Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Shakespeare: Plan

Thursday's lecture we will begin our study of William Shakespeare's Henry V, we will walk through the opening scense s and acts & get a sense of how to read the text. Tuesday we will step back & look at some large patterns.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Celebrate Queen Victoria on her holiday

Hoping you're enjoying your holiday in honour of Queen Victoria!
I came across this oblique & tendentious article in the Telegraph on the predominance of women at the political head of England following on from Victoria's eminent sixty-four year regnancy:
Have you noticed that modern Britain is the most matriarchal society in the history of the world? The four most famous figures in the public service since the war have been women - the Queen Mother, the Queen, Diana, Princess of Wales and Margaret Thatcher.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Seminar Responses to Plato

Groups in Thursday afternoon seminar put Plato in the dock over his analysis of Drama. Here are some of their thoughtful conclusions: I must say, like them all very much. By all means add yours to the Comments section of this post, or email them to me & I can add them here in the post.

Group "TM"
    1. Plato wasn't giving credit to people, believing that they would be so easily taken in by the drama they saw.
    2. There was a lack of understanding of where the thoughts came from - as people conceive the ideas for dramas, those thoughts are present in people whether or not they see them on stage (they come from somewhere) so the banning of 'detrimental' theatre would only stop the mass communication of those ideas.
    3. There is a paralell between Plato's attempt to control the content of ancient dramas could be seen as similar to modern attempts to control the content of television, print media, and so on.
    4. A circular argument exists with the defence that a rational government would clean up dramas, leading to greater rationality and republican attitudes. If a rational government doesn't exist (owing to destructive influences like drama) then the control that they would exert over those influences would either be insufficient, or misguided.
    5. There is a greatpossibilty of a corrupt governanace using the media as a tool to brainwash people en masse.

Group "LTC"

Since all dramas are considered misleading, all drama should be removed inan ideal society, because even dramas that promote positive values are misleading. Yet, Plato's idea of an ideal society is itself a misleading fantasy (a drama?). There is NO ideal society [i.e. so just who is promoting a fantasy here anyway!]

Group "RM"

The misrepresentation of reality, i.e. drama, could conceivably serve the ideal republic in an educational role. First, there is a purely intellectual and/or conjectural use. I may find patricide and incest abhorrent, and not be particularly desirous of committing either, but that doesn't mean I'm not interested in understanding the mindset of a person, e.g. Oedipus, who has committed both. Good drama is a thorough exploration of one possible explanation for Oedipus' behaviour, and the effect it has on him afterwards. The dramatist's empathy for the immoral or polluted subject of his drama need not be permanent; being a rational human being, he can still pass a moral judgment on his characters' conduct.
A second purpose served by drama is that of the negative example (if you can't be a good example, then be a terrible warning, or words to that effect). It shows that sin leads to misery, and illumines the good by defining what the good is not. For example, in Antigone, Creon's stubborness and insistence that l'Etat c'est lui led, at least in part, to the suicides of his wife and son. Plato countered these arguments by saying that reason is a more civilized and more effective (I think) means of education, but later he explained that "the heart" can sometimes control the body where the mind cannot. I asked if that meant that the emotional appeal of drama might make it, in some cases, a more realistic lesson. Plato, I think, replied that empathy, vicarious experience, &c were not necessarily to be desired, as emotions often encourage people to do harmful things.
I think somebody pointed out that presumably rational adults, such as the citizens of the ideal republic, could be counted on the distinguish between reality and the dramatic representation of reality. I added that television has much more verisimilitude than live theatre, which point Plato disputed, saying that television is a representation of a representation of reality. I haven't yet been able to come up with an accurate explanation of what I meant by verisimilitude in relation to television. Woe, lackaday, &c. It did occur to me this morning that vicarious emotions are, with regards to techne, closer to Use than reason. Reason seeks to moderate emotion by distancing itself from... it. It stands to reason, then, that the reasonable discussion of emotion would be more like Representation than Use. But when I say "this morning" I mean "4:30 AM when I was trying to get back to sleep," so maybe this objection will make no sense at all to Plato, who may consider understanding emotion to be an uncivilized pursuit.

"Prometheus Bound" Arrives

As promised by the good people at our campus Bookstore, Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound is now in stock.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Re. the Group Project

All tutorial groups take note that the criteria for the Group Project will be released early: second course week, in fact.

Aeschylus Text Late

I have just had confirmed that the Aeschylus text, Prometheus Unbound, is delayed until the end of this week. The recommended schedule for your readings in posted in the syllabus, and provided you read Aeschylus by the end of next week you will be on schedule. Lecture on the Poetics continues through next Tuesday. You have the opportunity of course to get ahead this week on your reading of Shakespeare: you will discover that the Folger text we are using has exceptionally helpful notes on the verso.