tempestsarekind: (hamlet/horatio OTP)
Does anyone - people who have been to conferences more recently than I have, and stopped by the Arden table, for example - know anything more about the Arden Performance Editions series?

http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/series/arden-performance-editions/

The first editions aren't due out until November in the UK - which is too late for me to order Romeo and Juliet for English 9 in any case (assuming I teach it again next year) - but I'm wondering about their layout (more space for notes!) and their "reduced punctuation." The New Cambridge edition (the one I use) is better than some about not cluttering the text up with prescriptive exclamation points, but it's still pushier about this sort of thing than I'd like; it would be nice to have an edition with notes that doesn't require me to constantly tell my students not to make arguments about tone based on the presence of exclamation points.

I also wonder - will their Hamlet be a conflated one, or will it follow the current Arden edition in being based on Q2? I'm finding that my ninth-graders are managing the density of the footnotes in R&J decently well, but the New Cambridge Hamlet's footnotes are unsettling some number of my juniors this year. But I like the ease of teaching the play from a conflated edition instead of having things like "How all occasions do inform against me" in an appendix, even though I like the availability of versions based on Q2 or F for more scholarly purposes (I also own the Arden 3 and the Oxford, the latter of which is based on F).

hmph

Feb. 12th, 2017 07:34 pm
tempestsarekind: (austen snark is the best snark)
Inexplicably crabby (okay, so knowing me, it's not actually that inexplicable) that there is an Oxford Handbook of Shakespearean Tragedy, but there isn't one for comedy - and yet there are handbooks for "Shakespeare and Embodiment" and "Shakespeare and Dance" either in existence or in the works. But why would you need one for the comedies? Obviously, they don't matter.
tempestsarekind: (i am my father's daughter [elizabeth])
(Yes, I am now just scrolling through the Arden website to see what's in the pipeline. Shut up.)

Oliver Ford Davies wrote a book on fathers and daughters in Shakespeare, and it comes out in June!
http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/shakespeares-fathers-and-daughters-9781350038462/

I am of course interested in this topic anyway (I gave a conference paper on it a couple of years ago), but it makes me especially happy that my favorite Polonius wrote about it.
tempestsarekind: (viola reading)
An interview with Giles Block, the Text Adviser at Shakespeare's Globe (interview by Andrew Dickson):
http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2016/apr/11/speak-master-a-text-coach-on-shakespeares-way-with-words

Not that I know exactly what he does - what it's actually like to work with actors - but this is basically my dream job. Or even my dream volunteer activity, if there were any Shakespeare companies around here that seemed to want this sort of thing…

(I bought Giles Block's book when I was at the Globe; I'm hoping to read it this summer.)

hmmm...

Nov. 28th, 2015 11:34 am
tempestsarekind: (viola reading (tears))
A Shakespeare book coming out in 2016:

The One King Lear by Brian Vickers
http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674504844

Here's the website copy:

King Lear exists in two different texts: the Quarto (1608) and the Folio (1623). Because each supplies passages missing in the other, for over 200 years editors combined the two to form a single text, the basis for all modern productions. Then in the 1980s a group of influential scholars argued that the two texts represent different versions of King Lear, that Shakespeare revised his play in light of theatrical performance. The two-text theory has since hardened into orthodoxy. Now for the first time in a book-length argument, one of the world’s most eminent Shakespeare scholars challenges the two-text theory. At stake is the way Shakespeare’s greatest play is read and performed.

Sir Brian Vickers demonstrates that the cuts in the Quarto were in fact carried out by the printer because he had underestimated the amount of paper he would need. Paper was an expensive commodity in the early modern period, and printers counted the number of lines or words in a manuscript before ordering their supply. As for the Folio, whereas the revisionists claim that Shakespeare cut the text in order to alter the balance between characters, Vickers sees no evidence of his agency. These cuts were likely made by the theater company to speed up the action. Vickers includes responses to the revisionist theory made by leading literary scholars, who show that the Folio cuts damage the play’s moral and emotional structure and are impracticable on the stage.</blockquote Things to think about...
tempestsarekind: (eleven wears a fez now)
Shakespeare's comedies are getting a book in the Oxford "Very Short Introductions" series:

http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/academic/literature/shakespeare/9780198723356.do

The book is by Bart Van Es, and is set to come out in March 2016. No word on whether it has a particular angle on the comedies or not.
tempestsarekind: (peddlers of bombast)
It looks like you can get the one-volume in hardcover with the option of purchasing the digital edition, but if you buy the two-volume set, you get the digital edition registration card automatically.

