Saturday, July 1, 2017
Thursday, June 1, 2017
A friend who works in Washington tells me the only way people can understand current political craziness is to read Shakespeare. I know what she means. I think Shakespeare is connected to everything and vice versa. So many other folks also think this that Shakespearish interpretations of Trump have been a feature of news and commentary since well before the election. The New York Public Theater is staging a "Trump" Julius Caesar, and just the other day a Washington Post article compared the U.S. president to the mad and erratic King Lear. It's easy to understand the association. Like Lear, Trump is childishly sensitive to insult and makes rash decisions based on his sense of personal injury. And the actions of a president, which have momentous implications for an entire people, naturally prompt thoughts of tragedy, which since its origins in Aeschylus has represented mistakes in high places.
But at the same time I'm offended by these comparisons, not on Trump's behalf, but on behalf of King Lear, Richard III, and Macbeth. I consider these characters friends. The fact is, Trump is way too dumb to be a credible real-world analogue for any of them. Despite their huge flaws, Shakespeare's heroes are highly intelligent,
Monday, May 1, 2017
They got them. Within days, local citizens coordinating charitable efforts were wading through piles of donated ski jackets, snowsuits, hats, mittens, and gloves of all sizes, and looking for a large central warehouse in which to store the extras. Space was soon provided by a mosque near Western Michigan University's campus, where Kalamazooans also brought household items, and a regular Saturday morning
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