The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0528  Tuesday, 6 March 2001

From:           Clifford Stetner <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 5 Mar 2001 18:10:00 -0500
Subject: 12.0465 Re: Welsh etc.
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0465 Re: Welsh etc.

Karen E. Peterson writes:

>It has long been a pet theory of mine that Jerry Springer, Rikki Lake et.
>al. serve
>an equivalent function in contemporary culture to that served by
>medieval charivari and the various other public-ridicule and
>scapegoating rituals.

I absolutely agree, and have similarly argued that the move to televise
executions is evidence of the persistence of the purgative human
sacrifice.  I think the difference between modern and postmodern
scapegoat rituals is that the modern world has to hide its scapegoat
behind some moralizing ideology: Jenny Jones is just trying to help the
dysfunctional straighten themselves out with the help of audience input;
executing Chinese officials is an effort to clean up corruption.

While the scapegoat rituals of the premodern world must have been
understood as necessary evils to maintain the harmony of the community,
they were nevertheless acknowledged (and enjoyed) as evil and cruel (and
their participants included the entire community, not just the
dimwits).  If Jerry Springer's claims to be doing public service are
cynically insincere, he is a new phenomenon and perhaps an indication of
a postmodern return to the open premodern enjoyment of spectacles of
public humiliation.

Clifford Stetner

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