Deconstruction

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.281  Tuesday, 9 June 2015

 

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

     Date:         June 5, 2015 at 12:51:47 PM EDT

     Subject:    Deconstruction 

 

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

     Date:         June 8, 2015 at 1:48:01 AM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Deconstruction 

 

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

     Date:         June 5, 2015 at 7:13:27 PM EDT

     Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: Deconstruction 

 

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

     Date:         June 5, 2015 at 9:32:46 PM EDT

     Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: Deconstruction 

 

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

     Date:         June 8, 2015 at 1:48:01 AM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Deconstruction 

 

 

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

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

Date:         June 5, 2015 at 12:51:47 PM EDT

Subject:    Deconstruction

 

In close agreement with Hardy’s distinction between the material world and a (one or more) higher level of reality, I recall crashing into a comparable problem years ago in the matter of metaphor studies.  All the analytic concepts — source domains, target domains, and others — ignored what to me was a necessary starting point, that metaphors and, therefore, all other modes of language point ultimately to a shared experience.  One cannot talk about meaning meaningfully without it; draw upon Lakoff’s and Turner’s notion of basic metaphor, “life is a journey”, “understanding is illumination” (forgive me if I don’t recall the terminology correctly) and it rests on the assumption that the hearer/reader has experienced just that:  one’s says “Aha, I see the light” or “I’m getting on towards the end of the road” with total confidence that the hearer knows — based on some non-verbal experience common to mankind in general - exactly what is meant. More narrowly, when the Norse referred to the ocean as a “whale road,” the assumed common experience would be limited to seafarers and unintelligible to, say Uigars.  

 

In my humble opinion, there are always unlimited degrees of cultural experience to be taken into consideration in approaching a verbal text, following which there are unlimited degrees of personal experience to be taken into consideration in deconstructing it.  Nevertheless, we communicate pretty well, and find Shakespeare enriching, polysemously challenging, technically admirable, and inexplicably relevant across time and culture.  Deconstruction works well - despite doctrinal points of difference - as a cautionary teaching not to take one’s own sense for the meaning of a text as absolute or exclusive, but Shakespeare was teaching the same thing four and a half centuries ago.   Among other occasions, in Gloucester’s, “And that’s true too.”  And mirabile dictu, the audience understands what’s going on, though each member may go home having had a different theatrical experience.  Did any of them get it “right”?  

 

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

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

Date:         June 5, 2015 at 1:08:50 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Deconstruction

 

Thanks to Hardy Cook for his response. Since he has familiarity with Madhyamika philosophy, we can perhaps delve into this a little deeper, with regards to Derrida’s “il n’y a pas de hors-texte.”

Let us look at the well-known analysis in Madhyamika philosophy known as Candrakirti’s cart. In Madhyamika philosophy, it is argued that what we label as “cart” does not inherently exist, because we cannot locate the essence of cart anywhere in the parts of the object that bears the label “cart.” The cart cannot be found in the wheel, the axle, the seat, and so on (i.e. the wheel is not the cart, the axle is not the cart, etc). So we say that the cart is empty of inherent existence, since it does not exist on its own right, but only exists in dependence on its parts and in dependence on the label “cart” that is imputed by the mind. The fact that the cart is empty of inherent existence is the “ultimate truth” regarding the cart. Nonetheless, we also say that, although the cart is empty of inherent existence, it is not nonexistent, and in terms of “conventional truth,” we can talk about the cart in a functional way. Both “ultimate truth” and “conventional truth” are considered to be valid, if we accord it the correct understanding. 

 

Now let us examine this argument in light of Derrida’s phrase “il n’y a pas de hors-texte.” According to Derrida, the meaning behind the above discussion must be mediated in terms of language, since Derrida claims that we cannot get outside the text. But here, the use of language is itself under analysis. How can we possibly understand the meaning behind the analysis if we cannot get out of using language itself to understand the meaning? How can we understand what is meant by “conventional truth” and how it coexists with the “ultimate truth” unless we can see beyond having to use the language and the label itself to mediate the meaning? 