Snippets from the book copy on the Norton website (for the two-volume edition):
http://books.wwnorton.com/books/webad.aspx?id=4294989286

The attractive print and digital bundle offers students a great reading experience at an affordable price in two ways—a hardcover volume for their dorm shelf and lifetime library, and a digital edition ideal for in-class use. Students can access the ebook from their computer, tablet, or smartphone via the registration code included in the print volume at no additional charge. As one instructor summed it up, “It’s a long overdue step forward in the way Shakespeare is taught.”

DIGITAL EDITION FEATURES ENCOURAGE ACTIVE READING AND LIVELY CLASSROOM DISCUSSION
The digital edition features all of the texts, introductions, glosses, and notes in the print book, plus additional versions of many texts for comparison. Students are able to compare the Folio and Quarto texts of King Lear and scenes from other plays using an innovative side-by-side scrolling view option. Students can also compare the text to corresponding facsimile pages from the Hinman First Folio and from the quartos. Performance Comments highlight how a director or actor’s choices in performance affect meaning, while Textual Comments focus on the impact of textual-editing decisions. Students can also listen to recordings of all of the songs in the plays and over 8 hours of specially recorded spoken-word audio by the highly regarded Actors from the London Stage. The digital edition also includes an appendix of documents, maps, genealogies, bibliographies, and a timeline.


Hmm… The digital features seem interesting, especially for teachers who don't teach Shakespeare that often; a lot of this is material that I already bring in for my students (although many of the "performance comments" are hypothetical, based on performances I've seen, rather than from actors or directors themselves). But I do a lot of Shakespeare, so I already know to make use of the Internet Shakespeare Editions for facsimile pages, and various audio recordings that I like; I can see how this would be helpful for people who don't spend as much time teaching Shakespeare as I do.

But…I think it's not necessarily fair to expect students to have a smartphone or tablet or computer to bring to class. And I worry about saying that the physical text is for use at home, and the digital edition is for in-class use - because I expect my students to take notes in their physical copy, and then bring those notes to class so that they can use them in discussion. I also expect them to add to their notes in class, which is not going to happen with the digital edition. What I think will actually happen is that they will only use the digital edition, and therefore never take notes.

The problem with digital editions, to my mind, is that no one seems to be working on improving the note-taking features. The Folger Digital Texts don't have a note-taking feature, as far as I can tell, and it doesn't seem clear whether the new Norton digital edition has one either. Which is a real problem. There are so many additional elements added to digital editions, but they're in real danger of leaving the basic elements behind. Surely learning how to take notes on a text has to be a part of "active reading"? What's going to happen when it comes time for students to write an essay or study for an exam, and they have no record of what they thought about the text? Even assuming that they take notes in class in a separate document or a notebook (which they should be doing, but…), they're unlikely to have a record of specific passages they found interesting or wanted to think more about. They won't have written down a quick summary in the margin when the class figured out a tricky passage together, so they'll have to remember it or reconstruct it, or likely just not bother. They might have excellent notes on what the teacher said was important, which is fine I guess if you just want their exams and essays to spit back exactly what they were told, but there's no push here for them to record and care about their own ideas. (I know that you can take notes on a PDF, but it's a clunky solution, and not good for fine-grained analysis of literary texts. Don't even ask me what you're supposed to do with a digital edition on a smartphone.)

I also worry that we won't give students enough time to just be alone with the text and their own thoughts and observations, if every part of the text is supplemented with digital features. I choose when to have students think about textual variants or performance possibilities in class or in their essays; this means that there is plenty of time when they don't have those elements, and they're relying on their own ways of thinking, developing their interpretive muscles. I worry that it's possible for students to lose the thread of a speech or scene if they're being pulled in different directions all the time. Actually, much of this sounds like it could create a sense of passive reading: here are more tools to do the interpretation for you. You might have to choose between one interpretation and another, one performance and another, but you don't have to come up with one yourself.

There's also a feeling of... discovery that seems to be missing from new editions of Shakespeare plays, not just digital ones. I thought I might be teaching The Winter's Tale next year (sadly, 'tis not to be), so I checked out two editions besides the one I owned, to see which edition I wanted to order for my students. I thought the Arden 3 would win, because of the thoroughness of its footnotes - but as I spent a bit more time with the text, I found that the footnotes kept making connections for the reader that I would have wanted my students to discover (or at least have the option to discover) on their own. They weren't just explanations of a tricky line, or even contextual notes about a particular word's use in other contemporary sources; they gave away recurring themes and points of analysis that I might have wanted to set an essay question about. After teaching Macbeth for a second year out of the Pelican edition, I was feeling a little bit concerned about how the notes can occasionally jump to paraphrase in ways that can be hard for students to follow because the notes have essentially skipped over a step; this came up once or twice in class this year, where students couldn't figure out how the editor had gotten to that particular understanding of a line. But after looking at the Arden 3 of The Winter's Tale with an eye toward teaching out of it rather than using it as a scholarly resource - at least there weren't any notes that gave away the fact that children are an important theme in Macbeth or that the Macbeths keep using the euphemism "business" for "murder," I guess. Because it's so lovely to watch students see those patterns for themselves - and I remember how proud I was of myself, when I noticed those sorts of things. Why remove that possibility? I suppose it's possible that not every student will notice, say, the recurrence of children in Macbeth (although it ought to come up in class at some point, right?) - but so what if they don't? What is the point of reading Shakespeare? Is it just to be told what everyone else knows, or is it to work toward whatever understandings you can uncover for yourself and with your classmates? I'm certainly not advocating for no footnotes at all, but what is the point of giving away points of interpretation in those footnotes? What is the editor trying to guard against by including such a note - and is that thing such a bad thing?

