SBReviews_1: The Culture of Obesity in Early and Late

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0031  Tuesday, 20 January 2009

From:       Hardy M. Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:       Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Subject:    SBReview_1: The Culture of Obesity in Early and Late Modernity

SBReview_1: Elena Levy-Navarro.  _The Culture of Obesity in Early and 
Late Modernity: Body Image in Shakespeare, Jonson, Middleton, and 
Skelton_.  New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.  ISBN-13: 
978-0-230-60123-9; xi + 238 pp. US$74.95.

Reviewed by Arthur Lindley, Institute for Advanced Research, University 
of Birmingham

Since I will be making some rather critical observations about this 
book, let me begin on a positive note.  _The Culture of Obesity_ is an 
extremely ambitious work, one that attempts an analysis of the obesity 
crisis in contemporary America and links that crisis to a survey of 
(mostly) major works of early modern English literature from _Piers 
Plowman_ to Ben Jonson. If its scope is too great for two hundred pages 
of text, that length may have been imposed by the publisher. Its stated 
intent is to present a partisan case and to provoke disagreement. In 
that, it certainly succeeds with me. If you regard fairness and balance 
to be things fit only for Fox News, this may well be the book for you. 
Considered strictly as polemic, at least the chapters on the _Henry IV_ 
plays and Ben Jonson are worthy of a place on a longish list of 
recommended reading that includes alternative points of view.

This work is, essentially, a grudge with a book of essays attached. Its 
primary purpose is cultural: to "transform our political and aesthetic 
commitments" (p. x). That statement can be counted as fair warning:

I make no pretenses toward writing a study that is objective. Rather, I 
seek to write a history that is rooted in our own historical moment as I 
understand it. I also intend my history to intervene in our historical 
moment. (1)

Any literary criticism that may be involved is secondary to the task of 
writing a history and analysis of what she sees as the suffering and 
resistance of fat people in history. This polemic drives the criticism, 
shapes it, and with some frequency misshapes it, just as it drives a 
"constructionist fat history" that is as remarkable for its omissions as 
for its distortions.
Levy-Navarro's basic thesis can be simply stated. Our culture-she claims 
universality but her focus is exclusively American-is governed by a 
"representational regime" (30) that privileges and normalizes thin 
bodies while stigmatizing fat ones. We are currently undergoing a "fat 
panic" (1) about a purported obesity epidemic that is, in fact, a 
dehumanizing moralistic attack on the fat (and indirectly on the poor 
and non-white who are more likely than middle-class whites to be 
overweight). Under this regime, "the fat body is marked, stigmatized, 
and understood to be the emblem of our collective excess" (30). What we 
take to be a health crisis-the fact, for example, that 66% of Americans 
are now classified as overweight-is an illusion fostered by government 
propaganda disguised as medical science to promote the authority of what 
she calls "thin elites" (9). This arrangement, in turn, reflects a 
pervasively ascetic culture of "reproductive futurism" (23) in which 
straight Americans habitually defer gratification in the name of their 
future children while punishing the fat and gay for appearing to enjoy 
themselves. The roots of this "lean, mean," militaristic culture lie in 
the Reformation and in the protestant valorization of discipline, 
self-containment, and progress. The emergence of this tyranny-and this 
finally brings her to the body of the book-can be traced in a small 
selection of literary texts from the sixteenth- to the mid-seventeenth 
century: Skelton's _Elynour Rummynge_; Shakespeare's _Henry IV, Parts I 
and II_; Middleton's _A Game at Chess_; _Bartholomew Fair_ and the later 
(i.e., the pudgy period) poems of Ben Jonson.
The problems with this argument, as you may already have gathered, are 
legion. Anyone who thinks Americans habitually sacrifice the present to 
the future has not watched the Bush administration running up 
trillion-dollar debts to finance its wars of choice. For that matter, no 
consumer culture ignores the present in the way she says ours does. 
Consumption is about consuming now; it is about just doing it, because 
"you only go around once in life." It only promotes deferral when it is 
selling insurance, pension plans, and sub-prime mortgages.

