ONE KING LEAR and Thomas Kuhn

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.162  Friday, 29 April 2016

 

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

Date:         April 28, 2016 at 9:01:10 AM EDT

Subject:    ONE KING LEAR and Thomas Kuhn

 

Casting about for decorations for my ugly-cake award to Sir Brian and his THE ONE KING LEAR I used a simile about his book being like an attack on Darwin carried out by an army of Book of Genesis true-believers.  And in an e-mail to a friend I asked, “Ah, Thomas Kuhn, where are you now that we need you in Shakespeare-land?”  Googling Kuhn brought up this useful blog-post from SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN: 

 

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/what-thomas-kuhn-really-thought-about-scientific-truth/ 

 

I commend it to your attention.  (My assumption is that Sir Bri-ain’t ain’t listening or lurking with the e-plebs.  More’s the pity.)

 

Steve Urquartowitz

 

 

 

The Tempest and Colonialism

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.161  Friday, 29 April 2016

 

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

     Date:         April 27, 2016 at 6:32:39 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Colonialism 

 

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

     Date:         April 28, 2016 at 3:01:13 AM EDT

     Subject:    Re: The Tempest and Colonialism 

 

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

     Date:         April 28, 2016 at 8:02:22 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: Colonialism

 

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

     Date:         Friday, April 29, 2016

     Subject:    The Tempest and Colonialism 

 

 

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

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

Date:         April 27, 2016 at 6:32:39 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Colonialism

 

Jim,

 

These are not the same claims:

 

CLAIM 1. Shakespeare was SERIOUSLY, LITERALLY writing about colonialism!

 

CLAIM 2. Due to his universality, Shakespeare can comment on stuff that wasn’t around in his time.

 

We are making Claim 2. I cannot speak for people who make Claim 1. Seeing as how Shakespeare has appealed to persons across time and place, the burden of proof is on you to prove Claim 2 is untrue. 

 

Re: your comments on irony. You say the irony does not exist, because Shakespeare did not put it there. Yet irony accumulates around symbols, apart from what the author says. Regardless of authorial intent, culture places certain values on symbols. I doubt Shakespeare wrote his play with the deliberate intent of saying, “Ah, well, The Tempest can be used as a text to speak about colonialism! I will write it, so that it can be used as such in the future, say, the late 20th century.” But he wrote a play about a certain set of human experiences, which are large and capacious enough to speak to different human conditions. 

 

One of those conditions is being oppressed by a outsider, a foreign master, who co-opts you and your culture with superior power. You may deny this reading, but you would have to deny Claim 2. If you agree with Claim 2, then we are debating about what is an appropriate reading of The Tempest. In this time, lots of people have embraced this reading of the play, so much so that it has become a standard interpretation of the text. This interpretation is so well known, that The Tempest is being read as a text which discusses imperialism. This is why Dickson speaks of irony in the choice of address. 

 

For my part, I do not find Branagh’s speech ironic, but self-aware. As a commenter already said, there are many mansions in Shakespeare’s house. 

 

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

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

Date:         April 28, 2016 at 3:01:13 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: The Tempest and Colonialism

 

The British Empire might have consisted only of Ireland when Shakespeare was writing his plays but that doesn’t mean that he must have been ignorant of colonialism. Colonialism is at least as old as recorded history. I take it Jim Carroll and Larry Weiss accept that Shakespeare read history, and I take it they accept that he had better-than-average intelligence and empathy. So I find it bemusing that they are so hostile to the idea that he might have had colonialism in mind, among other things no doubt, when he wrote The Tempest.

 

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

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

Date:         April 28, 2016 at 8:02:22 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: Colonialism

 

“I still vividly remember the first time that I saw a black actor play the role of Caliban. The production was at the Arena Stage during the Zelda Fitchlander years, probably in the mid- to late-1980s. I was so uncomfortable that I sat on my hands.”

