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31 October 2007 @ 12:10 pm
sometimes I really do desire that we might be better strangers.  
Dear other people teaching for this class,

Okay, I get it, you don't like As You Like It. You can really stop telling me that now. Because we've had this conversation a lot of times in the last couple of years, and at this point, you're just doing it to bait me. (Seriously, one of them actually did the whole "ooh, them's fightin' words!" thing.) I don't care that you don't like it; plenty of people don't. But you don't have to be so smug about how clever you are not to like the play, or comedies in general, okay?

It's just--I don't go around telling you about how stupid the plays *you* like best are. And I certainly don't imply that the fact that I don't like them is anything more than my subjective opinion or what happens to push my particular buttons. I don't call your favorite plays "facile," or talk about how uninteresting plays that end tragically are, the way you constantly feel compelled to do whenever we do a comedy. (I also don't dismiss your opinions by saying things like, "Nope, you're wrong, two against one!" either, but that's a different rant.)

(Yes, we're doing As You Like It this week.)
Current Mood: grumpygrumpy
Current Music: "Tam Lin," Fairport Convention (it is Halloween, after all)
cschellscschells on October 31st, 2007 04:55 pm (UTC)
How obnoxious! (Them, not you.) I hate tragedy. There, I've said it.
tempestsarekind: globetempestsarekind on October 31st, 2007 08:32 pm (UTC)
You're brave! :) I don't hate tragedy (and I do love Hamlet, after all), but I don't love it the way I love comedy. I feel it's much easier to do tragedy than it is to get comedy right--but appreciating tragedy is supposedly the mark of being in touch with the human condition, or something. All I know is that *I've* never been commanded by my father's ghost to kill my uncle.
cschellscschells on October 31st, 2007 09:37 pm (UTC)
Well, I have an intellectual appreciation for some tragedies (I do like Hamlet), but... I'm a shallow person. I would rather get my catharsis through laughter, thanks. And I like the balance of tragi-comedies, and the art of drawing meaning out of (relatively) normal modes of existence. And I do think people are silly to claim some sort of moral or intellectual high ground because they're moved by and see great meaning in tragic oeuvres--duh! Everybody's moved by the tragic! That's the point!
tempestsarekind: all the world's a stagetempestsarekind on October 31st, 2007 10:14 pm (UTC)
the art of drawing meaning out of (relatively) normal modes of existence

Yes, that's exactly it! That's the great thing, to me, about comedy. It's perhaps an intense, moving experience (just as an example) to watch a character die for love, but I'm more interested in what love means in a world where the main character says flat-out, "Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love."
the cold genius: all right then i will!angevin2 on October 31st, 2007 08:51 pm (UTC)
Bah. Everyone knows that the HISTORIES are the MOST awesome.


I think the real reason most people in academia1 don't so much love the comedies is because they're much harder to teach. For some reason, the fact that they have basically happy endings makes students say much stupider things about them than they do about the tragedies.2 In my experience, anyway. Not that I'm one to talk; my favorite Shakespeare comedy these days is probably Measure for Measure.

1. Unless they are old-school feminists, who seem to focus largely on the comedies.
2. Except for Romeo and Juliet, which inspires tremendously stupid remarks. There is possibly something to be said for the genre-blendiness of that play, but I think the problem there is more that it's about teenagers.
tempestsarekind: boy actresstempestsarekind on October 31st, 2007 09:31 pm (UTC)

I can believe that the comedies are harder to teach, though. I'm trying to come up with questions about AYLI that might inspire *useful* conversation on Friday, and I'm drawing a total blank. And there is only so much mileage that even I can get out of cross-dressing. :)

Agreed on R&J. And it's teenagers in love, which is even worse, because the whole discussion turns into whether or not Romeo and Juliet are really in love, and whether suicide is a good solution.

I totally understand that not everyone loves the comedies. I just wish they didn't sound so pleased with themselves when they announce this.
the cold genius: cranky pip is crankyangevin2 on November 1st, 2007 12:11 am (UTC)
which is even worse, because the whole discussion turns into whether or not Romeo and Juliet are really in love

Yes! Romeo and Juliet are fictional characters and are neither in love nor not in love unless they are being embodied in production. And then you get people arguing in a sort of smug fashion that, no, it's not a love story, it's a treatise on why teenagers are idiots. In which case they really should just go read Arthur Brooke, or something, and anyway, if we were meant to see R&J as stupid kids Shakespeare would probably have given them more reasonable parents. Bah. This is why I don't teach R&J if I can help it.

(The "are they really in love" thing comes up a lot, though. Taming of the Shrew is another offender in this regard.)

I think your colleagues are smug about not liking the comedies because if there's someone around who likes something idiosyncratic that person will always be ribbed constantly for it. This has been my experience as someone who has vocal obsessions with idiosyncratic things.
tempestsarekind: trespass sweetly urgedtempestsarekind on November 1st, 2007 04:18 pm (UTC)
Romeo and Juliet are fictional characters and are neither in love nor not in love unless they are being embodied in production.

I keep trying to draw this distinction--"Yes, that's a choice you could make if you were staging a production, but it's not a useful question for literary analysis"--but so far it hasn't worked. :) I used to wonder why R&J appeared on college syllabi so infrequently (in my experience, anyway), but now I think that perhaps I know.

Perhaps you're right--though I fail to see how an entire genre can be idiosyncratic! Silly people.
the cold geniusangevin2 on November 3rd, 2007 05:48 am (UTC)
I studied R&J in a graduate class at U of Chicago (it focused on Shakespeare in terms of early modern ideas of the senses and the way in which we interact physically with the world) and it was awesome -- but yeah, I deliberately avoided it in my intro-level class, though I did renege on my promise to myself not to attempt A Midsummer Night's Dream on the grounds that the theater department was staging it.

And perhaps I ought to have said "relationally idiosyncratic." But that might be pretentious. ;)
tempestsarekind: peddlers of bombasttempestsarekind on November 3rd, 2007 07:28 pm (UTC)
That does sound awesome! Admittedly I don't get this whole cognitive theory thing, but the thing that always trips me up about it is the question of whether it's possible to assume that, even if the brain worked the same way in the Renaissance, we could learn anything about those workings by using modern theory if Renaissance people interpreted them in totally different ways.

And I knew what you meant by "idiosyncratic"--I just think it's a silly attitude, and people should think, "hmm. Maybe if I don't like a whole genre, it's me, not the genre."
La Reine Noire: Studious Veronicalareinenoire on October 31st, 2007 10:46 pm (UTC)
Oh, stupid people! I hate it when people completely dismiss entire genres of Shakespeare's plays -- or anything, for that matter.

And I'm afraid I must go with angevin2 and claim the histories are the best, but the comedies are so much fun! But it's difficult to encapsulate what's great about them in a sentence, which in theory you can do with tragedy.

So, in a nutshell, people feel inadequate and are taking it out on you. Don't let it get to you as much as possible.
tempestsarekind: viola readingtempestsarekind on November 1st, 2007 04:23 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Though I also got into an argument about five-paragraph essays--this person, despite never having learned or used this structure, disagreed with me about modeling a modified version of it for my students, because it was unfit for more sophisticated work--so it wasn't a good day for not letting things get to me. :)