More troubling is an attitude toward science that resembles nothing so 
much as climate change denial. Levy-Navarro wants to get beyond what she 
calls "mere objective data" (27) because queer theory has taught her 
that data -- especially data you do not want to hear -- is just a form 
of rhetoric. Inconvenient facts are habitually dismissed. Statistical 
studies do not show things, they "are made to" show things (25). Words 
like 'proof' and 'health' habitually appear in scare quotes. "[T]hose 
biomedical experts who give 'sound medical reasons for watching weight'" 
(21) are mentioned only to be dismissed. In a way that will strike many 
foreign readers as peculiarly American, the only thing that ultimately 
matters is feeling good about yourself. Fatness is just a "cultural 
construction" (30) and only wimps worry about longevity (see p. 5). If 
there are no objective definitions of health, if fatness carries none of 
the medical consequences implied by a clinical term like obesity, then 
the only possible reason for calling anyone overweight is to make them 
feel bad. Of course, if you are literal-minded enough to believe that 
having a body mass index more than '30' lowers your life expectancy by 
as much as ten years and greatly increases your chance of suffering 
heart disease, stroke, bowel cancer, breast cancer, type-2 diabetes, 
arthritis, hypertension and (at the very least) elevated serum 
cholesterol, you may find her argument at best silly and at worst 
pernicious. As someone who has recently survived an entirely 
non-rhetorical heart attack directly traceable to being overweight, I 
would opt for the latter judgment.
Levy-Navarro's cultural history, unfortunately, is not much better than 
her science. It is not true, for example, that thin bodies are 
customarily unmarked. Think of the negative connotations that attach to 
a term like "fashion model," only beginning with anorexic. Skinny male 
bodies are marked as unhealthy and/or non-virile. While American popular 
culture indeed stigmatizes fat people (as the recent work of Eddie 
Murphy reminds us), it also contains a long line of iconic lovable ones, 
from Oliver Hardy through Fats Waller and Jackie Gleason to Seth Rogan. 
Those may not be sufficiently defiant, heroic examples for 
Levy-Navarro's taste, but they do suggest that the culture's attitude, 
like Hal's toward Falstaff, is considerably more complex than she is 
willing to admit.

As she regularly reminds us, however, she does not intend to be 
objective, much less fair or comprehensive. Her readings of individual 
texts, though considerably better than her reading of contemporary 
culture, reflect that attitude. _A Game at Chess_ is treated as a 
pro-protestant, anti-fat treatise; all the other texts are treated as 
subversions of anti-fat prejudice. She has great difficulty getting away 
from the idea that any text is not, however covertly, polemical.

The most interesting of several ambitious chapters argues that 
Shakespeare privileges Falstaff's "fat-witted" humanity over Hal's cold 
militarism in the Henry IV plays. Like those other chapters, it is 
marred by Levy-Navarro's eagerness to subordinate critical analysis to 
fat activism and wish fulfillment. She insists throughout on a danger 
that Falstaff does not pose and a virtue he does not possess. Contrary 
to her repeated assertions, he never threatens to "absorb" or even 
"obstruct" Hal (see, e.g., 89) and Hal cannot seriously imagine that he 
does. The arc of their relationship is from the promised rejection in 
Hal's first soliloquy in Part I-and the mockery that precedes it-to the 
fulfillment of that promise at the end of Part II (and beyond that to 
Jack's death in exile at the beginning of Henry V). Any audience is 
expected to know that mythic history. If they are ever tempted to forget 
it, Hal is there to remind them. "Banish not him thy Harry's company," 
cries Falstaff at the climax of the greatest of the tavern scenes. "I 
do. I will," replies Hal, speaking for the present and the future. 
Falstaff is always already rejected. He is not a threat to Hal, though 
Hal is certainly one to him. And, by the way, it is not warmth and 
companionship that the future Harry rejects in Eastcheap. Pervasively, 
what happens in the tavern scenes are baiting, cheating, sponging, and 
manipulation. Hal is simply better at most of those nasty arts than his 
companions. Falstaff, for his part, makes it clear to those willing to 
listen that he will throw anybody under the bus to preserve his 
relationship with the prince. "Banish Poins," banish them all, he 
pleads, but not me. If Levy-Navarro does not hear that plea, it is 
because she is too busy listening for a kind, fat, feudal contrast to 
her lean, mean villain, a tendency that reaches an ironic climax when 
she denounces Hal for paying the Hostess what Jack owes her (98-9). Mrs. 
Quickly, she thinks, would rather be cheated "warmly" than paid coldly. 
Fat chance.

