Pale Fire

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0019  Thursday, 17 January 2013

 

[1] From:        Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         January 17, 2013 12:14:55 AM EST

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Pale Fire 

 

[2] From:        Bruce Young <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         January 17, 2013 9:08:09 AM EST

     Subject:     RE: SHAKSPER: Pale Fire 

 

[3] From:        David Bishop <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         January 17, 2013 12:55:48 PM EST

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Pale Fire 

 

 

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

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

Date:         January 17, 2013 12:14:55 AM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Pale Fire

 

>Oh dear. I had thought Charles Weinstein had gone into hiding, but 

>here he is again, again pissing on Simon Russell Beale. Has he ever 

>liked anything? He has, of course, a perfect right to dislike things, but 

>it’s unfortunate that he needs to dislike so intensely anything that 

>moves away from his conception of the boundaries of the text. I hope 

>this doesn’t herald a new silly season.

 

If Charles’s well-written review is even half accurate, this is a production most of us would dislike.

 

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

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

Date:         January 17, 2013 9:08:09 AM EST

Subject:     RE: SHAKSPER: Pale Fire

 

Not having seen this production of Timon, I’d be interested to read a detailed response to the actual content of Weinstein’s review. Whether or not it’s fair, the review certainly gives a vivid impression of the production and argues a case at some length that could be argued against—or for—with similar care.

 

Bruce Young

 

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

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

Date:         January 17, 2013 12:55:48 PM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Pale Fire

 

Peter Hyland objects to Charles Weinstein’s negativity, on the apparent ground that it is motivated by a dislike of anything that violates his personal—crankish—idea of “the boundaries of the text”. The usual academic these days is supposed to take a more unbounded—tolerant, pluralistic—view. Responding to Weinstein’s arguments is thus rendered unnecessary.

 

I take it that this sort of standard response is one reason we see Weinstein’s work so seldom these days. For me it’s a breath of fresh air in an increasingly stuffy room. Here’s an example of the kind of prose more often encountered in professional quarters, and on this list:

 

“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.”

 

I believe that anyone who could write this way, or approve of this writing, should not be teaching Shakespeare. A rash attitude, perhaps, but mine own.

 

Best wishes,

David Bishop

 

GW Digital Humanities Symposium

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0018  Thursday, 17 January 2013

 

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

Date:         January 16, 2013 8:33:24 PM EST

Subject:     Upcoming GW Digital Humanities Symposium

 

GW Digital Humanities Symposium

Symposium website: http://www.gwu.edu/~acyhuang/DH2013.shtml

 

Thursday January 24 - Saturday January 26, 2013

 

A Symposium at George Washington University

 

Digital humanities is a vibrant field that uses digital technologies to study the interactions between cultural artifacts and the society. In our second decade of the twenty-first century, we face a number of questions about the values, methods, and goals of humanistic inquiries at the intersection of digital media and theory.

 

Panel presentations are designed with a broad audience in mind and address multiple disciplines that range from computer science and media studies to gender and race studies, digital pedagogy, and literary studies.  

 

Topics we will address in this inaugural GW Digital Humanities Symposium (initiated by Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute and Dean’s Scholars in Shakespeare Program) include:

 

Digital and “analogue” scholarship: goals, methods, best practices

 

Challenges of working with and against multiple media

 

(In)visible histories of race, gender, and avenues of access

 

Disability, cultural difference, and linguistic diversity

 

Visual and print cultures, embodiment, archiving the ephemeral

 

Canon formation, close and distant reading strategies

 

Resistance to digital humanities and issues of legitimacy

 

Promise, perils, and future trends of digital humanities and pedagogy

 

 

The symposium will feature provocative 15-minute presentations; a Skype session; hands-on proof-of-concept sessions; digital pedagogy sessions; emphasis on live discussion and debates; free Wi-Fi for all - bring your own laptop, tablet, or smart phone; on-site digital humanities book display and sales; videos of the talks may be available online.

 

The symposium will begin on Thursday evening with a screening of the film “Anna May Wong: In Her Own Words” (http://www.wmm.com/filmcatalog/pages/c830.shtml) presented by director Yunah Hong. Lily Wong, an Assistant Professor of Literature at American University, will offer a response after the screening.  This event will be held in the Media and Public Affairs building on The George Washington University Campus, 805 21st St. NW, room 310.  The film will begin at 7:30 and has a run time of about 90 minutes.

 

Friday’s events will begin at 9 am in the Jack Morton Auditorium, 805 21st NW, with opening remarks by Alex Huang and Vice Provost Paul Berman followed by the keynote presentation, “The Digital Text as Inhabited Object,” delivered by Elaine Treharne, professor of English at Stanford University.  It will be a full day of panels covering a wide range of topics. You can view a schedule of panels and presentation abstracts on the Digital Humanities website. (http://www.gwu.edu/~acyhuang/DH2013.shtml)  The symposium will conclude on Saturday with a half-day of panel presentations focusing on pedagogy and best practices.  Location information for Saturday’s events will be updated shortly.

 

Of special interest to members of SHAKSPER are medievalists and early modernists who will be speaking at the conference, including Elaine Treharne, Katherine Rowe, Sarah Werner, Janelle Jenstad, Sheila Cavanagh, Kevin Quarmby, Christy Desmet, Candace Barrington, Jeffrey Cohen, Jonathan Hsy, Peter Donaldson, Alexander Huang, Will Noel, Josh Eyler, Jyotsna Singh, Brett Hirsch, and others.

