The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0820  Monday, 17 April 2000.

From:           Norman J. Myers <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 14 Apr 2000 11:22:11 -0500
Subject: 11.0796 Re: What is pornography?
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0796 Re: What is pornography?

Re Ronald Dwelle's posting (below), his experience might not be so far
fetched. I'm sure Our Hero has an appropriate quote somewhere (besides
the one about killing all the lawyers) to describe the litigious state
we're in these days.  One has to wonder is some folks are less concerned
with the harm the presentation of such "filth" is doing their offspring
as they are with a possible opportunity to shake down an institution.
After all, the parents Dwelle alludes to doubtless had their own lawyer
who must have seen "merit" in their case.

I teach a course loosely called "Shakespeare in Performance" which is
designed primarily for English/language arts education majors who are
apt to be teaching Shakespeare in middle/high schools.  We make
extensive use of film.  With the concurrence of our Affirmative Action
office I include the following statement on my syllabus:

Warning:  Often people don't realize it, but Shakespeare's language can
be a "punchbowl of double entendre." [I don't remember where that quote
came from].

Moreover, some of the films we will be viewing contain scenes of graphic
violence and scenes of a sexual nature ranging from suggestive to
graphic.  Those films made since the present rating system came into
effect carry a "PG-13" or an "R" rating.  This warning is issued to
assure you that no deliberate attempt to make you uncomfortable is being

I also warn the class before each film and before any discussion of the
bawdy passages, and I tell them that if they find anything offensive
they may leave the class without penalty.  It so happens that this
semester's class is entirely women, and they've had no problems.  In
fact they are puzzled by my excessive caution, though some have owned
that they might not want to show some of the film clips in their own
high school classes for fear of parental anger.

Many of us were around and teaching in the 60s and find it hard to
equate with "pornography" things like McKellen taking a leak while doing
part of Richard III's opening soliloquy in the Longraine film or Lady
Macbeth sleepwalking in the nude in Polanski's film or what Claudio
thinks he's seeing Hero doing in the Branaugh Much Ado film , especially
with the kinds of movies our students see regularly.  We also know that
there are extremely few under 17 kids who haven't seen dozens of R-rated
movies.  But it ain't the sixties no more.

>Relative to porn's relativity, my university's lawyers spent quite a bit
>of time last year in dealing with the threat of a lawsuit from a
>student's parent. (Several of us local Shakespearians as well as our
>academic dean spent numerous hours on it as well.) The parent was
>enraged that his daughter was subjected to viewing pornography in an
>introductory Shakespeare class. The offending piece of porn? Prospero's

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