 

But why is a black actor playing Caliban? Because a director wanted to emphasize a point that Shakespeare himself did not emphasize, and you were uncomfortable because you have knowledge of one of the possible, not necessary, results of colonialism, knowledge that Shakespeare did not have, unless he lived until 1865. The director was manipulating you in that direction, not Shakespeare.

 

Colonialists purposefully arrive a country, usually with financing from their government, and purposefully make use of everything there, including the humans. Prospero did not purposefully arrive on the island, he arrived there by accident. Even his enemies were brought there by Prospero, they had no intention of invading the island.

 

One of the first things Prospero does when he arrives on the island is free Ariel from his imprisonment in a tree. Caliban is the son of the same witch that imprisoned Ariel, who was her servant. Apparently, the inhabitants of the island had servants before Prospero arrived. In fact, many of Shakespeare’s characters had servants in many of his plays. Prospero then treats Caliban well, until Caliban tries to rape his daughter. I see no colonialism or hints of slavery.

 

Caliban tried to rape Miranda, the mention of which prompts Caliban to say:

 

O ho, O ho, would't had been done!

Thou didst prevent me; I had peopled else

This isle with Calibans. (1.2.349-351)

 

So Caliban himself, in his own words, does not appear to have an inviting personality. According to Trinculo, he is a “black cloud”, “a fish”, “a monster”, and “legged like a man, his fins like arms”. Stephen calls him “a mooncalf” (a deformed creature). Prospero says of Caliban:

 

He is as disproportion'd in his manners

As in his shape. (5.1.291-292)

 

Elsewhere, (4.1.210ff) Trinculo and Stephen repeatedly refer to him as “monster” (not “Moor”). So Caliban is, literally by his appearance and figuratively by his behavior, a monster, born of a witch. Not a Native American, not a slave, not an African, not an African slave. Count the number of times “monster” is used in reference to Caliban (over 30 times) versus “black” (once). I hope from now on that any person of African heritage will be offended by a director choosing to cast a black man in the part.

 

Prospero himself does not want to be on the island, doesn’t want to be king or enslave people, and in fact asks the audience in the epilogue to free him from their “spell” so he can go to Naples. Any “enslavement” is that of witches and magic, not colonialism.

 

Those who buy the colonialism nonsense prompt me to paraphrase that great line from The Tempest:

 

“When they will not give a doit to see a unique imaginative world, they will lay out ten to see some sanctimonious bullshit.”

 

If you want “colonialism”, try Henry V. And Shakespeare seems to be entirely in favor of it there.  

 

Jim Carroll

 

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

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

Date:         Friday, April 29, 2016

Subject:    The Tempest and Colonialism

 

Jim Carroll wrote,

 

But why is a black actor playing Caliban? Because a director wanted to emphasize a point that Shakespeare himself did not emphasize, and you were uncomfortable because you have knowledge of one of the possible, not necessary, results of colonialism, knowledge that Shakespeare did not have, unless he lived until 1865. The director was manipulating you in that direction, not Shakespeare.

 

I would not use the word “manipulating”; instead I would maintain that the director was “reading” the play in a particular way. Reader Response Theory takes into account the “reader’s role” in the creation of meaning in a work of imaginative literature. 

 

Having had an ancestor who was on the Sea Venture—probably the navigator who said turn here—and who latter was a slave holder in the Carolinas, I think my discomfort was justified and a proper response to the “reading” of the play I saw all those many years ago.

 

 

 

Shakespeare and Cognitive Science

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.160  Friday, 29 April 2016

 

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

Date:         April 29, 2016 at 6:11:36 AM EDT

Subject:    Cognitive Science

 

I will try to answer Neema’s intelligent questions not with more questions but with provisional answers. But before I do so I want to assert that unlike Neema I am not at all sceptical of the achievements of Shakespeare studies overt the past 30 years. Until the paradigm shift which he wishes to dismiss, it was impossible to say anything plausible or relevant about characters like Aaron the Moor, or about (say) the territorial conflict between Caliban and Prospero. Now we are able to talk about these things on the basis of sound historical evidence and sophisticated reasoning. The field of Shakespeare studies has much to be proud of, and providing a nuanced and well-informed framework for discussing such singularities is one of them. 