 

The Digital Humanities Symposium is a free event and is open to the public but we do ask that you register using the link on the website if you plan to attend. (http://www.gwu.edu/~acyhuang/DH2013.shtml

 

Symposium poster: pdf  GW Digital Humanities Symposium

 

[Editor's Note: I will be attending and hope to meet any SHAKSPER subscribers who will also be present. -Hardy]

 

Pale Fire

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0017  Wednesday, 16 January 2013

 

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

Date:         January 15, 2013 7:36:36 PM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Pale Fire

 

Oh dear. I had thought Charles Weinstein had gone into hiding, but here he is again, again pissing on Simon Russell Beale. Has he ever liked anything? He has, of course, a perfect right to dislike things, but it’s unfortunate that he needs to dislike so intensely anything that moves away from his conception of the boundaries of the text. I hope this doesn’t herald a new silly season.

 

Peter Hyland

 

Q: Hamletism

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0016  Wednesday, 16 January 2013

 

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

Date:         January 16, 2013 5:44:18 AM EST

Subject:     Question Regarding HAMLETISM

 

Hamletism is a notion particularly important in Russian culture. Turgeniev was an important figure regarding this notion. But I wonder if the term was coined beforehand?

 

Thanks for your help.

 

Michelle Assay

Université Paris Sorbonne, University of Sheffield

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Pale Fire

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0015  Tuesday, 15 January 2013

 

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

Date:         January 14, 2013 7:36:53 PM EST

Subject:     Pale Fire

 

Pale Fire:  Timon of Athens, directed by Nicholas Hytner (National Theatre Live) 

 

The lights come up, dimly, on a cluster of pitched tents. The time is the present, and this is the Occupy London movement. The One-Percenters do their best to ignore it while pursuing their sybaritic lifestyles: selling junk bonds, snorting coke, hitting on nubile women, etc. Timon is King of the Plutocrats, funding museum wings with one pudgy hand while throwing lavish banquets with the other. The global recession and his own improvidence destroy him. Bankrupt and embittered, he becomes an urban derelict, sleeping on cardboard and crawling through blighted streets. (“Timon will to the woods” is changed to “Timon will to the wilds,” which is not much more appropriate). Since roots do not flourish in concrete and macadam, he does not dig for tubers but sifts through garbage bags instead—not exactly the kind of nutriment supplied by the repeatedly-invoked “Mother Earth.” Of course, director Nicholas Hytner cannot alter Timon’s valedictory salute to the beach and the sea, neither of which is remotely in evidence. These design choices shift the register of the play from the primal to the topical, whereby every perceived gain entails a deeper loss.

 The Occupiers, we soon learn, are the followers of Alcibiades, who is now a radical populist rather than a military man. (His scenes in the first half of the play cannot accommodate this change, so they are all cut). Hytner’s attitude towards him is ambiguous. Is he Justice On The March or Jack Cade redivivus? 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. Michael Bogdanov used a similar tableau to conclude his Wars of the Roses cycle in 1988. It would be effective here if it weren’t derivative.

Hytner’s optical allusions to the current economic crisis are quixotic, since Timon of Athens is not about recession, class struggle or even income inequality. (Timon’s financial problems vanish when he discovers the gold. The point is that this doesn’t matter). The play as written does not allow these themes to be explored or even discussed, and importing a few lines from Coriolanus about the hungry plebeians doesn’t help. Without a textual basis, the production’s relevance must rest upon a visual overlay, a free-floating veneer implying that Something Is Being Said about our current situation when nothing of the kind is being said at all.

 Hytner is not even faithful to the play’s worldview, at least where Women are concerned. Thus, Phrynia and Timandra are no longer prostitutes, but card-carrying members of the rebellious underclass. The female masquers at the opening banquet perform an angular and sexless dance piece instead of the erotic entertainment that the text requires. Timon’s faithful steward Flavius is feminized into Flavia, as if only a woman could be so decent. These spasms of political correctness are not allayed by sprinkling a few women among Timon’s false friends, and they have the opposite of their intended effect. By pandering to a modern audience, by lacking the full courage of the play’s convictions, they are flatly offensive.

A great leading actor would be some consolation, but Timon is played by Simon Russell Beale.  Beale’s acting has long been marked by a self-protective contempt for other people, and Timon allows him to indulge his deepest instincts. He is less than sociable even in the early scenes, shrinking from kisses and wiping his palms after handshakes. His charmlessness confirms that his friends attends on him only for his money: there is certainly nothing else to like. When Timon devolves into a savage hobo, Beale is finally in his element, able to avoid all human contact that does not reek of defensive scorn.  In possible contempt of the audience, he delivers his speeches in distracted, off-hand accents. This robs the more resonant lines of their power, and is probably incomprehensible to anyone unfamiliar with the text. But perhaps a tangential approach to meaning is appropriate for a character who declares that “All’s obloquy.” Moreover, by subordinating sense to stage business, Beale does impart the illusion of variety to Timon’s repetitive rants.  In fact, given his peculiar harmony with the role, and despite his rhetorical mediocrity and emotional constipation, this is the most adequate work that I have seen Beale do. He is a tolerable actor for a second-rate Shakespeare play.

 The supporting actors portray Timon’s friends cartoonishly, without subtlety or taste. As Flavia, Deborah Findlay is less a moral exemplar than a querulous biddy. I last saw Hilton McRae as a curly-headed Orlando to Juliet Stevenson’s Rosalind (1985). Since then, he has acquired a seamed face, straight hair and a surprising amount of gravitas. Bleakly nihilistic yet humane, neither playing for laughs nor avoiding them, he is a more than respectable Apemantus.

 

--Charles Weinstein

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