Monday, August 09, 2010

Placing My Foot Further Into My Mouth?

Hey Bill, this is just for you! :)

Before I go too much farther, I want to say that this is kind of off-the-cuff, so ... I hope it doesn't suck too much. Anyway.

First of all, I really am kinda annoyed by the implication that I don't think for myself - that I am just blithely happy to follow the indoctrination of professors who had a bone to pick with Shakespeare and other literary Gods. Seriously? That's insulting.

But it's also not my point. I want to kind of ... temper my previous post, I guess. Clarify, maybe.

I think Shakespeare was a brilliant writer. I think the literature he left us is a treasure (even as sexist and classist as it is, and from me, that's saying SOMETHING). With that said, however, I still think it's possible to go off the deep end in venerating him.

Hemingway, OTOH? I think he was a brilliant writer as well, and I think he was immensely influential. Decisive, even, in turning the tide away from the purple prose of the Victorian/Edwardian era. It probably would've happened without him, but fortunately, he helped things along quite a bit.

But I don't like his work itself. I find it tiresome in its puffery - which may be the vestiges of Victorian preachiness. Dunno. We are all, to some extent, shaped by our environment and the experiences that come from it (which is part of why I say we shouldn't ditch Shakespeare even if he IS sexist and classist). Then again, theoretically, we can choose how we respond to those experiences, like Hemingway did.

Anyway, point on H. is that I think later writers take what he started (crisp, evocative prose - yum!) and produce a better overall result. Hemingway was experimenting. Later writers were able to go through and build greater works using some of the techniques he popularized. Standing on the shoulders of giants, as it were.

So, to sum up: I don't think Shakespeare sucks. My point was more that you CAN have too much of a good thing.

Image thanks to


Maniotis said...


While I won't deny that your comments about Shakespeare inspired my post, I certainly was not implying that you cannot think for yourself. If anything, your problem is that you think too much by yourself! You have a rebellious streak that dares take on even the venerated Bard! I've told you before--methinks, you are brilliant, and your students are lucky to have you. Now, just like many of my well-intentioned friends, I also think you are wrong--a lot! Anyone who can talk about how "Hemingway turned the tide away from the purple prose of the Edwardian/Victorian era" can think and analyze at a high level.

That said, you sometimes say brilliantly foolish things. Stepping away from Shakespeare for a minute, I was looking at an old post you made about BRAVE NEW WORLD in which you stated you would like to teach it as a UTOPIAN novel! Aargh! Just what could be Utopian about a world in which love is outlawed, an elite society creates different classes in test tubes to fulfill the various missions of their caste system, and everybody takes happy pills? (Oh yeah, and where they have completely forgotten about literature in general, and Shakespeare in particular!) Now, I'm sure you've got your reasons--and that they have been well thought out. I'm sure they are quite clever, in fact.

But, BRAVE NEW WORLD is not a place to find happiness. If you don't believe me, wait a few years. We're almost there, I think.

Try not to take too much I say personally. I'm mad at the world, mostly. I think we went off the tracks about 50 years ago, and that we are living in the aftermath of a once sane universe. My hope is that your generation can get us back on track again--re-discover Shakespeare, give us back the old world that wasn't so new--but was full of the brave and wise and good.

Clix said...

That's just it, Bill, BNW is DEFINITELY dystopian. But I think it would be SOOO much more powerful to present it to students and say "look, isn't this world lovely? everyone is happy! isn't that what we want for ourselves? to be happy?! of course!"

and then have them FOR THEMSELVES go "MS KEYS! WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU?!" and have THEM defend the ideals of personal responsibility and choice and stuff.

At school, though. Gotta work. Thanks SO MUCH for stopping by and commenting. ;D

also I think you're right about almost being at BNW. Creepy!

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