The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0067  Monday, 29 January 2007

From: 		Joseph Egert <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Friday, 26 Jan 2007 19:29:05 +0000
Subject: 18.0038 A Question
Comment: 	RE: SHK 18.0038 A Question

John Cox writes:

  >Those who are suspicious of this enterprise can help the discussion
  >by acknowledging presentism's first point: that we indeed cannot
 >entirely shed our own identity when trying to understand the past.

After consuming a Greenblatt concoction, I always walk away feeling 
sated and fully nourished. How different is wading through many a 
jargonaut's constipated prose, in what passes for critical theory-its 
governing principle a truism, its logic confused, its reasoning 
circular, its semantics muddled, requiring their own demystification.

As creatures in the present, we are the perfect issue of our past, in 
fact and not just in theory. We are constantly being reminded we look 
upon our forebears across the swirling mists of time with the eyes of 
the present. Somewhere Brutus explains, "the eye sees not itself but by 
reflection." The issue is one of focus. Presentists argue we view the 
eyes of the Other not as a window but as a mirror reflecting our own 
eyes staring back at us in infinite regress. Hamlet and Othello learn 
the tragic effect of such self-regarding focus in mistaking their own 
want of faith for that of the innocent Other, be she Ophelia or 
Desdemona. Should we not aspire to look at her true face beyond the eyes?

Hugh Grady yearns for an "oppositional" discourse to discredit 
capitalism and storm its ramparts. Terence Hawkes longs for studies to 
function as "agents of radical change." Is truth their lodestar value? 
"Facts, after all, do not speak for themselves. Nor do texts"(Hawkes). 
Of course, they do; only we hear them in translation. Despite the tepid 
hedging by Profs. Hawkes and Grady, the temptation for budding 
Stalinists of all stripes to manufacture the past for driving their 
agendas into an Orwellian abyss will become irresistible. 'Twas ever 
thus, but why encourage them? Their apologists invariably descend to 
maligning Horatios on the bridge like Orwell, that "guilt-racked 
imperialist", that "copper's nark"-all of which may be true, but 
willfully and knowingly beside the point.

Religious traditionalists and self-styled "postmodernist" ideologues are 
currently joined in unholy alliance to undermine or "deconstruct" 
Enlightenment values, or their distorted version of same. Listen to NT 
Wright, Anglican bishop of Durham: "We postmoderns may chafe in our 
slavery to the Enlightenment, but the way to freedom is to challenge the 
slavemaster."  Again: "it should come as a relief not to have to aim at 
an impossible objectivity..."  And again, with reservations: "it is part 
of the task of the church today to accept the postmodern critique of 
modernity." Wright concludes: "I believe postmodernity is to be 
welcomed...it deconstructs, in particular, the dangerous ideology of 

Esteemed colleagues, whose side are we on? Hugh Grady and Terence 
Hawkes, how many fingers?

Re-guards from an Enlightenment thrall,
Joe Egert

For further illumination, please consult the finely honed arguments of 
David Lindley and RDH Wells among others in earlier go-rounds on 
SHAKSPER. Also follow the link to Graham Good's 1996 "The Hegemony of 
Theory." Enjoy!


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