 

The fact that the analysis can be understood means that the meaning need not be mediated by language itself. Also, the whole purpose of this analysis in Madhyamika philosophy is to provide a basis on which to build towards attaining a direct realization of this ultimate nature of reality. This is done through meditation. A direct realization means that it is a realization that is not dependent on a logical analysis. It is direct perception of the truth, and that means that it cannot be an experience that is mediated by language. So this is an example of what I am trying to illustrate, i.e. that meaning is NOT always mediated by language. In this sense, we can, in fact, get outside the text.

 

Kenneth Chan

 

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

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

Date:         June 5, 2015 at 7:13:27 PM EDT

Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: Deconstruction

 

Kenneth Chan responds: “It is likely, however, that Derrida did intend the phrase “il n’y a pas de hors-texte” to apply to more than just methodology in biographical reading. If it were meant to be purely restricted to biographical reading, the statement would have very limited significance. I do not believe that is actually the case, and neither do I think that most people believe that is the case.” 

 

Derrida wrote a lot of sentences in that essay. He’s written a lot of sentences in a lot of essays. Why must every sentence be afforded the status of a programmatic claim with more than limited significance, or, more to the point, why this one in particular? If you actually read it in its original location, in that text, you will see that it is not a claim intended to extend beyond the reach of the argument he makes, at that moment, in that text.

 

The word “text” is important here, and it seems that a very convenient slip happens every time somebody tries to make Derrida claim more than he did in this sentence.

 

So Chan continues: “So what is Derrida trying to say here? He is clearly not saying that language is all there is, or that there is nothing outside of language. That would really be taking things out of context.”

 

Yes, it would.

 

Further: “Taken in context, however, what Derrida is suggesting is not that language does not relate to reality, but that the relationship between language and reality is mediated by language itself. Thus all meaning is rooted in language and is hence produced by the interplay of differences. That is why Derrida says we cannot get outside the text.”

 

No, he doesn’t. “Language” is NOT synonymous with “text” and it is a grave misuse of Derrida’s own words, and a refusal to engage with his own writing, in order to set up a straw figure that can then be conveniently cut down. The chapter of Grammatology from which the statement is extracted refers to a "Discourse on Method" and it is an attempt to delimit the field of textual criticism. I'd be mortified if somebody took one of my claims about the method of cultural history and took it to be a statement about all history and all culture. Derrida writes about the object of textual criticism in this essay, and that is all he sets out to do, in that essay.

 

Regarding Derrida’s many other writings on language—and there are many—it is important to also remember that he rarely if ever refers to “meaning” in the same way that Kenneth Chan seems to want him to do. His target is not “meaning” but signification; not what words mean but how they mean. He critiques Saussure and others for creating a theory of language that does attempt to argue for an arbitrary relationship between a sign and the thing it signifies. He never, ever made any attempt to claim that language is all that mediates between us and reality. 

 

So, when Chan further writes, “To make matters worse, there is another level of error in what Derrida is suggesting. And that error resides in the fact that NOT all meaning or experiences are actually mediated by language. Even experiences that change a person dramatically need not be mediated by language,” he is concerned with what “Derrida is suggesting,” and never with what Derrida actually ever wrote. It is a kind of proof of Chan’s own thesis, of course, that we can know what he meant even if we don’t need his words to tell us. 

 

As for me, I’d prefer to discuss Shakespeare and related matters on this forum. I’ve spent a lot of my life working on Derrida and I now prefer to work on the early moderns. Anybody who wants to understand Derrida should, I contend, read the man’s own writing. Be wary of translations—use them, if you can’t read French, but look for ones that offer notes on how the translator grappled with some phrases. Be very, very wary of brief summaries of what he meant, as they usually do his work a disservice. To see what Derrida does say about language, and as it happens what he says about the misuse of words and the disservice we sometimes do to others in the name of philosophy, readers might spare some time to consult “Force and Signification” and “Violence and Metaphysics” as first ports of call.

