In regard to Kenneth Chan's question, " to attempt understanding the
  >meaning of an entire play (as a whole unit) as the author intended?
  >Are the limitations of our language so severe that even the intended
  >aesthetic meaning of an entire play - carefully crafted to convey a
  >specific meaning - is rendered completely irretrievable?"
  >
  >We don't have to simply speculate about such an experiment. The
  >archives of Shakespearean criticism, and especially those dating from
  >c. 1900 on, represent a huge array of such attempts, following the widely
  >influential canons of positivist historical scholarship. The results: such
  >readings for Shakespeare's intentions are never conclusive and
  >continually change as history progresses.

The same, of course, can be said for the historical progress in physics, or in 
any other science. The theories of science have repeatedly changed throughout 
history, as paradigms shift, as new discoveries come to light, and as new ways 
of research and understanding are developed.

Physicists, however, do not declare, for example, that "a theory linking 
gravitation and electromagnetism together" is impossible just because, over the 
centuries, scientists have still failed to come up with such a theory. Such a 
declaration would presume that we, humans, are infallible, that we have already 
achieved all that can be achieved, and that further progress is simply 
impossible. Physicists, therefore, do not make such a declaration because they 
realize that it would be presumptuous and also that such a declaration would 
slam the door to further progress and development.

I am suggesting here that we, likewise, refrain from making a similar 
presumptuous declaration with regards to Shakespeare's works.

Kenneth Chan

[7]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Alan Horn <
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Date:      Tuesday, 8 Jul 2008 04:59:45 -0400
Subject: 19.0382 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
Comment:   Re: SHK 19.0382 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions

I agree with Robin Hamilton that there can be something circular about 
discussing what Shakespeare may have intended. What does it mean to take an 
author's intentions into account if the only direct evidence of these intentions 
are the works themselves? In doing so, is one doing anything more than simply 
reading in the normal way?

Similar questions come up even in the cases of authors whose intentions, unlike 
Shakespeare's, we do have direct, extra-textual evidence of. As Frank Kermode 
notes in his essay "The Single, Correct Interpretation" (in The Art of Telling), 
readers don't always take much account of such evidence, especially when it 
seems to conflict with their own intuitions. He gives this example: "Critics 
used to be troubled by a passage in a letter of Jane Austen to Cassandra which 
appeared to state that the subject of Mansfield Park was 'ordination,' for 
although Edmund's taking of orders, and Mary Crawford's attitude to the clergy, 
are certainly relevant to the design of the book, it would not have occurred to 
most readers that ordination was what the book was ABOUT."

It seems to me that the main value of speculation about an author's intentions 
is as a heuristic for getting at the specific social contexts in which and for 
which a given work was made. After all, it is quite true -- as Hugh Grady points 
out -- that over a century of historical scholarship on Shakespeare has failed 
to arrive at a "conclusive" account of his intentions. And in fact consideration 
of the original contexts of a work is less likely to lead to a singular, 
definitive reading than to the uncovering of an even wider range of semantic 
possibilities. But this is only a problem if one takes the narrow aim of 
recovering an author's intentions as one's ultimate goal.

Consider, for instance, how an awareness of the contemporary competing sectarian 
conceptions of the afterlife complicates our reading of Hamlet. This 
understanding raises questions about Shakespeare's intentions that will never 
finally be resolved. But are they thereforenot worth asking?

Alan Horn

[8]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Duncan Salkeld <
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Date:      Tuesday, 08 Jul 2008 10:21:24 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: 19.0382 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
Comment:   Re: SHK 19.0382 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions

I have the utmost regard for Hugh Grady (whom I only know through his 
publications), but I am hard pushed to see how 'the nature of aesthetic 
knowledge' could be 'non-conceptual'. I find the category of 'aesthetic 
knowledge' enigmatic too. But I'd like to add that intention is significant as 
more than 'a set of clearly expressible concepts'. I tried to show earlier that 
where the evidence for Shakespeare's intention is unclear or contradictory, this 
matters (to bibliographers and editors at least).

It also seems possible to exaggerate the effects of historical change and 
under-rate the obstinacy of certain textual properties (eg. variants, false 
starts, duplications, speech prefixes, ghost or mute characters, kinds of 
indecision and so forth). Put directly and simply, how different is your or my 
'Shakespeare' to, say, Nicholas Rowe's 'Shakespeare' of 1685 (4th Folio) or 1709 
(Rowe's edition)? The answer to this question is not, 'We can never know' 
because then you can't make claims for historical change; nor is it, '100% 
different', because, if so, we could not even begin to make the comparison. 
Taking a via media is the difficult, puzzling and fascinating part. The point is 
not only how much alters, but what also is intransitive, what attributes or 
properties persist through time, or what products arise from the complex 
interaction between critic and text that are not reducible merely to a 
prevailing, temporary consensus. This requires thinking as a presentist and 
historicist all at once.

