The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.2302  Tuesday, 11 December 2000

[1]     From:   Richard Burt <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 11 Dec 2000 11:33:42 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.2296 Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS

[2]     From:   Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 11 Dec 2000 10:53:10 -0800
        Subj:   SHK 11.2296 Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS

From:           Richard Burt <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 11 Dec 2000 11:33:42 -0500
Subject: 11.2296 Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.2296 Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS

I agree with Tim.  It seems to me that any member of this should be free
to say whatever he or she wishes to within the bounds set by Hardy.
Scholarly credentials do not necessarily produce good criticism, nor
does their lack necessarily produce bad criticism.

From:           Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 11 Dec 2000 10:53:10 -0800
Subject: Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS
Comment:        SHK 11.2296 Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS

Tim Perfect wrote:

> ...that's not to say that I don't agree that all members should
> consider well their statements before submission, but to me, at least,
> the non-scholarly or "amateur" do have as much to offer to this list.

I won't comment on Pervez's intent, but I have given this a lot of
thought over the years and would like to share my perspective.

For some people, I include myself, expressing an opinion is a way to
improve the opinion by opening a dialogue with those who are thoughtful
and informed.  I offer these comments in that spirit.

Not all opinions have equal weight.  Some are far more informed than
others.  Some list members sensitively consider the history and
subtitles of an idea or a performance.  They have great learning to back
up their opinions.

You know that line, repeated in Looking for Richard?  "Opinions are like
ass-holes.  Everybody has one."?  It is true, but I think the analogy
breaks down when you begin to look at the quality of opinions.

The current unpleasantness began when I noticed that those supporting
Taymor's Titus had cogent reasons for liking it and that those that
didn't just blasted with both barrels.  To cite one example among
several, those who liked the sets and costumes had reasons why.  Those
that didn't just insulted them with out engaging the supportive reasons
given by those who liked the film.  That was a wasted opportunity.  If
they had good and informed reasons for disliking Taymor's approach, we
may have all learned something.  Simply repeating the insults to Taymor,
who made the best film she knew how to make, served no useful purpose.
I noticed a disparity in the insightfulness of those opinions, and a
pattern in the discourse by one list member that alarmed me, and if
comments by a dozen people both on and off list can be believed, alarmed
a number of us.

I remember one woman who annoyed a number of people by asserting
Shakespeare derived his names from a language he almost certainly didn't
know.  Repeatedly list members raised the implausibility of this theory
based on what we know about his life and the times.  She engaged in what
I call passive/aggressive scholarship.  In other words, she ignored
these comments.  She didn't even try to muster a defense.  She'd just
wait a few days, or weeks, and repeated her assertions.

Did she have an opinion?  Yes.  Had she a right to her opinion?  Yes.
Had she an informed opinion?  I'm not in her head, but it appears not
since she would not address the problems.  Is it reasonable for list
members be annoyed by the pattern of this scholastic tactic?
Absolutely.  Should she continue to express her ideas and use
passive/aggressive scholarship in this forum?  That is Hardy's call.

I could mention a few other uninformed opinions that have assaulted this
list, but these two are recent and let them stand for the whole - and in
doing so I don't mean to further pick on the two people I've just
discussed - which is why I don't name them.  They don't need more grief
and when the current discussion runs it course, I hope we will move on.

Tim, I believe it is the responsibility of the poster to know how
informed his or her opinion is, and write accordingly.  Someone with a
not very informed opinion should have a different approach than a writer
with great learning.  It is partly tone and attitude.  It is mostly the
mind-set of the writer.

To paraphrase, arrogance is bliss.  Arrogant people will inevitably
think their opinion is as valid, or more valid, than those of brighter
and more informed people.  They sometimes post their opinions like
shotgun blasts, firing at will, hitting anything they can.  They will
continue to vex people, like me, who care (perhaps too much) about the
quality of discourse on this list.  It is better and wiser to know your
limitations and write accordingly.  I further believe it is the
responsibility of a poster to read, consider, and learn from the
responses to his or her opinions.  You may find excellent reasons to
reject them, but you should only reject them for excellent reasons.  If
you continue to bash the list with strongly expressed, but insensitive
opinions, you are in danger of becoming a bully.

I'm not sure I do this perfectly, but I try to know when I have
something to say and when I don't.  I am informed and confident about
Shakespeare on television, for one example.  I should be.  I spent three
years studying little else.  I would not hesitate to participate in a
discussion on this subject.

The recent discussion about linguistic markers that indicate when
Shakespeare's characters are lying is beyond my brain power at this
time.  I don't have the learning to discourse meaningfully at the
topic's current level, though I did early in the discussion.  While it
is the recent thread that most fascinates me, I don't think anyone would
benefit by my half-informed opinions, so I keep them to myself and read
the posts to learn more.  I would not hesitate to ask a question or make
a comment based on the debate and ask for others to critique it.

I don't think these are the only possible guidelines, but they work for
me.  I hope others will improve upon this model and make the list even
more challenging and informative.

It is my hope that smart people with informed opinions will not hold
back, and that others will show a degree of restraint, remembering what
is really a contribution and what is just overconfidence, and even
bullying.  Tim, I think there is a place for everyone to post no matter
what their level of scholarship or what kind of experience they have,
but I do hope that list members will do so after asking themselves some
questions about the quality and usefulness of their contribution.

If that is elitist, I'll live with the epitaph.

Mike Jensen

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