Elsewhere, the book is marred by great and small omissions, as when 
Hotspur is omitted from her version of Hal's career or the Sons of Ben 
from her account of Jonson's. A larger example is the absence of any 
cited experience of the plays in performance. She habitually talks about 
how audiences "would" respond to a given point (e.g., 106, 179) but not 
about how they "do." The largest omission is, of course, the three 
hundred and fifty years between _A Game at Chess_ and the Zone diet. 
Anti-fat prejudice seems, as a result, to have been passed directly (and 
quite improbably) from Jacobean playwrights and courtiers to 
contemporary nutritionists. When you omit that great space of literary 
and cultural development, you are liable to miss certain obvious facts 
such as that jolly fat men and thin, pinched meanies are perennial 
staples of the "modern" culture, she insists, has relentlessly 
stigmatized the fat and endorsed the thin: Squire Western, Uncle Toby, 
and Mr. Pickwick (not to mention, the Pilgrim Chaucer) on the one hand; 
Blifil and Scrooge on the other. Even sinister fat men like Count Fosco 
in _The Woman in White_ and Sidney Greenstreet in _The Maltese Falcon_ 
play off the expectation that they must be kindly because fat. 
Similarly, you will also ignore that Victorians and Edwardians, like 
modern-day Tongans, regarded fatness as a sign of prosperity and 
success. There was, after all, a time when the king of England was 
Edward and the president of the United States was William Howard Taft. 
If the universal dominance of the thin ever arrived, it must have been 
after that time and not before Henry VIII. If World War I produced a 
demand for a leaner, fitter populace, this demand is more likely to have 
been a response to the culture that immediately preceded it than to 
Jacobean drama.

For the time and research that went into it, this is an unfinished book 
marked by yawning gaps of attention. How, for example, does she write an 
entire chapter on the emergent thin, fat-hating aesthetic of Henry 
VIII's court without asking herself what happened when Henry became the 
most prominent fat man in Europe. What aesthetic is Holbein's famous, 
full-frontal portrait of the king supposed to represent?

For that matter, if she wishes make large claims about Middleton based 
on one very atypical play in a large canon, she needs to refer to some 
of the others. Vindice has a famous speech about skulls as the "terror 
of fat folks." DeFlores is not fat, but his body is literally marked and 
he displays many of the qualities -- defiance, pained 
self-consciousness, a refusal to be confined -- that Levy-Navarro finds 
in fat characters, defiant or otherwise. What does she think the 
connections are?

If, similarly, she wants to derive Shakespeare's attitudes from fat and 
thin bodies in the two _Henry IV_ plays, she should at least remember 
that Falstaff also appears in _Merry Wives of Windsor_ as well as being 
recalled in _Henry V_. What do the middle-class Windsorites think of 
Jack's girth and how does that compare with what his prince thinks? I do 
not necessarily expect her to notice that Hal and Falstaff -- the chilly 
representative of the new age and the superficially generous 
representative of the old one -- are replayed by Octavius and Antony, 
but I would certainly expect her to comment at some point on Caesar's 
preference for "fat, sleek-headed men" over the likes of lean and hungry 
Cassius. Mostly thin and generally angry Hamlet, come to that, has a 
plump, placatory, non-combatant antagonist.