On a separate note, I'm not convinced by arguments that take the form:(a) 
Shakespeare might have had a single intention by a single and entire play/poem; 
(b) We can't know what that intention is; therefore (c) Shakespeare's intentions 
remain unknowable/not worth discussing. At such a naively holistic level, 
intentionality is entirely vapid. But when examining particular textual details 
and their relationships, intention becomes not only a question worth raising but 
sometimes essential. Naturally, one has a choice of whether to address it 
directly or indirectly, and a critic or editor still harping on intentionality 
would be tedious indeed. But to imagine possible a detailed analysis of 
Shakespeare without even the most latent regard for the writer's choices, 
strategies, indecisions, or intentions is unrealistic.

[9]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Larry Weiss <
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Date:      Thursday, 10 Jul 2008 23:26:14 -0400
Subject: 19.0385 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
Comment:   Re: SHK 19.0385 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions

Duncan Salkeld concludes his latest contribution with a comment he expresses as 
an aside:

  >On a separate note, I'm not convinced by arguments that take the form:
  >(a) Shakespeare might have had a single intention by a single and entire
  >play/poem; (b) We can't know what that intention is; therefore (c) Shakespeare's
  >intentions remain unknowable/not worth discussing. At such a naively holistic
  >level, intentionality is entirely vapid. But when examining particular textual
  >details and their relationships, intention becomes not only a question worth 
raising
  >but sometimes essential.

This is very similar to the point I made about the difference between what an 
author intended by his words (critical analysis) and what words the author 
intended to use (textual analysis). I regret that this Roundtable is about to 
end without anyone addressing the matter explicitly, not even to offer a 
refutation, despite Cary's request for a discussion of the point.

[10]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Robin Hamilton <
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Date:      Friday, 11 Jul 2008 09:21:00 +0100
Subject:   Intentionlism

I still fail to be convinced of the utility of the concept of authorial intention.

For one thing, "authorial intention" is simply one of several modes of defining 
the meaning of a written text.

There are better examples to chose than Shakespeare.

Is the text of Thomas Wyatt's "Farewell Love, and all thy laws forever ..." that 
of the Egerton MS, the closest we have to what the "historical author" wrote, or 
does it involve the version found in the Devonshire MS (text as process) or 
should we hew to the Tottel version which was read by every major English poet 
between 1550 and 1900?

Leave aside the notorious fact that authors lie, and even if one could drag the 
ghost of Shakespeare kicking and screaming from his or her unquiet grave, who'd 
believe?

Especially as the report would be mediated.

It's orthoglyphs all the way down, as Jane probably said to Cassandra.

         Robin Hamilton

{In scribing these glyphs in pixels on your screen, I violate my own integrity, 
but who the frelk cares, mon sembabble, ma soeur?}

[11]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Robin Hamilton <
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 >
Date:      Friday, 11 Jul 2008 10:00:50 +0100
Subject: 19.0385 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
Comment:   Re: SHK 19.0385 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions

  >Consider, for instance, how an awareness of the contemporary competing
  >sectarian conceptions of the afterlife complicates our reading of Hamlet.

Oddly, that's easily answered.

Why does Hamlet's daddy's ghost return from a catholic purgatorial afterlife?

Because if he didn't, there'd be no play.

Doesn't matter diddly squat whether or not Shakespeare was a believing catholic, 
but the play needs Purgatory.

RH

[12]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Robin Hamilton <
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Date:      Sunday, 13 Jul 2008 08:03:38 +0100
Subject:   Intentionalism

This has little to do with Shakespeare but much to do with the utility of the 
concept of "intentionalism" in the editorial process.

I'm concerned at the moment with the "authenticity" (deliberate scare quotes) of 
broadside song texts, printed in a roughly 150 year period between 1700 and 1850.

Many of these texts can clearly be related to documented historical figures -- 
Jack Hall (hanged for robbery at Tyburn in 1707), Jack Sheppard (Tyburn, 1724), 
Thomas Mount (Rhode Island, 1780) and David Haggart (Tollcross, Edinburgh, 1821).

Other than Sinfu' Davey, I seriously doubt that any of these figures scribed 
their own laments.

Of all of them, Jack Hall is in some ways the most intriguing.

He exists in the Old Bailey Records, the Ordinary of Newgate's Accounts, 
Alexander Smith's account of_Highwaymen_, and most later versions of The Newgate
Calendar.

         Lots of material for an Intentionalist perspective here, you'd think.