 

Kindly, 

Laurie

 

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

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

Date:         June 5, 2015 at 9:32:46 PM EDT

Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: Deconstruction

 

I have a few notes on this, which I think worth sharing.

 

First, I think Kenneth is right in his sense of how people tend to read Derrida. “There is no outside the text” tends to be thrown around as a sort of slogan of relativism. 

 

Secondly, it’s worth noting not only that Derrida is writing in a particular context in each of his works, but also that his understanding of “transcendence” has a particular intellectual heritage. Both Sartre and Levinas use the term to describe the other. In phenomenology generally, it’s a reference to the world outside one’s own consciousness. An attack on transcendence would therefore have to be fairly specific --- “transcendent meaning” in a technical, semiotic sense --- or, within wider contexts, it denies the being of the external world or of other people. 

 

BTW, the notion that our understanding of the world is dependent on language also has a heritage, in Christian theology. This is why, Barth tells us, the word of God must be shared in the language of man --- even direct revelation comes to people possessed of (by?) a language and placed within a history --- and why Biblical exegesis is potentially endless. It would not follow, however, that there is no outside text. Quite the contrary, in fact.

 

Yours,

Sean Lawrence

 

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

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

Date:         June 8, 2015 at 1:48:01 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Deconstruction

 

I agree with Derrida that in some areas, and ways, some people grasp reality better than others. Who are those others? Call them the prejudiced. Their weights and measures are badly calibrated. We can all agree on this, but often not on who the prejudiced are, in a particular case. Derrida thinks it's wrong to make certain meta-statements about the possibility of true representations. But most of our arguments happen below that level.

 

Judgments may be wrong. Portia is a terrible person—in Shakespeare’s view? In our view? In my view? So I cite signs of her terribleness. Do you interpret them differently? You may not be able to pin down her character absolutely, but in some cases a consensus can be found as secure as the Stratfordian: a scaffolding of insights—raids on the inarticulate—that help shore up the practice of reasonability. You may be Theoretically correct in all your meta-statements and have no idea what’s going on in a play.

 

Best wishes,

 

David Bishop

 

Taymor DREAM: One Time Special Events in Theaters Near You!

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.280  Tuesday, 9 June 2015

 

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

Date:         June 7, 2015 at 4:20:39 PM EDT

Subject:    Taymor DREAM: One Time Special Events in Theaters Near You!

 

http://www.fathomevents.com/event/a-midsummer-nights-dream?utm_source=FathomEvents&utm_medium=Facebook&utm_campaign=AMidsummersNight%27sDream

 

 

A Midsummer Night's Dream from Tony Award®-winning director, Julie Taymor.

 

Date: Monday, June 22

 

Time: 7:00 p.m. (local time)

 

Run Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes (approximate)

 

Ticketing: Tickets are available by clicking on the orange “Buy Tickets” button. If online ticketing is not available for your location, you can purchase your tickets by visiting the box office at your local participating movie theater.

 

Locations: A list of participating locations can be found on the "Theater Locations" tab. Check back often if your nearest theater is not listed as updates are being made on a regular basis.  

Special Fathom Features: Enjoy an exclusive showing of A Midsummer Night's Dream from Tony Award®-winning director, Julie Taymor.

 

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A Midsummer Night's Dream is the most phantasmagorical of all Shakespeare's plays, featuring fairies, spells, and hallucinatory lovers. Julie Taymor turns out a production that's visually breathtaking, funny, sexy and darkly poetic. The feats of visual imagination are ingenious and plentiful, but beating at the center of the film is an emotionally moving take on the deeper human aspects of this beloved tale.

 

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Get your tickets now to this extraordinary one-night event!