In all these cases, great inverted pyramids of generalization about 
authors, periods, and indeed Western Civilization are being erected on 
small points of reference. When an author bases an account of the entire 
"premodern" (aka medieval) period on a dubious reading of one passage in 
_Piers Plowman_ -- in which she insists that Gluttony is not fat because 
"gret" could (also) mean strong (42) -- then some spoilsport like me is 
going to remind her that there are a fat Monk and a thin, choleric Reeve 
among the Canterbury pilgrims and that the former's bulk is moralized in 
a way she claims does not happen until the sixteenth century. I might 
also remind her that Robyn the Miller, Harry Baillie, and Geoffrey are 
all plump and ask what she thinks that tells us. What Levy-Navarro does 
not have to say about the nineteenth century is as nothing compared to 
what she does not know about the Middle Ages.

She is, however, intermittently capable of shrewd and thoughtful 
analysis. If she filled the gaps in her "fat history," she might write a 
book that is persuasive rather than merely argumentative. That task 
would require a much longer narrative, but eliminating the extraordinary 
wordiness and repetition that marks this one would free a great deal of 
space-perhaps fifty or more pages. In the present work, no point is made 
concisely and every point is repeated endlessly.  A single phrase -- 
"wealthy, plump plebeians" -- may be repeated four times within two 
pages (136-7), as if the reader had the attention span of Justice 
Shallow. Palgrave should find an editor who is willing to edit. This one 
has done Levy-Navarro no favors. The result is a very fat thin book.

S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
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SBReviews_2: Kenneth Burke on Shakespeare

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0032  Tuesday, 20 January 2009

From:       Hardy M. Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:       Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Subject:    SBReview_2: Kenneth Burke on Shakespeare

SBReview_2: Scott L. Newstok, editor. _Kenneth Burke on Shakespeare_. 
West Lafayette, Indiana: Parlor Press, 2007.  ISBN 978-1-60235-002-1; lv 
+ 308 pp.  US$32.00.

Reviewed by Murray M. Schwartz, Professor, Department of Writing, 
Literature & Publishing, Emerson College

In the mid-1970s, when Kenneth Burke was approaching King Lear's age, I 
had the pleasure of inviting him to spend one week a month for a 
semester with the faculty and students at the Center for the 
Psychological Study of the Arts at SUNY/ Buffalo. "KB," as we came to 
call him, would lecture informally in the mornings, usually on 
Shakespeare, and then meet with students through lunch, when his steady 
sips of vodka would take him off for an afternoon nap. In the evenings, 
we would have dinner together, and he would then often play his own 
compositions on the piano and sing for us. (To understand his singular 
way of thinking, it helps to remember his love of music. He was the 
music critic for _The Dial_ from 1927 to 1929.)

It was not KB's playful penchant for neologistic critical terms, nor his 
jazz-like ability to display quicksilver associations among realms of 
experience that impressed us most. What engaged us most was his intact 
skill as a teacher, the specificity of his responsiveness to each text, 
each student. Unlike some other "mavericks" of the time (but more like 
our resident maverick, Leslie Fiedler), KB was not seeking disciples, 
and his methods could be adapted to almost any intellectual pursuit. As 
in his writings, he was impervious to easy summation; his was a mind 
unbound, open. He delighted in curiosity and fruitful ways of asking 
questions, and we delighted in his endlessly suggestive possibilities 
for evoking symbolic meanings drawn from the Borgesian library of his 
mind. I have been re-reading him ever since, returning often to the 
essays on Freud and on Hitler, to his "Definition of Man," and, of 
course, to the varied essays on Shakespeare. I am always tempted, as he 
was by Freud's works, and as many of his readers are, to "take 
representative excerpts from his work, copy them out, and write glosses 
upon them" (_The Philosophy of Literary Form_, p. 221). KB invites 
dialogue, and he has provoked valuable interplay with just about every 
academic field in the humanities and social sciences.