*flail*

Mar. 26th, 2015 12:43 pm
tempestsarekind: (amy and her boys)
While I was browsing in the bookstore the other day, I came across a book in the Shakespeare section called Poor Tom. Since - as the tag says - Edgar is my very best favorite, I picked up the book, expecting it to be on vagrancy or something.

But it is apparently an entire book, by Simon Palfrey, about Edgar! Oh, my heart.
http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/P/bo18241294.html

I managed not to buy it then and there…but I did check it out from the university library even though I have no time right now to read it, because what if someone else checked it out first?
tempestsarekind: (berowne is perplexed [dt])
Found in the wild yet again on a book cover:

Shakespeare and Costume, edited by Patricia Lennox and Bella Mirabella (Arden Shakespeare, publication date April 23, 2015)
http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/shakespeare-and-costume-9781472525079/

It includes a symposium discussion featuring Jenny Tiramani, too, so that's something to look forward to...
tempestsarekind: (better a witty fool than a foolish wit)
This article doing the rounds on Twitter made me well up:

http://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2012/08/25/classroom-making-classic-literature-matter/UzGfR7nI9g70eTkaHjg8DM/story.html

I'm fairly worried about going back into the classroom in a couple of weeks, after having all of last year off on a dissertation completion fellowship, and partly it's because I want every encounter to be transformative in this way, and yet I never see it happening. It's possible that it has and I've missed it - after all, beyond evaluations a few weeks after the course is over, we don't really get any followup with our students - and it's a gift of another sort to have had a fair number of students who already love Shakespeare or Austen or whatever I happen to be teaching. But I want my students' encounters with literature to offer them the possibility of making them different, because literature made me different - and yet I don't know how to achieve that goal. But it's lovely to read about it happening here.

In only slightly related news, I bought about sixty dollars worth of used books yesterday. *facepalm* But it was a pretty good haul! (she said, defensively.) The expensive book that tipped the scales was A Companion to Shakespeare, the Blackwell one edited by David Scott Kastan, but given that I check it out of the library all the time for one essay or another (in fact, I have it checked out right now), it seemed like a worthwhile purchase. I also picked up a paperback copy of Stanley Wells' Shakespeare & Co., two older New Mermaid paperbacks (Arden of Faversham and The Knight of the Burning Pestle), and a recent Arden edition of Everyman and Mankind. So, you know, it was a scholarly investment. Yeah.

*giggle*

May. 1st, 2012 04:00 pm
tempestsarekind: (all the world's a stage)
In his essay on playing Touchstone for the Players of Shakespeare series, David Tennant remarks prophetically that he was pleased with his costume because it seemed like the right decision to put Touchstone into traditional fool's garb, "and anyway I've always liked long coats..."

(I am irrationally pleased by the several ways in which this icon is appropriate for this post.)
tempestsarekind: (cheveril glove)
So this is a thing that exists in the world, which means that I totally just embarrassed myself by flailing on a street corner in front of the local bookstore window:

The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth
http://www.randomhouse.com/book/89119/the-annotated-phantom-tollbooth-by-norton-juster

Though it did result in a nice exchange with a bookseller:

Bookseller: Can I help you find anything?
me (in ridiculous blurt-fashion): Um, yes. I just saw a book in the window [pointing thumb over shoulder, in case it's not clear where or what "the window" is]. The Annotated Norton Juster--I mean Phantom Tollbooth--"
B: Oh, yes--it's beautiful. [walks over to book] Here you go.
me: Thanks so much! Now I just have to decide who needs this for Christmas.
B: Who doesn't need this for Christmas, I think is the question.
me: Very true.

I like it when people like books.

The Phantom Tollbooth has a special place in my heart; it's not one of the books that I read every other week, like The Secret Garden or The Egypt Game, but it was a book that taught me that you could play sly, expansive games with language. That's not something I'm good at, mind, but it's something I love when others do it, and I suspect that I learned that (and what "the doldrums" were) largely from this book. Which I now want to reread, right now.