 

 

Here’s What Critics Are Saying: “Dazzling and hilarious” New York Times

 

(Re)Building Networks @ UMD October 9-10

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.279  Tuesday, 9 June 2015

 

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

Date:         June 8, 2015 at 8:00:27 AM EDT

Subject:    (Re)Building Networks @ UMD October 9-10

 

This conference at the University of Maryland College Park will interest subscribers to this list: 

http://mems-um.wix.com/rebuilding-networks

 

(Re)Building Networks is an interdisciplinary dialogue on the nature, interest, and potential of networks both as a practice and as an analytical concept

 

Networks are widely recognized as modes of professional collaboration as well as objects of scientific inquiry. The University of Maryland’s Graduate School Field Committee in Medieval & Early Modern Studies is organizing a two-day symposium that brings together scholars in a wide range of fields to exchange research on medieval and early modern networks within and across disciplines, social classes, and national boundaries. We also are interested in examining the various methods by which contemporary researchers identify and analyze networks. How were networks constructed in the medieval and early modern periods, and how and why do we reconstruct them today? 

Complete Program Here: http://mems-um.wix.com/rebuilding-networks#!schedule/cjg9

 

GW MEMSI

The Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute of the George Washington University

 

www.gwmemsi.com

 

Bandwidth Problems with Server

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.278  Tuesday, 9 June 2015

 

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

Date:        Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Subject:    Bandwidth Problems with Server

 

Over the past many weeks I have had occasional problems with not being able to access the server either as administrator or a user of the shaksper.net web site.

 

Ron was able to determine the following:

 

1 540 0.29% 40345006 51.06% /documents/reference-files/265-variorum-shakespeare-vol-25-the-sonnets-part-2-1944/file

 

2 407 0.22% 17639633 22.33% /documents/reference-files/264-variorum-shakespeare-vol-24-the-sonnets-part-1-1944-1/file

 

It looks like a bunch of users in Australia are downloading these files hundreds of times. Since you don’t require registration to download files, you need to take some measures to reduce files sizes since they can be download many times and bombarded by spiders.

 

I allow anyone to use the SHAKSPER web site and to download files from it. The problem was that the two variorum Sonnets volumes were being downloaded and the result was the bandwidth overload.

 

We cannot determine for sure if the problems are a spider or a web site visitor trying many, many times to download these two what were then large pdf files. The files have been shrunk and I will be going through all the pdfs on the site and reducing their size to try to avert problems in the future.

 

However, should the problem persist, I will have to limit thoses who can download files and use the site to registered users, an option I would only do reluctantly.

 

Thanks for your continued support of SHAKSPER,

 

Hardy

 

Deconstruction

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.277  Friday, 5 June 2015

 

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

     Date:         June 4, 2015 at 4:41:15 PM EDT

     Subject:     RE: SHAKSPER: Deconstruction

 

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

     Date:         June 5, 2015 at 4:56:13 AM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Deconstruction

 

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

     Date:         Friday, June 5, 2015

     Subject:     Deconstruction 

 

 

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

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

Date:         June 4, 2015 at 4:41:15 PM EDT

Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: Deconstruction

 

Far from opening Pandora’s box, Laurie Johnson has made an important point. I concentrated on the first 2 pages of the ‘Structure, Sign and Play’ essay, but should have linked it with the much larger point in Grammatology. I tend to favour Derek Attridge’s translation of ‘Il ny’a pas hors de texte’ to the extent that it emphasizes that we experience (i.e. make sense of) the world textually. Derrida is not, I think, saying that the material world is necessarily reduced to the level of a text, or indeed that it has no material existence. His concern is with the ways in which language and that material world interact, and the claim that language is not instrumental but constitutive. Derrida’s claim is that that process can be unravelled, and in that context Deconstruction is, if I remember rightly, Spivak suggests somewhere, a strategy of strategies. Where I depart from Kenneth Chan is on the grounds that he appears to be suggesting that the category of ‘mind’ is transcendental, and that the material world has for us an objective existence; it is there but the question is how we make sense of it.

 

Cheers

John D

 

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

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

Date:         June 5, 2015 at 4:56:13 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Deconstruction

 

Thanks to Laurie Johnson for providing the correct French wording of Derrida’s phrase il n’y a pas de hors-texte.” Laurie Johnson also writes that Derrida “is not using the phrase to make a broader philosophical claim – rather than metaphysics, his target here is methodology in biographical reading.” 