Scott L. Newstock has now given us, in a superbly edited collection, all 
of Burke's writings on Shakespeare. _Kenneth Burke on Shakespeare_ 
brings together fourteen essays, including the classic studies of 
_Othello_ (1951), _Antony and Cleopatra_ (1964), _Timon of Athens_ 
(1963), _Coriolanus_ (1966), and _King Lear_ (1969), along with the 
earlier essays on _Venus and Adonis_ (1950), "Antony in Behalf of the 
Play" (1935), "Trial Translation (from _Twelfth Night_) (1933), and the 
seminal essay "Psychology and Form" (1925).  He adds three previously 
unpublished papers, "Shakespeare Was What?" (1964), "Notes on _Troilus 
and Cressida_" (1970-71) and "Notes on _Macbeth_" (1970s and 1980s), and 
a fifty-page compendium of all the other references to Shakespeare in 
Burke's works. A 1972 lecture on _A Midsummer Night's Dream_ is also 
included to represent Burke's lesser interest in comic form (" . . . I 
must break down and admit that, with regard to this play, I am still in 
the woods," he wrote (181).). The volume is an important and timely 
contribution to Shakespeare scholarship, now that the wave of 
theory-dominated approaches seems to be subsiding in favor of a more 
exploratory commentary that is amplified by the technological revolution 
in communication and publication.

Burke began writing about Shakespeare when America and Europe had 
recently embraced the rhetorical forms of "public relations" and the 
techniques of modern propaganda (not yet a negative term) in mass 
culture. "Proposition: The hypertrophy of the psychology of information 
is accompanied by the corresponding atrophy of the psychology of form," 
(24) he wrote in 1925. From the outset, he sought to encompass the full 
range of "symbolic actions" that gave meaning to and enabled the 
manipulation of public discourse. Shakespeare became for Burke a central 
instance of the "dramatistic" formal designs that could generate and 
fulfill an audience's expectations. Like Shakespeare's, Burke's was an 
"anticipatory mentality" (14), almost instantly recognizing the 
extensive ramifications of his historical moment. Burke and Shakespeare 
share a diagnostic drive; they want to generate awareness of the 
functions of symbolic acts even as they participate in them, to craft 
their work and show how they are working simultaneously. In Shakespeare, 
this is the metatheatrical dimension; in Burke's writings, there is the 
practice of "thinking out loud," the many ways in which he includes his 
thought processes in his rhetorical strategies. To be sure, this 
penchant can make his essays difficult reading. Sometimes, as in his 
"Notes of _Macbeth_," he can riff his way from one text to another 
before returning to his theme of regicide. But if we are steadily 
attentive, the seeming deflections usually come to function as dilations 
on his central idea, even when he pauses to engage in a skirmish with 
another interpreter (as with Clifford Geertz on pp. 189-190).

One pleasure of Newstock's collection is that the editor retains all of 
Burke's notes and comments on his own thought and composition. Much of 
this material would likely succumb to the computer's delete button these 
days, lost forever. Phrases like, "Let us propose," and "Let us assume" 
initiate provisional thoughts, trial interpretations, ways of seeing and 
hearing Shakespeare that "awaken in us the satisfactions of authorship," 
(44), both Burke's and Shakespeare's. We even read of Burke's own dreams 
as he contemplates Timon's "verbal filth" (108) and links Shakespeare's 
symbolic structures with his own unconscious forms of thinking. "I 
tinker tentatively with an experimental procedure which I call 
'onei-romantic criticism,'" he writes, as he speculates about the 
interpenetration of his dreaming mind and the cathartic process in 
drama. No critic has made better conscious use of what the psychoanalyst 
D. W. Winnicott called the "potential space" of culture, the area of 
experience that permits the free interplay of inner and outer realities. 
It is rare these days to see a critical mind so clearly in dialogue and 
debate with itself, and making use of an enormous range of knowledge, 
from the Greeks to the present. (I wonder which Shakespeare journal 
would publish this kind of uncensored material today.)