{Except the glossary which the editor of the cant section of _Memoirs of the 
Right Villainous John Hall, the Late Famous and Notorious Robber. Penn'd from 
His Own Mouth Sometime Before His Death. London: printed for J. Baker, 1714_ 
lifts the vocabulary straight from an earlier printed text.}

Also, of course, Jack or John or Sam Hall achieves immortality via a 1850s comic 
song, as "Sam Hall, Damn your eyes."

As far as I can make out, the text which most represents the moment when Jack 
Hall was hung in 1707 only exists in a broadside ballad (Pickering, for the Toy 
Theatre) dating from the 1830s at the earliest.

... and when it comes to "To the Hundreds of Drury I write," which seems to 
pretty much dissociate itself from Jack Sheppard from the start, from the moment 
it's printed the day after Sheppard dies, as "Jack Sheppard's Farewell" and 
resurfaces as "The Bowman Prig's Farewell" (independent of Sheppard) in Francis 
Place -- 1800, reporting songs he'd heard in the 1780, and Thomas Mount, topped 
in Rhode Island in the 1780s ...

         Even a time machine wouldn't help.

The point I'm tediously making is that there are serious editorial judgements to 
be made on a whole range of issues at least mildly relevant to Shakespeare, and 
it seems to me that none of them are usefully illuminated by the concept of 
"intentionality".

Possibly the worst is a ghost footnote which reaches as far as (at least) Arden3 
_As You Like It_, to do with "Peddlar's Greek".

         D'oh!

That one at least can be tracked down and put to rest with a stake through the 
heart.

{I blame this on as much as anyone else Thomas Dekker, whose joke at the expense 
of Thomas Harman's slightly lunatic attempt to justify his coinage of the term 
"cursitors" cascades down to the assertion that Cursitors (associated with 
drawlatches and roberdsmen) constituted the Second Order of the Old Canting Crew.}

It's orthoglyphs all the way down, and intention simply doesn't figure when it 
comes to making practical editorial judgements.

Robin Hamilton

[13]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Felix de Villiers <
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Date:      Sunday, 13 Jul 2008 04:46:23 +0200
Subject:   SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions

For when the work is finished, it has, as it were, an independent life of it's 
own, and may deliver a message far other than that which was put in its lips to 
say.       Oscar Wilde

The aim of this contribution is to move away from what one might call the poet's 
external intentions and to pursue the direction of those that or more hidden and 
manifest themselves of their own accord. These may be considered under three 
closely related headings:

   1.. The non-conceptual aspect of art, which diverted intentions may lead to.
   2.. Involuntary intentions.
   3.. What we may not know about our own culture and the intentions it has 
produced in us, and those it fosters in us.

As far as what I call the external the intentions are concerned, some of the 
most valuable work that has been done for the Roundtable is summed up in Duncan 
Salkeld's recent posting (8 July): "But when examining particular textual 
details and their relationships, intention becomes not only a question worth 
raising but sometimes essential." In the same letter, referring to Hugh Grady's 
posting, he writes that he is hard pushed to see how "the nature of aesthetic 
knowledge" could be "non-conceptual." Grady's affirmation, while aiming in the 
right direction, is a contradiction in terms, since knowledge is necessarily 
conceptual. Perhaps he should have said that the content of art has a non- 
conceptual aspect and that art has tried to elude the grasp of conceptual 
language, which, throughout history, has been misused for repressive purposes. 
The non-conceptual aspect of art is immediately evident in music and painting; 
poetry relies on conceptual language but tries to transform it by aesthetic 
means: context, word patterns, rhythm rhymes, images, assonance and 
alliteration, and other techniques. But all these arts are created by conceptual 
beings and must necessarily be understood by them, even if a residue of 
enigmatic content will always escape us.

T.W.Adorno, in his Aesthetic Philosophy writes: "The more art as an object is 
subjectively remoulded and freed from its mere intentions, the more articulately 
it serves as the model of a non-conceptual language that eludes signification." 
Here Adorno has his eye on modern art, but his observation is closely related to 
his view of aesthetics in general, in which art eludes the grasp of 'mere 
intentions.' One of his favourite expressions is that the work must go "where it 
wants to go of it's own accord." This phrase comes in Klangfiguren, which also 
deals with the contemporary music of his time, but the idea arises in all his 
considerations of traditional art, which distances itself from normalised 
conceptuality as in the transformation of the latter in a lyrical poem. (see 
Noten zur Literatur).

