Saturday, April 1, 2017
Is it not also the case that Macbeth's interrogation of the equivocal Witches both registers and promulgates England's growing rejection of interpretive license in the perusal of sacred texts?
I don't know. Whatever.
(Audible breath intake among listeners, followed by a buzz of whispers.)
Questioner (regrouping, after a pause):
What I mean is, given that in the early years of King James's reign, tropes suggestive of Jesuitical doublespeak in the popular theater were at once superficially orthodox yet indirectly subversive, did no central ambiguity result from the early-modern ethos that stressed any individual's power to interpret texts? I mean, an ambiguity which undercut all claims to stable meaning?
You're asking me?
Yes, what I mean is, wasn't Macbeth implicated in this cultural trend toward the destabilization of language-systems as generators of reliable truth claims?
Couldn't tell you.
At this point the meeting broke up in confusion. The greater number of attendees, clearly shaken by the breakdown of acceptable conference discourse, solaced themselves with hotel-issue coffee outside the ballroom. Within minutes, rapid exchanges of polysyllabic shibboleths such as "hermeneutical circle," "cultural imaginary," "monolithic hegemony," and "inescapable binary" had restored color to cheeks, and good humor reigned once more.
Yet the effects of the event still reverberated among a large proportion of younger scholars, some of whom were applying for academic jobs at the conference. One Ph.D. student, in answer to an interviewer's question regarding her dissertation's implications for the "presentist deconstruction of late-Victorian Bradleyism in Shakespeare studies," was heard to reply, "Sir, I have no idea. I was writing about something else."
Reports differ on whether she was abruptly dismissed or offered the job on the spot.
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
When I tell them so, I take care not to criticize the book, movie, play, Youtube short, or TV commercial in question. Each might be good, bad, mediocre, or excellent in its own right. I like the Cole Porter musical Kiss Me, Kate and the film 10 Things I Hate About You and Disney's The Lion King. Having myself written two Shakespeare-based novels, to roll my eyes at such adaptations would be hypocritical. In fact, I can add some celebrated titles to the conversation: Huxley's Brave New World, Dorothy Dunnett's King Hereafter, and Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. There are hundreds of adaptations out
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
- Spanish Civil War For Losers. Glad I Didn't Go.
- Can't Decide Whether Poetry Changes Anything or Not
- Seven Tips for Staying Gay and Sane in Oxford c. 1955
and so on.
Now, it occurs to me that if we can sign up to receive updates from Auden, even more enthralling possibilities exist. As far as I know, William Shakespeare has at
Sunday, January 1, 2017
Thursday, December 1, 2016
Shakespeare’s political plays are full of power conflict. But the arguments mainly concern which individual person should be in charge of the country. Democracy? No.
Monday, October 31, 2016
Saturday, October 1, 2016
Yes, Patrick O'Brian of the Aubrey-Maturin series, the seemingly (and seamlessly) endless, continuous novel, published through the 1980s and 90s and focusing on the years between 1800 and 1815, when the British Navy was fighting Napoleon. The first book, Master and Commander, was made into a movie starring Russell Crowe. It was a pretty good movie, but no film could prepare a reader for the stunning excellence, the beauty, humor, and literary perfection, of these twenty novels. I have read all of them and I read them in one day. Or it seemed like a day.
How is it that O'Brian can write like Jane Austen -- and I mean with such absolute familiarity with her idiom, with the social practices, customs, and particularly the modes of speech of the early nineteenth century -- when, unlike her, he didn't live back then? Is he a time traveler? The depth of his understanding of not only British maritime life during that time of burgeoning empire, but of general middle- and upper-class Regency culture, is astonishing. It's as bottomless as the sea. O'Brian knows, for example, that the Royal Society was maintained by amateur scientists --