 

It is likely, however, that Derrida did intend the phrase “il n’y a pas de hors-texte” to apply to more than just methodology in biographical reading. If it were meant to be purely restricted to biographical reading, the statement would have very limited significance. I do not believe that is actually the case, and neither do I think that most people believe that is the case. 

 

So what is Derrida trying to say here? He is clearly not saying that language is all there is, or that there is nothing outside of language. That would really be taking things out of context. Taken in context, however, what Derrida is suggesting is not that language does not relate to reality, but that the relationship between language and reality is mediated by language itself. Thus all meaning is rooted in language and is hence produced by the interplay of differences. That is why Derrida says we cannot get outside the text.

 

However, as I have pointed out in my previous posts, there is a serious flaw even in what Derrida is actually trying to say. To reiterate, language is more than just an interplay of differences. The mind-that-imputes-meaning has to be present for words to function in the real world; this means that meaning is NOT merely produced by an interplay of differences.

 

To make matters worse, there is another level of error in what Derrida is suggesting. And that error resides in the fact that NOT all meaning or experiences are actually mediated by language. Even experiences that change a person dramatically need not be mediated by language.

 

Again, we come to the great divide between Eastern and Western philosophy. The reason for this divide may perhaps be attributed to one main factor (which is surprisingly easy to state), and that factor is the fact that most of the prominent Eastern philosophers practice meditation, and are often masters in that art.

 

In meditation, we can reach meditative states that are impossible to describe in words. This does not mean that it is unknowable; it merely means that there are no words for it. Thus, Eastern philosophers have realized, for thousands of years, that language is merely a tool of communication, and that unless both communicators have shared the same experience, that experience cannot be conveyed merely through the use of words. The experience of a higher meditative state is clearly NOT mediated by language.

 

The realization that experience can be free of language is often directly affirmed in many Eastern philosophies. For example, it is stated that the practice of Zen is aimed at grasping enlightenment, while the intellectual is merely trying to pin it down with words; and the intellectual fails because there is something beyond words. The famous opening lines of the Tao Te Ching also reflect this understanding: “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao; the name that can be named is not the eternal name.” In Madhyamika philosophy, it is even argued that words (or labels) actually distort our perception of reality, unless we have the direct realization that words are NOT the reality.

 

The flaw in Derrida’s deconstructionist theory is to assume that all meaning and all experiences-that-change-us have to be mediated by language. This is simply not true. Derrida further compounds this error by suggesting that limitations of language must then necessarily lead to limitations in meaning. That is how we arrive erroneously at the claim that “all meaning must inevitably be contextual and socially constructed, and hence cannot possibly be absolute and fully objective.” The line of reasoning that led to such a claim is actually flawed many times over, and at many different levels of the reasoning process!

 

Kenneth Chan

 

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

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

Date:         Friday, June 5, 2015

Subject:    Deconstruction

 

As a well-read and studied Buddhist, I have problems with Kenneth Chan’s post above. I have a daily practice and meditate for at least an hour a day. I am not a Madhyamika Buddhist; rather I am a secular Buddhist, but I hate that term. More accurately, I am a Nikaya Buddhist or a sutta-based Buddhist—possibly an ultra-ultra-non-orthodox Theravadin. However, I do have 27 different translations of the Tao Te Ching and two copies of Nāgārjuna that I have read and have studied Madhyamika ideas.

 

The Buddha’s teachings in the suttas of the Pali Canon do appear to suggest two levels of reality—conventional and ultimate. Derrida’s “il n’y a pas de hors-texte” clearly is concerned with a method of reading in the conventional, material world and has nothing to do with the Mahayana Buddhist’s ultimate reality. And don’t get me started on Dependent Origination, a topic of great interest to me—in fact, I have a retreat in November with John Peacock on that very subject—but dependent origination has nothing to do with Derrida.

 

My bottom line is that Kenneth Chan seems to me to be mixing the proverbial apples and oranges. 

 

 

-Hardy

 

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