Adorno's remark about art eluding 'mere intentions' leads us to a consideration 
of a more intelligible but nevertheless still enigmatic evasions of normal 
conceptuality. In creating art there is always and intense struggle between our 
rational selves and the material we work on, which has a natural tendency to go 
its own way, following the dictates of an alter ego which consumes our external 
intentions. Charlotte Bronte, reviewing "Wuthering Heights", wondered whether it 
was right to create beings like Heathcliff and she answers, saying, "I scarcely 
think it is." But then she goes onto to declare that there are moments when all 
our intentions are thrown aside and "be the work grim or glorious, dread or 
divine, you have little choice left but quiescent adoption." Who would not think 
of Shakespeare in those words?

He leads us through a devious labyrinth of intentions gone astray. In the foul 
depths to which Macbeth and his Lady sink, there are glimmers of a lost humanity 
which the other characters don't posses. A strangled humanity mutters Macbeth's 
words:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out. Out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player.
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

What extraordinary inspiration put these words into the mouth of Macbeth, beyond 
all conceivable intention, in this monster of a man, and yet so aesthetically 
just? The three repetitions of 'to-morrow,' are in themselves nothing, but 
express, in their context, an ineffable poignancy, hard to explain. Here the 
other self, the lyrical psyche, has come out trumps. And continues to do so line 
by line.

And then there are cultural and historical intentions nurtured in us of which we 
are not aware. I doubt whether Shakespeare knew that he was a Mannerist. I agree 
entirely with Arnold Hauser, who classifies him as a renascence man, a realist, 
yes, but for the most part a Mannerist. He breaks all domestic boundaries. One 
might at first think, in his plays, yes, but not so much in his Sonnets. But 
they are exemplary of his Mannerism. This is evident in the lyrical 'I' that 
abases itself to the point of madness, suicide, death. That was surely one of 
his unintentional intentions, which leads us again down stray paths and hidden 
intentions in the Sonnets. Shakespeare demolishes the conceptual I as a 
dominating instance, in poetry, if not in life, in which we have to survive 
somehow with our more or less hardened egos. There are still people who try to 
extract -from the spuriously normal world - the would-be happy family man out of 
the Sonnets, a man who is nowhere to be found in them. The one Sonnet that 
refers to such a family is mythologized immediately by its concord with music. 
If the young man had gone straight ahead and produced the duplicate son, the 
Sonnets would have lost their reason for being, the aesthetic veil would have 
been torn. As it is the imaginary son becomes a mythical figure in the Sonnets, 
in one of them he is addressed as "your golden time." And yet, and yet, I do 
believe that Shakespeare would like to have torn the aesthetic veil. There are 
examples in Beethoven and Mahler of desperate attempts to do so. So much in 
Shakespeare rebels against the magic of the aesthetic mirror. Prospero gives up 
magic hoping for the best. Macbeth, in the speech quoted above, seems to face a 
black impenetrable wall and, in their negativity, his words belong to one of the 
most passionate appeals for humanity that I have read. It is here perhaps that 
one finds Shakespeare's innermost intention. But he cannot break the spell as 
long as he remains in the realm of fiction.

A note: I have nothing against happy families and only wish there were more of 
them. Art moves on a different plane.

Works Cited

Adorno, Theodor W. _Aesthetische Theorie_. Suhrkamp, 1974.

-----. _Klangfiguren_. Suhrkamp, 1963.

-----. _Noten zur Literatur 1_. Suhrkamp, 1973.

Bronte, Emily. _Wuthering Heights_. London: Dent, 1963.

Carr, Nicholas. "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" _The Atlantic_ (July/August 2008). 
17 July 2008. <http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/google>.

Cervetti, Gina, Michael J. Pardales and James S. Damico. "A Tale of Differences: 
Comparing the Traditions, Perspectives, and Educational Goals of Critical 
Reading and Critical Literacy." _Reading Online_ 4.9 (2001). 17 July 2008 
<http://www.readingonline.org/articles/art_index.asp?HREF=/articles/cervetti/index.html>.

Coiro, Julie. "Reading Comprehension on the Internet: Expanding our 
Understanding of Reading Comprehension to Encompass New Literacies." _The 
Reading Teacher_ 56.6 (2003). Reprinted online March 2003 _Reading Online_. 17 
July 2008. 
<http://www.readingonline.org/electronic/elec_index.asp?HREF=/electronic/RT/2-03_column/index.html>

Cook, Hardy M. "Authorial Intention." Online posting. 7 Sept. 2007 to 17 Oct. 
2007. _SHAKSPER: The Global Electronic Shakespeare Conference_. 21 April 2008. 
<http://www.shaksper.net/archives/2007/0576.html>

diSessa, Andrea. _Changing minds: Computers, Learning and Literacy_. Cambridge, 
MA: MIT Press, 2000.

Hauser, Arnold. _Storia sociale dell'arte, Einaudi_, second volume. [Place: 
Publisher?,] 1987.

Wilde, Oscar. "The Critic as Artist" [no publication details given].

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