 

Now, as for the interpretation question: Marxism and psychoanalysis are hermeneutic theories. They are not applicable to every thing in the universe, but they have a lot of heuristic and explanatory power for the things to which the may apply – not to mention their both being projects of human emancipation, where interpretation is also inevitably critique. And so Shakespearean texts are not unique in what either form of hermeneutics can do about them. I can find Oedipus, repression, class conflict and ideology on the front page of the New York Times or the Guardian. Think for America Donald Trump. Think for the UK Sir Philip Green. I can also find all these things in the work of Ben Jonson, Henry James, E.L. James and P.D. James, not to mention Batman vs. Superman. There is nothing special about Shakespeare in this regard, though there is a way in which his texts very frequently delve into matters of psychoanalytic and Marxist interest more deeply and dramatically than most other literary texts.

 

But in contrast to psychoanalysis and Marxism, cognitive science is not a hermeneutic theory, though it may aspire to be one. Picking out crumbs of scientific commonplaces (“people act intuitively first, rationally second”) is a lot different from seeing oedipality in Hamlet or Donald Trump, or class conflict in the New York Times travel pages. Nor does cognitive science tells us anything, anything AT ALL so far, concerning the deeper questions with which Shakespeare and similar authors, even some New York Times authors, are concerned: Why do people kill? Why do people kill their loved ones? Why do people rob and steal and make war and laugh at the sorrows of others? What is power? Why do some people have it and others not? Go back and read what the most prominent cognitive scientists write about when they write about social life and art, and you will find a stunning lack of curiosity about humanity and the things people do to one another – unless the subject is economics and buying and selling. The world of cognitive science is pretty much insulated from what the rest of us might take to be the world.  

 

Whether the “how” of human behaviour is consistent across time is a question to be asked, not an assumption to be made. Most anthropological evidence suggests at the very least a very complex answer. But it is certain that a literate society “thinks” very differently from a non-literate one, and a totalitarian society “thinks” rather differently from a democratic society. It is not just the “what”, it is also the “how” that varies. 

 

If what Neema means by “the human condition” is what Hannah Arendt means by it, I share his interest. But I doubt he does. And for the most part I have to confess that I am less interested in the human condition than in human conditions. About the human condition I can do nothing. About conditions, at least I have a chance.

 

And by the way, my name is spelled with the l coming after the e. Details! 

 

Robert

 

 

 

CFP: Minor Shakespeares: The Politics and Aesthetics of the Margins

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.159  Friday, 29 April 2016

 

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

Date:         April 29, 2016 at 3:18:01 AM EDT

Subject:    Minor Shakespeares Conference, 23rd-24th Sept. 2016, University of Split, Croatia

 

Minor Shakespeares Conference, 23rd-24th Sept. 2016, University of Split, Croatia

 

Conference Call for Papers:

 

Minor Shakespeares: The Politics and Aesthetics of the Margins

 

University of Split, Croatia

 

23rd-24th September, 2016

 

Keynote lectures: Peter Greenaway and Prof. Richard Wilson

 

 

For Deleuze and Guattari there are modes of literature that offer themselves to the state, to official and institutional discourse, and thus to the hierarchically transcendent. These reactionary forms are to be contrasted with the resistant, revolutionary, and immanent ‘lines-of-flight’ of ‘minor literature’.