This book also exists in the world, so I embarrassed myself again by snorting with uncontrollable laughter while reading the flap copy:
Rome and Rhetoric: Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, by Gary Wills
http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300152180

This was the bit that did it: "Renaissance plays and poetry in England were saturated with the formal rhetorical twists that Latin education made familiar to audiences and readers. Yet a formally educated man like Ben Jonson was unable to make these ornaments come to life in his two classical Roman plays."

Inexplicable slam on Ben Jonson!

The frequent buyer sale is Sunday, so I have my eye on some purchases now.
tempestsarekind: (cheveril glove)
So this is a thing that exists in the world, which means that I totally just embarrassed myself by flailing on a street corner in front of the local bookstore window:

The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth
http://www.randomhouse.com/book/89119/the-annotated-phantom-tollbooth-by-norton-juster

Though it did result in a nice exchange with a bookseller:

Bookseller: Can I help you find anything?
me (in ridiculous blurt-fashion): Um, yes. I just saw a book in the window [pointing thumb over shoulder, in case it's not clear where or what "the window" is]. The Annotated Norton Juster--I mean Phantom Tollbooth--"
B: Oh, yes--it's beautiful. [walks over to book] Here you go.
me: Thanks so much! Now I just have to decide who needs this for Christmas.
B: Who doesn't need this for Christmas, I think is the question.
me: Very true.

I like it when people like books.

The Phantom Tollbooth has a special place in my heart; it's not one of the books that I read every other week, like The Secret Garden or The Egypt Game, but it was a book that taught me that you could play sly, expansive games with language. That's not something I'm good at, mind, but it's something I love when others do it, and I suspect that I learned that (and what "the doldrums" were) largely from this book. Which I now want to reread, right now.

This book also exists in the world, so I embarrassed myself again by snorting with uncontrollable laughter while reading the flap copy:
Rome and Rhetoric: Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, by Gary Wills
http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300152180

This was the bit that did it: "Renaissance plays and poetry in England were saturated with the formal rhetorical twists that Latin education made familiar to audiences and readers. Yet a formally educated man like Ben Jonson was unable to make these ornaments come to life in his two classical Roman plays."

Inexplicable slam on Ben Jonson!

The frequent buyer sale is Sunday, so I have my eye on some purchases now.
tempestsarekind: (books and flowers)
Finished reading A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz yesterday. Did I shed some tears at the author's closing paragraphs about what Austen left to the world, out of my gratitude for her existence? Maybe.

I enjoyed the book, overall; if you're familiar with Austen's novels you may find the lessons that the author draws from the parallels between his life and each book somewhat predictable (there are only so many ways the story can wind up, if you're comparing your rich friends to the Bertrams in Mansfield Park), but there are lovely little moments of close reading sprinkled in as well, and those were my favorite bits. (I, too, am predictable.)

I'm bailing on How Shakespeare Changed Everything by Stephen Marche, though. I feel a little bit bad about this, especially because it had been misplaced at the public library when I went to look for it, so the very helpful young woman at the information desk had to make phone calls to different departments and everything. But I've skimmed about half the book, and it's lightweight and rather annoying--it never made me want to move out of skimming mode, let's put it that way. Funny how mainstream Shakespeare books are almost never about Shakespeare--you know, the actual poems and plays, and why we might want to read them.* This one follows suit; it's mostly shallow passes at familiar trivia collected together around vague themes. The chapter that made me give up on the book was the one where Shakespeare supposedly invented teenagers; the one about Othello, for example, was just as tangential and contained an equally tenuous assertion that somehow Shakespeare was responsible for Obama's presidency (because he's...Black! And articulate! And that means that he's cannily reworking the Othello narrative that's so embedded in American culture!), but at least the paragraphs about Paul Robeson and Ira Aldridge were interesting (I suppose, if you hadn't already read this material before; but even then I think the real value of the chapter would be in introducing you to those figures, not what Marche actually has to say about them, which is not all that much), because those men were interesting. The "teenagers" chapter consists of a lot of vague comments about how teenagers are gross and ridiculous but also kind of amazing, and...Shakespeare wrote about that in R&J. And also created the state of teenagerhood as we know it, because (and I'm not making this up) 1) Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes became the face of '90s teendom through playing those roles; and 2) Justin Bieber (...I just realized that I don't know how to spell "Bieber." "Beiber?" They both look equally right to me) was from Stratford, Ontario, which is the home of North America's biggest Shakespeare festival.

Seriously.

This chapter also sheds a bit of light on something I found frustrating at times about A Jane Austen Education as well. Clearly William Deresiewicz cares deeply about Austen; the point of the book is that reading Austen actually made him a better human being. Whether or not one thinks that's possible, he certainly does. But at times this has the effect of turning Austen into something that's good for you but not particularly pleasurable--particularly, though not unexpectedly, with Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility. He goes so far as to tell us that he never was able to grow to like Fanny Price, but he did learn the lesson that the book was meant to teach us by making her the heroine instead of the ebullient Mary Crawford. And with S&S he claims that while Austen respected Elinor Dashwood, she clearly loved Marianne.

