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Pale Fire

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0022  Friday, 18 January 2013

 

[1] From:        Harry Berger Jr < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         January 17, 2013 1:24:35 PM EST

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Pale Fire 

 

[2] From:        Harry Rusche < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         January 17, 2013 6:37:16 PM EST

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Pale Fire 

 

[3] From:        Duncan Salkeld < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         January 17, 2013 7:02:49 PM EST

     Subject:     RE: Pale Fire 

 

[4] From:        Gabriel Egan < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         January 17, 2013 7:21:51 PM EST

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Pale Fire 

 

[5] From:        Arthur Lindley < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         January 18, 2013 6:53:54 AM EST

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Pale Fire

 

[6] From:        Ros Barber < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         January 18, 2013 9:22:30 AM EST

     Subject:     Re: Pale Fire

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Harry Berger Jr < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         January 17, 2013 1:24:35 PM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Pale Fire

 

I’m not interested in this occasionally nasty back-and-forth. I just want to say that I thought Charles Weinstein’s review was outstanding. It taught me a lot about the play.

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Harry Rusche < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         January 17, 2013 6:37:16 PM EST

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Pale Fire

 

Regarding the passage quoted by David Bishop:

 

“In contrast with previous studies, often characterized by a positivistic-deterministic hermeneutics and, consequently, by a largely passive analysis of source material or literary topoi, the new critical perspective pursued in this volume will take into account a wider European intertextual dimension and, above all, an ideological interpretation of the ‘aesthetics’ or ‘politics’ of intertextuality which will allow the analysis of the presence of the Italian world in early modern England not as a traditional treasure trove of influence and imitation but as a potential cultural force, generating complex processes of appropriation, transformation, and ideological opposition throughout a continuous dialectical interchange of compliance and subversion.”

 

Is there an English translation available for us illiterate teachers of Shakespeare?

 

Harry Rusche

Emory University

 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Duncan Salkeld < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         January 17, 2013 7:02:49 PM EST

Subject:     RE: Pale Fire

 

I had the pleasure of seeing this gripping production. Charles Weinstein uselessly laments its topicality, set against a backdrop of creditors, lenders and protesters. Its director, Nicholas Hytner thoughtfully and deliberately elected to go with a play for our times. Any other option, he knew (as he signals in an interview), would have been blinkered. The real problem with CW’s account (as others have noted) is that he allows personal dislike to contaminate his judgment of the production. Timon, as Simon Russell Beale plays him, is all charm, suavity and excessive generosity at first, but we also see hints of social awkwardness with apparent ‘friends’, and those hints spawn into monsters in the second half of the play. 

 

Weinstein feels cheated that ‘Phrynia and Timandra are no longer prostitutes, but card-carrying members of the rebellious underclass’. He didn’t find anything erotic at all in their very sexy club-dancing. I’m sorry to hear that, and suggest he ask for his money back. Those dancers morphed into clever, sassy women, but perhaps that was the problem. CW demurs. Plays ‘pander[ing] to a modern audience . . . are flatly offensive’. Offensive? Really? Good gracious, Shakespeare would never have done such a thing.

 

Weinstein grumbles at Timon’s ‘charmlessness’, attributing it to Beale rather than his role. Back to his favourite target, CW grumbles at Shakespeare’s ‘second-rate’ play too. Reading CW, one cannot avoid the thought that he himself (and I quote him verbatim) ‘is finally in his element, able to avoid all human contact that does not reek of defensive scorn.’ I will not quote him on ‘repetitive rants’, ‘rhetorical mediocrity and emotional constipation’, for that would be a characterization far too unfair.

 

Duncan Salkeld 

Reader in Shakespeare Studies

Department of English and Creative Writing

University of Chichester

 

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Gabriel Egan < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         January 17, 2013 7:21:51 PM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Pale Fire

 

David Bishop objects to the following description of a collection

of essays:

 

<< In contrast with previous studies, often characterized by a positivistic-deterministic hermeneutics and, consequently, by a largely passive analysis of source material or literary topoi, the new critical perspective pursued in this volume will take into account a wider European intertextual dimension and, above all, an ideological interpretation of the ‘aesthetics’ or ‘politics’ of intertextuality which will allow the analysis of the presence of the Italian world in early modern England not as a traditional treasure trove of influence and imitation but as a potential cultural force, generating complex processes of appropriation, transformation, and ideological opposition throughout a continuous dialectical interchange of compliance and subversion. >>

 

Granted, at 104 words it’s a bit long to be one sentence. But it’s pretty clear in its meaning, surely. I understand it to say that previous studies have been dull collections of facts and phenomena, while this one is informed by high French theory of the late 1960s, specifically Kristevan notions about intertextuality that go beyond simple source spotting and engage the concept of a dialectic interaction rather than merely observing that ‘A is found in B’.  The only bit of jargon it uses that perhaps falls outside what any English Literature graduate should be expected to know is “positivistic-deterministic hermeneutics”, and it’s not unreasonable to use a dash of undergraduate-level epistemology in this context.

 

Given that the writer appears to be a non-native speaker (if I’ve got the source right), as an editor I’d commend the quoted paragraph and simply suggest starting a new sentence after “dimension”. It seems to me mean-spirited for Bishop to criticize the above as if it were one of those impenetrable bits of theoretical writing one does occasional encounter. To compare unfavourably the above to the writing of Charles Weinstein, who maintains the curious conviction that “Timon of Athens is not about recession, class struggle or even income inequality” is most unfair.

 

The writer of the above does not, as far as I can see, misuse simple terms in the way Weinstein does. For example, “sybaritic” invokes the idea of effeminate luxury and so is misused in Weinstein’s “their sybaritic lifestyles: selling junk bonds, snorting coke, hitting on nubile women”. “Co-optation” is when a body of existing members of a group elects someone to join them, but Weinstein seems to think it means selling out to the man or otherwise going legit and hence Alcibiades starts out as a rebel but “In a final scene meant to suggest co-optation, we see him spruced up and wearing a suit, sitting at a dais while smoothly addressing the nation through a microphone”. Weinstein’s image of a “free-floating veneer” is particularly clumsy, since that’s the last thing a veneer is meant to do. I see no such errors of expression in the sentence Bishop objects to.

 

Gabriel Egan

 

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Arthur Lindley < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         January 18, 2013 6:53:54 AM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Pale Fire

 

I assume Larry Weiss, David Bishop and Bruce Young are aware that the production of Timon that Charles is reviewing with his usual hauteur has been running since last July and has been extensively reviewed in the British press, not to mention the NYT and the New Yorker. Numerous descriptions are thus available online. To Charles’s customary distress, virtually all reviewers have praised Beale’s performance.

 

Arthur

 

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Ros Barber < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         January 18, 2013 9:22:30 AM EST

Subject:     Re: Pale Fire

 

Bruce Young says ‘Not having seen this production of Timon, I’d be interested to read a detailed response to the actual content of Weinstein’s review’.

 

I saw this production and see no necessity for a detailed response. Charles Weinstein’s review was brilliantly written and spot-on. 

 

I also concur with David Bishop.

 

Ros Barber

 
 

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