 

At first glance it might seem disingenuous to link minor literature with the author at the undisputed centre of the English canon. Certainly there is a repressive, deathly and conservative Shakespeare. But there is also a Shakespeare of the margins, uncanniness and resistance. This is in part due to the situation of early modern theatre. Unlike the central place accorded to Athenian theatre, the early modern London theatres were situated in the liminal Liberties beyond the jurisdiction of the city fathers. Writing away from the centres of political power, this spatial marginality was continually reinscribed as political subversion. But this politics of the margin is all-too-frequently forgotten, repressed, or mislaid. As Peter Greenaway’s filmmaking and Richard Wilson’s criticism likewise show, holding open the lines-of-flight for alternative Shakespearean meanings has involved reading against the grain, with the help of digital technologies, avant-gardism, French theory, recusant Catholicism, or other minority discourses. It is the task of the present to draw out this ‘foreignness in its own language’ at the ‘heart of great literature’, as Deleuze and Guattari put it, so as to ‘extract from the

text its revolutionary force’.

 

This conference considers marginality in Shakespeare’s poetry and drama, as well as the weird and alternative afterlives that arise from Shakespeare’s writing. Possible topics include, but are certainly not limited to:

 

* Ecological, politicized, feminist, postcolonial, queer, impaired, and other marginal or 'othered' readings of the Shakespeare text;

 

* Discourses of the strange, marginal or uncanny: alterity in early modern culture;

 

* Intensive affects: violence, horror, terror, or abjection in, or from, Shakespeare's writing;

 

* Temporal marginality: hauntings or futural anticipations in Shakespeare's poetry and narrative structures;

 

* Shakespeare and technology: print, cinema, electronic, digital media or media archaeology;

 

* Adaptation, performance, interpretation and translation across cultures, geographies and historical periods;

 

* Shakespeare read from the margins, from the discourses of classicism, medievalism, modernism, theology, sociology, psychoanalysis, cognitive science, aesthetic theory, the natural sciences, computational analysis, the medical humanities, political philosophy, or (bio)politics.

 

http://www.ffst.unist.hr/znanost/konferencije/weird_shakespeare

 

Please send abstracts of about 200 words to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by 31st July 2016.

 

 

Identity of the Clown in Othello

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.158  Wednesday, 27 April 2016

 

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

Date:         April 27, 2016 at 3:59:35 PM EDT

Subject:    Othello's Clown

 

[Editor’s Note: I will let Arnie have the last word since he started this thread; however, in the future, when I call a thread as ended, my hope is that subscribers will respect my decision and not send any more submissions on the topic. –Hardy]

 

Laurie wrote: "My sense is that we are coming at this issue at cross-purposes, so I’m not sure I have much more to add. The difference we have is nicely summed up by Alan Dessen in his more recent post to this thread: “The Iago-Clown exit-re-entry suggested here seems to me the kind of effect that would appeal to an inventive director or reader today but not one that fits with stage practice in the original performances.”

 

My questions relate to stage practice in the early modern period (original performances), whereas your responses and suggestions invariably relate to the long history of subsequent interpretations and performances. To respond briefly to the core of your further arguments, then, I am happy to entertain the thought that a more “modern” production (i.e. anything after 1660) could use the strategies you propose to develop an Iago-as-Clown characterisation, but scholarly consensus from theatre historians relating to early modern staging would suggest that a performance in the early part of the C17th is unlikely to have included the same strategies, nor does the text of the play (written for those early performances) specifically support this suggestion (a layer of invention is required by the reader, rather than imagining that what the reader finds there is the result of a hint from the playwright).”

 

Thank you very much for your reply, indeed we are coming at this from cross-purposes, because I start not from what was normal practice in Shakespeare’s time, but from my best determination of what was Shakespeare’s own intention. I am sure you will agree that Shakespeare was at or near the top of the list of artistic innovators in the 3,000 year history of Western civilization---indeed, he is the quintessential example of a genius who was, in a variety of significant ways, far ahead of his time. So for you to argue that he was somehow imprisoned within the boundaries of the theatrical norms of his own time, with respect to entrances and exits of characters, or re: any other aspect of his plays, is to beg the essential question.

 

Anyway, thank you for your reply, Laurie, it’s been fun tossing this point around with you.

 

Cheers, 

ARNIE

 

 

 

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