And this latter comment in particular is where my feelings about Deresiewicz' book dovetail momentarily with my feelings about Marche's: they both claim to have knowledge about what the authors meant to do that is based on their negative feelings about characters. Because Deresiewicz doesn't care for Elinor but loves Marianne, Austen must have felt the same way and intended for us to feel that way. Because Marche finds Romeo and Juliet ridiculous, Shakespeare must have meant for them to be ridiculous. That's the point, you see! I'm skeptical of those moments, and my hackles go right up--because to me that sort of thing reads like dismissal in disguise: you don't need to question your reaction to a character if you can claim that the author meant for you to feel that way in the first place.

It's true that I'm more aware of these moments because they tend to center around characters that I love (it's possible that people make claims like this that I just miss because they correspond to my feelings). I love both Romeo and Juliet, and I don't think that they're ridiculous. That doesn't mean that we're necessarily supposed to hold them up for emulation or praise, either; they get things horribly wrong, and they make decisions that I don't always agree with. But I don't think the story works if we look down our noses at them, or even if we chuckle fondly and indulgently at their youthful foibles. (I also think that Shakespeare was more than capable of creating a ridiculous lover--see Silvius in As You Like It, who draws our attention to the performance of his love as an attitude in a way that Romeo never does, because Romeo actually believes in all the things some critics and viewers laugh at--so if we were "supposed" to laugh at Romeo and Juliet [I mean as our sole way of engaging with them], there would be more evidence for that view than the falsely syllogistic logic that we're supposed to find them ridiculous because teenagers are ridiculous, and Romeo and Juliet are teenagers. And even Silvius is more than just ridiculous: Rosalind, for all her welcome poking at posturing, chimes in with sympathy for his feelings, and he gets a lovely speech that turns into a communal round; he finds words that speak for all the lovers in the forest. "Ridiculous" is usually far too simple a judgment.) I think the story totally falls apart if we sniff at them and think, "Yeah, if they hadn't killed themselves, they would have broken up in three weeks anyway, because no one loves like that for real." I think it only works if we can imagine that they could actually forge a new community, and "turn [their] households' rancor to pure love," as Friar Lawrence puts it--or at least, if we can understand that they really believe it. They're trying to do something unprecedented, something brilliant; if they fail, and if they don't know how to cope when it all falls apart on them (oh, they're so desperately young), it doesn't mean that they were foolish or ridiculous to try.

Ahem. Anyway. You all know my feelings about Fanny Price and Elinor, too--and maybe it's that I imprinted on Austen, but when Deresiewicz says that "we" think love should be what Marianne believes it to be, an effortless meeting of soul mates instead of a relationship founded on cold-fish words such as "like" and "esteem," I don't recognize myself at all in that "we." He seems to see these two novels in particular as an exercise in denial: Austen holds back the thing we really want, the sparkling heroine and the throbbing love story, in order to teach us to examine our expectations. But the problem with this reading for me, personally, is that I'm always on the side of like and esteem. I'm sure I've said this before in some shape or form, but for me the most romantic line in Pride and Prejudice is not "You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you"; it's "For herself she was humbled; but she was proud of him." That takes my breath away, every time I get to that sentence. Being proud of someone you love, being able to like him, esteem him, respect his judgment and his understanding and his character? That's the most romantic thing there is.

(Ugh, I've gone all swoony. Help.)

I know I've said before--probably in conjunction with Edmund Bertram, who usually needs similar defending--that I think "steadiness" is a very sexy word. And if you look at the characters I wind up loving best, from Austen's heroes to my lovely, loyal Rory Williams-Pond, you can see that if I learned a lesson from reading Austen, I learned it really, really well. It's just difficult for me to see that as only a lesson, an exercise in correction, authorial abstemiousness in order to teach us something we didn't really want to know. I think there's an ardency in dependability, and that gets ignored in discussions like these, as though we need to learn how to prefer what is thin and flavorless instead of recognizing that these virtues have a flavor all their own.



*This is also true of a book I otherwise enjoyed, Paul Collins' The Book of William: How Shakespeare's First Folio Conquered the World. I got to the end of the book, which was a nice history of the ups and downs of this famous book as a physical object, and realized that the part Collins left out was why we should care--why we do care; I think that's more accurate--about this book in the first place. It's just taken as a given that we know Shakespeare and that we love him, and I don't think that's true for many, many people. Probably those people aren't likely to be reading these books in the first place, I suppose. I suppose there are people who care about Shakespeare, and people who don't, and the idea that you could make the latter into the former by getting them to read a book is sort of silly. I wish I'd come to that realization before putting myself through years of grad school, though, since that possibility was the whole point of this endeavor.
tempestsarekind: (books and flowers)
Finished reading A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz yesterday. Did I shed some tears at the author's closing paragraphs about what Austen left to the world, out of my gratitude for her existence? Maybe.