Burke's general project was to identify the "ingredients" and the 
"recipes" of symbolic actions and the ways in which aesthetic form 
creates "arrows of expectation" in its audience. In the drama of 
symbolic acts, relations among characters invite distributions of 
attitudes and feelings in the experience of an audience. Burke's 
interest is primarily in the functions of characters' roles in the play 
as a whole. Though a drama may exploit some external tension, such as 
the idea of property in Othello, or the dilemmas of abdication in _King 
Lear_ (he calls these tensions "psychoses," his most unfortunate term), 
Burke wants to coax out the authorizing dynamic of the play's action by 
"prophesying after the fact." The critical act, then, is reconstructive 
(not deconstructive), an account of the drama that justifies its form by 
passing its rhetoric through the "appetites" of its audience. (Burke is 
remarkably interested in both ends of the alimentary canal as metaphors 
of speech acts.) He is especially preoccupied with the ways audiences' 
appetites require sacrifice or victimage, hence his focus on the 
excesses of tragedy. Tragic form, in its poise and rhythm, "perfects" a 
sacrificial process that is, in a sense, inherent in all symbolic 
action. (As the symbol-using animal, we humans must "invent the 
negative" to use and misuse symbolic forms in the first place. The 
symbol substitutes for the thing symbolized, as the scapegoat 
substitutes for the sins of the community.)

Burke explored the trajectories of symbolic action in a brilliant array 
of critical strategies. He assumes the voice of Antony to describe the 
force and structure of his rhetoric in his funeral oration for Caesar. 
In the _Othello_ essay, he adopts the position of the playwright to map 
"the ideal paradigm for a Shakespearean tragedy" (70). At times, he 
plays the historian reflecting on the difference between Renaissance and 
twentieth century dictatorships. He is intensely engaged with a host of 
other important Shakespearean critics of his time. But his most 
consistent and enduring stance is as the anthropologist of dramatic and 
poetic forms. Like Huizinga in _Homo Ludens_, Burke explicates 
Shakespeare against the background of the aesthetic element in human 
culture as a whole. For Burke, the music of form, its "eloquence," 
defines the "truth" of art in an "emotional rightness" that transcends 
both science and religion in its humanistic logocentricity. (We can see 
him as America's answer to Jacques Derrida.)

As a student of both Shakespeare and psychoanalysis, I am particularly 
struck by two related features of the essays collected by Newstock. The 
first is Burke's argument with the representations of character 
exemplified by A. C. Bradley, and the second his sensitivity to the 
bodily basis of symbols and metaphors. For Burke, Bradley's "novelistic" 
approach to Shakespeare leads to "sheer portraiture, and done in a way 
that conceals the functioning of the play" (81). Burke's opposition to 
Bradley's character analysis is fundamental:

For, in contrast with the novelistic 'portrait gallery' approach to 
Shakespeare's characters . . . one should here proceed not from 
character-analysis to the view of character in action, but from the 
logic of the _action as a whole_, to the analysis of the character as a 
recipe fitting him for his proper place in the action. . . .  (80)

To my mind, Burke is both accurate and unnecessarily limiting. Bradley's 
style of character analysis is not the only possibility. The 
psychoanalyst Roy Schafer, for example, developed an "action language" 
for describing the dynamics of character in both art and life that can 
serve Burke's purposes well. [1]  In drama, the dynamics of character 
can create the illusion of real persons _and_ place characters in the 
functional roles of the drama, even when, like Hamlet, their role 
involves constant tension with their "proper place in the action." Burke 
discounts this possibility too quickly. Part of Shakespeare's genius was 
the realization that we are both characters _and_ functions of one 
another in social life as well as art (all the world _is_ a stage). I 
think this is one reason that his plays endure so powerfully through 
historical changes. By narrowing his view of character analysis to 
nineteenth century portraits, Burke diminishes the significance of his 
own attentiveness to the language of individual characters in Shakespeare.
Ironically, Burke could be very good at a different kind of character 
analysis, and here his close readings of individual roles are revealing. 
By following the language of the Porter in _Macbeth_, for example, or 
Orsino at the opening of _Twelfth Night_, Burke evokes the movement of 
consciousness in time, and it is this movement, with its shifts of focus 
and its recurrent idioms that actually reveals the performative 
dimension of character. By using his own associations to Orsino's lines, 
Burke recreates the infantile basis for the character's 
passive-receptive position:

    		If music be the food of love, play on (1)

As cells absorbing sunlight, as the fetus basking in its womb-heaven, 
receiving nutriment; not venturing forth aggressively, predaciously, as 
with those jungle animals that stalk, leap, and capture before they eat, 
and thus must do hating and injuring -- but simply as larvae feed, let 
me take in gentle music. (33)

The "arrow of expectation" is here linked to both character development 
and dramatic function. By playing along with Orsino, Burke is 
representing the manifestations of a character's consciousness as it 
moves through "a discreet synaesthesia" from the nourishment of sound to 
the scent of violets and then to the awakening of an aggressive 
awareness. Orsino's "pure receptivity is ripped by ambition":

    			Enough, no more,
       'Tis not so sweet now as it was before.  (7-8)

And then Orsino awakens to his desire for Olivia. "So, the Duke has gone 
complete from larval thought to the predatory (they are both in our 
tissues) -- and is now critical, diagnostic, in quest . . ." (37). "Will 
you go hunt, my lord?" says Curio.
In less than four pages, Burke has mirrored the elements of Orsino's 
character that will define his role in the play. The interplay of 
passivity and aggression weaves through his character and announces the 
elements of social life that must be brought into balance for the comedy 
as a whole to succeed. Written in 1933, this brief sketch anticipates a 
psychological understanding of consciousness, bodily sensation, and 
infantile experience that would not be systematically studied by 
scientific means for decades.[2] My point is -- When Burke engages in 
close reading of character, he gives us a dimension of "dramatism" that 
can be integrated into his understanding of dramatic form. This is a 
potential of his critical project that remains to be fully realized.
The pleasure and importance of having all of Burke's writings on 
Shakespeare in one volume is that it can send any Shakespearean into 
dialogic thoughts and speculations like mine. As Newstock points out in 
his fine introduction, Burke has had such inspirational effects on 
countless critics, including those most widely admired today. He is 
pro-vocative in the sheer restless energy of his mind. Newstock has 
presented Burke's Shakespeare in a most meticulously edited volume. In 
addition to his introductory essay -- itself one of the most brilliantly 
economic overviews of Burke's style, methods, terminology, and 
historical position in twentieth-century criticism that can be found in 
any collection of Burke's essays -- Newstock provides excellent notes 
and references, leaving no stone unturned. (He realizes that some will 
find him excessive or deficient, and this has been the case with 
reviewers.) His compendium of references to Shakespeare throughout 
Burke's writings contains gems of insight that invite elaboration in 
many directions. His list of Works Cited would make a good library for 
any student of Shakespeare. His volume is designed to appeal to several 
audiences, from beginners to those who return to Burke over a lifetime.
Indeed, Newstock's aim is not only to present Burke as perfectly as 
possible, but to celebrate and promote him simultaneously. His editorial 
labors are themselves marked by various forms of excess. If my count is 
accurate, he lists 213 works in his Introduction. His acknowledgements 
list about 250 names, including the SHAKSPER listserv. The back cover 
contains no fewer than six blurbs from luminous contemporary 
Shakespearean elders. One can easily find a host of admiring journal 
reviews online, including ten five-star substantial statements at the 
Amazon.com site for the book. Noticing this pattern of excess, I began 
to wonder whether Nestock had come to praise Burke or to kill him with 
kindness? But the lasting result, for me, has been to welcome the 
abundance and to agree that these essays "still merit a wider audience" 
(xxxiv). Burke is at least as relevant to the Shakespearean world in the 
twenty-first century, now literally global, as he was in the twentieth. 
Bravo to Scott L. Newstock!


[1] Roy Schafer.  _A New Language for Psychoanalysis_.  New Haven, 
Conn., and London: Yale University Press, 1976.

[2] See, for example, Daniel Stern.  _The Interpersonal World of the 
Infant: A View from Psychoanalysis and Developmental Psychology_.  New 
York: Basic Books, 1985.

S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email 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.

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