"High Art" and the Nobel

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.353  Thursday, 20 October 2016


From:        Jim Carroll <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         October 19, 2016 at 5:03:55 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: High Art


Scott Newstok wrote:


“I discuss Dylan briefly at the close of my recent essay on Shakespeare in Duluth: https://www.perfectduluthday.com/2016/10/14/truth-shakespeare-duluth/”


I have to ask: when did the myth of “the myth of self-born genius” begin, and who dreamed it up? Someone like G.B. Shaw perhaps, or Samuel Clemens, envious of Shakespeare? Quite obviously, no one in this world is completely isolated, and every thinker has had influences: Einstein had Lorentz, Mach and Boltzmann, among others; Faulkner had many influences, including the French 19th century poets and Sherwood Anderson, but I don’t think anyone can argue that he was not alone or “self-born” when he wrote “As I Lay Dying” while working as a security guard at a power plant. I think the same must be said for every great thinker while he or she is creating: the combination of a unique intellect and a unique personality.


Dylan says he was influenced by Shakespeare, but so what? No doubt he was also influenced by Dylan Thomas, from whom he took his pseudonym. The original “Star Trek” was also influenced by Shakespeare, not just in the titles of some episodes and other quotes (and an entire episode: “The Conscience of the King”), but in the realization by at least some of the writers that great drama proceeds from conflict and argument between characters, and great literary art proceeds in part from the taught dialogue depicting such arguments. I personally would rather watch the old ST episodes than listen to Dylan, and the crew of actors, writers and the series creator, Gene Roddenberry, certainly deserve a Nobel peace prize for their portrayal of a unified humanity, if not the Nobel for literature... that is, if you think Dylan deserves one. 


Jim Carroll




Sonnet 20

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.352  Thursday, 20 October 2016


From:        Sidney Lubow <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         October 19, 2016 at 11:24:15 PM EDT

Subject:    Sonnet 20


Dan Venning, before I respond to your conclusion that I referred to homosexuality as a disease, I was referring to the venereal diseases discussed by a doctor and some Shakespearean scholars, discussing the Bard’s Sonnets and his plays. As a matter of fact, I pointed out in my post that the Sonnets were not about homosexuality at all.  So, Dan, please read my post again, and read the link below and see if you can agree that this doctor is talking about the diseases Shakespeare could not bring himself to mention. I am defending the Bard’s wit and against the slurs to his reputation, including the doctor’s interpretation and his failure to read the narcissism of the Sonnets.




Sid Lubow




CFP Ira Aldridge at 210 and 150

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.351  Thursday, 20 October 2016


From:        Sujata Iyengar <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         October 20, 2016 at 9:36:53 AM EDT

Subject:    CFP Ira Aldridge at 210 and 150


Ira Aldridge at 210 and 150: Race in European Theatrical Cultures (ESRA 2017; Due: Jan 31 2017)

Seminar accepted for “Shakespeare and European Theatrical Cultures: An Atomizing Text and Stage,” European Shakespeare Research Association Biennial Convention, July 27-30, 2017

University of Gdansk and the Gdansk Shakespeare Theatre, Poland

Co-organizers: Krystyna Kujawinska-Courtney, University of Łódź (Poland); Christy Desmet and Sujata Iyengar, University of Georgia (USA)

In 2017 we commemorate a double anniversary of Ira Aldridge, the well-known nineteenth-century African American Shakespearean actor. Born in 1807, he found it impossible to work professionally in the United States, the land of his birth, because of racial and color prejudice. He took refuge in Europe, eventually dying in Łódź, where he is buried, in 1867. Aldridge crossed not only geographical but also methodological boundaries in his work, deploying what we might now call color-blind or rather color-conscious casting. An early role was Rollo, the hero of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s Pizzaro, who was of Peruvian descent. In addition to Othello and Aaron, the Shakespearean roles for which he was most famous, Aldridge sometimes played caricatured figures, such as Mungo the black servant in Isaac Bickerstaffe’s comedy The Padlock. But he also played white characters, wearing white-face make-up to play R.C. Maturin’s Bertram, the title roles in Richard III and Macbeth, and Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, and adding a long white prosthetic hair-piece to play Lear (for which, as Théophile Gautier noted, he carefully and symbolically refused to whiten his hands).

This seminar welcomes papers investigating Aldridge’s life and work but also explorations of the major research questions surrounding race and European theatre that Aldridge’s career foregrounds, such as:

What are the functions of and future of white- and blackface makeup on European stages?

How does the concept of race change with transatlantic or transnational movement?

How are both color-blind and color-conscious casting choices complicated by a change of place?

How do celebrity and star-power inflect an actor’s or character’s perceived race, ethnicity, or national affiliation in different locales and contexts?

Send 200-word abstracts and a 3-5 sentence author biography to all the organizers: Krystyna Kujawinska-Courtney (krystyna.kujawinska52[at]gmail.com); Christy Desmet (cdesmet [at ]uga.edu) and Sujata Iyengar (iyengar [at] uga.edu) by 31 January, 2017. Completed papers will be due no later than 31 May, 2017. Accepted seminar members must join ESRA, the European Shakespeare Research Association, in order to participate in the seminar.




The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.350  Thursday, 20 October 2016


From:        Hardy M. Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         Thursday, October 20, 2016

Subject:    Hiatus


Dear Subscribers,


A reminder that I will be leaving early this evening for a week in Devon. Keep any postings or announcements coming.






Sonnet 20

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.349  Wednesday, 19 October 2016


From:        Dan Venning <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         October 18, 2016 at 5:06:09 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Election


The immortal Bard is still waiting for someone to cure the diseases with which some scholars pricked him, after they apparently misunderstood his Sonnets. Those slurs were as filthy.as this 2016 Election held in these United States of America. Let us count the ways, even according to Nature herself, specifically referring to Sonnet 20, of what some women “of gentle heart” can practice, even though they are “not acquainted / With shifting change as is false women’s fashion.”. Shakespeare was certainly not speaking to our own election referring to no person but himself if you can understand what he is saying.to the other two characters in the Sonnets.


I find some of Sidney Lubow’s email rather disturbing in its implicitly homophobic rhetoric. 


Lubow begins by writing that “The immortal Bard is still waiting for someone to cure the diseases with which some scholars pricked him, after they apparently misunderstood his sonnets.” Upon reading his email, it’s pretty clear that the “diseases” to which Lubow refers are homosexuality or bisexuality. Classifying sexuality as a disease or disorder is one clear strategy of homophobic rhetoric, and such classifications have been abandoned by reputable psychological organizations.


Furthermore, he describes such assertions about Shakespeare’s sexuality as “filthy slurs.” Implicit here is the idea that labeling someone as homosexual or bisexual is in fact a pejorative slur—and a filthy one. Again, this implies that homosexuality is itself “flithy” and that to be seen as homosexual is insulting. 


I’m not interested in arguing with Lubow or speculating online about Shakespeare’s personal sexual predilections based entirely on his writings. If he wants to argue that scholars who question Shakespeare’s sexuality are mistaken or flat-out wrong, that’s his prerogative. Also, if he wants to make the argument that they intended to insult Shakespeare by doing so, that would be another claim he’d be entitled to make (if he wanted to back it up with evidence about those scholarly studies). But to treat homosexuality itself as a disease, a slur, and unclean is, to my mind, a clear example of the sort of rhetorical bias that has no place on a list like SHAKSPER.



Dan Venning




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