I enjoyed the book, overall; if you're familiar with Austen's novels you may find the lessons that the author draws from the parallels between his life and each book somewhat predictable (there are only so many ways the story can wind up, if you're comparing your rich friends to the Bertrams in Mansfield Park), but there are lovely little moments of close reading sprinkled in as well, and those were my favorite bits. (I, too, am predictable.)

I'm bailing on How Shakespeare Changed Everything by Stephen Marche, though. I feel a little bit bad about this, especially because it had been misplaced at the public library when I went to look for it, so the very helpful young woman at the information desk had to make phone calls to different departments and everything. But I've skimmed about half the book, and it's lightweight and rather annoying--it never made me want to move out of skimming mode, let's put it that way. Funny how mainstream Shakespeare books are almost never about Shakespeare--you know, the actual poems and plays, and why we might want to read them.* This one follows suit; it's mostly shallow passes at familiar trivia collected together around vague themes. The chapter that made me give up on the book was the one where Shakespeare supposedly invented teenagers; the one about Othello, for example, was just as tangential and contained an equally tenuous assertion that somehow Shakespeare was responsible for Obama's presidency (because he's...Black! And articulate! And that means that he's cannily reworking the Othello narrative that's so embedded in American culture!), but at least the paragraphs about Paul Robeson and Ira Aldridge were interesting (I suppose, if you hadn't already read this material before; but even then I think the real value of the chapter would be in introducing you to those figures, not what Marche actually has to say about them, which is not all that much), because those men were interesting. The "teenagers" chapter consists of a lot of vague comments about how teenagers are gross and ridiculous but also kind of amazing, and...Shakespeare wrote about that in R&J. And also created the state of teenagerhood as we know it, because (and I'm not making this up) 1) Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes became the face of '90s teendom through playing those roles; and 2) Justin Bieber (...I just realized that I don't know how to spell "Bieber." "Beiber?" They both look equally right to me) was from Stratford, Ontario, which is the home of North America's biggest Shakespeare festival.

Seriously.

This chapter also sheds a bit of light on something I found frustrating at times about A Jane Austen Education as well. Clearly William Deresiewicz cares deeply about Austen; the point of the book is that reading Austen actually made him a better human being. Whether or not one thinks that's possible, he certainly does. But at times this has the effect of turning Austen into something that's good for you but not particularly pleasurable--particularly, though not unexpectedly, with Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility. He goes so far as to tell us that he never was able to grow to like Fanny Price, but he did learn the lesson that the book was meant to teach us by making her the heroine instead of the ebullient Mary Crawford. And with S&S he claims that while Austen respected Elinor Dashwood, she clearly loved Marianne.

And this latter comment in particular is where my feelings about Deresiewicz' book dovetail momentarily with my feelings about Marche's: they both claim to have knowledge about what the authors meant to do that is based on their negative feelings about characters. Because Deresiewicz doesn't care for Elinor but loves Marianne, Austen must have felt the same way and intended for us to feel that way. Because Marche finds Romeo and Juliet ridiculous, Shakespeare must have meant for them to be ridiculous. That's the point, you see! I'm skeptical of those moments, and my hackles go right up--because to me that sort of thing reads like dismissal in disguise: you don't need to question your reaction to a character if you can claim that the author meant for you to feel that way in the first place.

It's true that I'm more aware of these moments because they tend to center around characters that I love (it's possible that people make claims like this that I just miss because they correspond to my feelings). I love both Romeo and Juliet, and I don't think that they're ridiculous. That doesn't mean that we're necessarily supposed to hold them up for emulation or praise, either; they get things horribly wrong, and they make decisions that I don't always agree with. But I don't think the story works if we look down our noses at them, or even if we chuckle fondly and indulgently at their youthful foibles. (I also think that Shakespeare was more than capable of creating a ridiculous lover--see Silvius in As You Like It, who draws our attention to the performance of his love as an attitude in a way that Romeo never does, because Romeo actually believes in all the things some critics and viewers laugh at--so if we were "supposed" to laugh at Romeo and Juliet [I mean as our sole way of engaging with them], there would be more evidence for that view than the falsely syllogistic logic that we're supposed to find them ridiculous because teenagers are ridiculous, and Romeo and Juliet are teenagers. And even Silvius is more than just ridiculous: Rosalind, for all her welcome poking at posturing, chimes in with sympathy for his feelings, and he gets a lovely speech that turns into a communal round; he finds words that speak for all the lovers in the forest. "Ridiculous" is usually far too simple a judgment.) I think the story totally falls apart if we sniff at them and think, "Yeah, if they hadn't killed themselves, they would have broken up in three weeks anyway, because no one loves like that for real." I think it only works if we can imagine that they could actually forge a new community, and "turn [their] households' rancor to pure love," as Friar Lawrence puts it--or at least, if we can understand that they really believe it. They're trying to do something unprecedented, something brilliant; if they fail, and if they don't know how to cope when it all falls apart on them (oh, they're so desperately young), it doesn't mean that they were foolish or ridiculous to try.

