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Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Oh for a muse of fire!

I realize I have many introductory lectures planned for the same opening day.

1)Hermeneutics

2) Validity

3) Henry V. In which I derive all the literary theory I can from the Prologue to Henry V.

I've never tried this 3rd option before, but I know exactly how I would do it.

Of course I never read a lecture. I just talk with notes in front of me. With Henry V the advantage is I wouldn't need any notes. I would just start saying "Oh for a muse of fire, that would ascend / The brightest heaven of invention..." and go from there.

a) The captatio benevenoltiae as a trope. Relation of this to themes of ineffability, like Dante's "Oh quanto è corto il dire e come fioco al mio concetto!" Or even Beckett's "Fail better." Relate this to audience "gentles all," who will sit patiently through the play. Meaning only arises with the participation of an audience.

b) The muse of fire itself. Is it a merely conventional here? Or is an actual invocation of a muse? What is the muse here? Are all muses the same? What is the theory of poetic "inspiration"? How does it vary from one period to another.

c) Mimesis and the magic of performance. The prologue promises a poor performance, yet the spectators have to supplement the poverty of the performance with their imaginations. Hence we have the onset of a theory of the imagination itself. We don't have to see the horses "imprinting their proud hoofs in the receiving earth." The language does it.

d) Thus the centrality of language itself. Shakespeare does all this through language. That is his metier. The language has a prosody, a weight to it. It imitates its objects of representation through sound.

e) Other Aristotelian principles. Unity? Shakespeare realizes that unity is in the spectacle, not in the reality represented. Thus the prologue can put the accomplishments of many years "into an hourglass." He is conscious of breaking a rule?

f) What is the difference between showing and telling, or dramatic and narrative versions of representation? Why does Shakespeare need a Chorus in the first place? Is it to supplement for the poverty of the representation itself? You don't need any Hollywood special effects.

g) Literature is conscious of itself. It is its own theory. The writer knows what she is doing. Metatheater.

h) It is a material practice. It takes place in a particular physical space, the walls of the theater.

And so on... I could probably start with these and see if there is anything else.

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