Ahem. Anyway. You all know my feelings about Fanny Price and Elinor, too--and maybe it's that I imprinted on Austen, but when Deresiewicz says that "we" think love should be what Marianne believes it to be, an effortless meeting of soul mates instead of a relationship founded on cold-fish words such as "like" and "esteem," I don't recognize myself at all in that "we." He seems to see these two novels in particular as an exercise in denial: Austen holds back the thing we really want, the sparkling heroine and the throbbing love story, in order to teach us to examine our expectations. But the problem with this reading for me, personally, is that I'm always on the side of like and esteem. I'm sure I've said this before in some shape or form, but for me the most romantic line in Pride and Prejudice is not "You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you"; it's "For herself she was humbled; but she was proud of him." That takes my breath away, every time I get to that sentence. Being proud of someone you love, being able to like him, esteem him, respect his judgment and his understanding and his character? That's the most romantic thing there is.

(Ugh, I've gone all swoony. Help.)

I know I've said before--probably in conjunction with Edmund Bertram, who usually needs similar defending--that I think "steadiness" is a very sexy word. And if you look at the characters I wind up loving best, from Austen's heroes to my lovely, loyal Rory Williams-Pond, you can see that if I learned a lesson from reading Austen, I learned it really, really well. It's just difficult for me to see that as only a lesson, an exercise in correction, authorial abstemiousness in order to teach us something we didn't really want to know. I think there's an ardency in dependability, and that gets ignored in discussions like these, as though we need to learn how to prefer what is thin and flavorless instead of recognizing that these virtues have a flavor all their own.



*This is also true of a book I otherwise enjoyed, Paul Collins' The Book of William: How Shakespeare's First Folio Conquered the World. I got to the end of the book, which was a nice history of the ups and downs of this famous book as a physical object, and realized that the part Collins left out was why we should care--why we do care; I think that's more accurate--about this book in the first place. It's just taken as a given that we know Shakespeare and that we love him, and I don't think that's true for many, many people. Probably those people aren't likely to be reading these books in the first place, I suppose. I suppose there are people who care about Shakespeare, and people who don't, and the idea that you could make the latter into the former by getting them to read a book is sort of silly. I wish I'd come to that realization before putting myself through years of grad school, though, since that possibility was the whole point of this endeavor.
tempestsarekind: (don't get clever in latin! [donna])
I didn't know about this, so just in case some of you didn't, either: William Baldwin's William Shakespeare's Small Latine and Lesse Greeke is available as a searchable online edition:

http://durer.press.illinois.edu/baldwin/index.html
tempestsarekind: (don't get clever in latin! [donna])
I didn't know about this, so just in case some of you didn't, either: William Baldwin's William Shakespeare's Small Latine and Lesse Greeke is available as a searchable online edition:

http://durer.press.illinois.edu/baldwin/index.html

a query

Feb. 9th, 2011 05:10 pm
tempestsarekind: (viola reading)
Tell me, o my flist: what are the articles and books of literary criticism that you love? Not the ones you read so that you could be well-versed in something you wanted to write about (though if you read a book or article for this reason and loved it, please share!), and not necessarily ones that you agree with, but the ones that have mattered to you in some way. (They don't have to involve Shakespeare; I'm just curious.)

I haven't given this an incredible amount of thought (basically, the time it took me to walk from the Shakespeare aisles in the library over to the English department), but it strikes me that my list is quite small; at the moment it only consists of a wee handful:

--The Genius of Shakespeare, Jonathan Bate (although it's perfectly possible that I would no longer feel this way about that book, it meant a good deal to me in college)
--Shakespeare and Child's Play, Carol Chillington Rutter (about which I've posted a few times. Enter the Body should probably be here too.)
--Shakespeare and the Arts of Language, Russ McDonald
--most things I've read so far by Lynne Magnusson (yay modals! Though I am also quite fond of her piece on the sonnets, service, and subjectivity [the second chapter of Shakespeare and Social Dialogue], and "Language and comedy" in the Cambridge Companion to Shakespearean Comedy.)
--it's not technically criticism, I suppose, but 1599 by James Shapiro
--"Not at All What a Man Should Be: Remaking English Manhood in Emma", Claudia L. Johnson. (I'm pretty sure I once said "Emma is totally a nationalist project!" in conversation once because of this article, in one of those "Austen never wrote about important historical stuff" debates.)

At one point The Madwoman in the Attic would have been here, because it was probably the first feminist criticism I read, and I discovered it on my own while taking a class on women writers of the Regency, so that was exciting. And possibly there should be a section of things I read on Elizabethan staging, because that was very important to me, but nothing in particular stands out as something I especially loved.

But even assuming that I've left out some things that I've forgotten or that I don't remember at all, I still feel like this list should be longer.

a query

Feb. 9th, 2011 05:10 pm
tempestsarekind: (viola reading)
Tell me, o my flist: what are the articles and books of literary criticism that you love? Not the ones you read so that you could be well-versed in something you wanted to write about (though if you read a book or article for this reason and loved it, please share!), and not necessarily ones that you agree with, but the ones that have mattered to you in some way. (They don't have to involve Shakespeare; I'm just curious.)

I haven't given this an incredible amount of thought (basically, the time it took me to walk from the Shakespeare aisles in the library over to the English department), but it strikes me that my list is quite small; at the moment it only consists of a wee handful:

--The Genius of Shakespeare, Jonathan Bate (although it's perfectly possible that I would no longer feel this way about that book, it meant a good deal to me in college)
--Shakespeare and Child's Play, Carol Chillington Rutter (about which I've posted a few times. Enter the Body should probably be here too.)
--Shakespeare and the Arts of Language, Russ McDonald
--most things I've read so far by Lynne Magnusson (yay modals! Though I am also quite fond of her piece on the sonnets, service, and subjectivity [the second chapter of Shakespeare and Social Dialogue], and "Language and comedy" in the Cambridge Companion to Shakespearean Comedy.)
--it's not technically criticism, I suppose, but 1599 by James Shapiro
--"Not at All What a Man Should Be: Remaking English Manhood in Emma", Claudia L. Johnson. (I'm pretty sure I once said "Emma is totally a nationalist project!" in conversation once because of this article, in one of those "Austen never wrote about important historical stuff" debates.)

At one point The Madwoman in the Attic would have been here, because it was probably the first feminist criticism I read, and I discovered it on my own while taking a class on women writers of the Regency, so that was exciting. And possibly there should be a section of things I read on Elizabethan staging, because that was very important to me, but nothing in particular stands out as something I especially loved.

But even assuming that I've left out some things that I've forgotten or that I don't remember at all, I still feel like this list should be longer.
tempestsarekind: (viola reading (tears))
Today I was kind of a flake: I have a lot of school reading and dissertation reading that needs...er, reading, but instead I flaked out and read something for fun during lunch and after office hours were over: the first two chapters of Carol Chillington Rutter's book Enter the Body: Women and Representation on Shakespeare's Stage. I can't remember exactly when I checked this book out (again), but I had plans to read the relevant parts of it over Thanksgiving weekend, but someone has requested it, so. A couple of years ago now I read the chapter on Cleopatra, which I'm still divided about: I think half of it is great, and half of it is totally wrong and actually kind of unnecessary. And I can't remember why I read that chapter instead of the ones that are more relevant to me pretty much all the time, the ones on Cordelia and Ophelia, but I didn't then, so I read them today.

And--you guys. I'm not sure why, exactly, her books make me so happy: it's something to do with performance, and possibility, and the possibility of a criticism that isn't bogged down in demonstrating its own learning to the point of tedium. It's not that I always agree with her points, because I don't. But I read her work and come away energized, reminded of why criticism is supposed to be a good idea, and moved by possibility. And after the Ophelia chapter, I just want to think about the graveyard scene, which is the most unstable part of the play for me, probably: I change my mind about it all the time.

(Also, it reminds me of my recurring dream to teach a class on Hamlet and Hamlet-related stuff. *wants*)

I likely won't have a chance to read the chapter on Troilus and Cressida (which was probably the reason I checked the book out the first time, it occurs to me now: that chapter is about clothing and costume, so it would have possibly been relevant to my vanished dissertation topic), but I do want to read the chapter on Othello now, after rereading the play, because the chapter focuses largely on Zoe Wanamaker's Emilia (in Trevor Nunn's RSC production; I still haven't seen it because I keep forgetting the video exists!). And I adore Emilia. She breaks my heart, more than anything else about that whole play. There's a line that she has, that conjures up whole worlds of suffering worn like a badge, a refusal to break that is always vulnerable, that has nothing in common with stoicism:

Thou hast not half that power to do me harm / As I have to be hurt.

It knocks the wind out of me, you guys. I can only flail about it helplessly in front of my students and look like an idiot. What is her life like, that she can say such things?

So anyway, I'll probably read that tonight instead of something useful, like Thomas Wilson's The Arte of Rhetorique.

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