Madison here! We are in Paper Session IX of the 2019 Blackfriars Conference, ready to hear six presentations on the theme of “textual violence.” This morning’s session is moderated by Dennis Henry of Indiana University, Kokomo.

Alice DaileyA Book is a Unit of Time: Library Deselection and the Work of Mourning

With the advancement of the digital age, books and print culture have become more and more obsolete. Alice Dailey discussed the “deselection” of libraries, a kind way of saying “throwing out of books.” She talked about how we decide what books to save and why to save them. Books represent a unit of time: the time put into them by the writer, the reader, and even the manufacturer; time forgotten, time spent, and time wasted. To deselect a book is to look back into time, and it often requires a sense of sorrow and mourning. Dailey suggests that this is a good thing. As scholars, we should make space for all forms of grief: academic, professional, and personal. We should not push grief out or try to pretend that it is not part of the job, because reckoning with grief will ultimately make us better academics and more importantly, better humans.

Eric JohnsonSeven Million Shakespeare Studies

Analyzing Shakespeare’s “views” is not the same as analyzing Shakespeare’s text. Johnson talked about the relative modern book sales of Shakespeare’s plays, and (surprise, surprise) Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and Hamlet top the list, and Timon of Athens is last. Data sets regarding what people search can tell us a lot about what people are looking for. Sometimes this tells us what we already know, and sometimes the results can be very surprising. In the future, by utilizing key geographical origin, categorical searches, and even artificial intelligence, we can better organize the way that we mine for the data that gives us this sort of sociological “search” information.

Cassidy Cash: The Game of Noddy and How History is Essential to Understanding Shakespeare

Cash talked about the joke in Two Gentlemen of Verona about the word “Noddy.” We may laugh at it, but since we no longer actually use this word, we may not necessarily know why we laugh. “Noddy” was a popular card game that is no longer played. Several of these cards had royalty on them, some directly linked to or nodding to actual figures. One card has a red rose on it that looks much like the Lancaster rose, however, it is in fact French and became somewhat marred when the English copied the cards. The OED dates the game of Noddy to 1589, the year that Shakespeare would have been 25 and likely written Two Gentlemen of Verona. “Noddy” means joker or fool and there are several references to the playing of Noddy as being detrimental to the soul. Several Shakespeare plays refer to this card games and ones like it. Learning to play these games can increase our understanding of the jokes in Shakespeare’s texts.

Steven UrkowitzShakespeare Invites You to a Beheading: Killing Suffolk

The presentation started with two stagings of Suffolk’s death scene. The first scene (Quarto) featured Suffolk hailing insults down on his captors and demanding release. A man who has had his eye gouged out demands Suffolks’ head. Then, he is dragged offstage and the scene ends. The second version (Folio) cuts the demands of the injured soldier, but features him entering with Suffolks body and head. One of the prisoners carries the body offstage and promises to deliver it to the Queen. In the first scene, Suffolk speaks his own eulogy and the stage is full after Suffolk leaves. The captain then deputizes one of the prisoners to deliver Suffolk’s head to the Queen. In the second scene, Suffolk’s beheading is emotionally expanded upon. He cries to never be forgotten, goes to his death with bravery, and his body is shown to the audience. Both scenes are valid interpretations, but they both leave the audience with a different emotional response to Suffolk’s death. The Bear chased Urkowitz from the stage before he could say any more.

Bob Jones: Stopping Short: Pinter, Pauses, and Peter Hall

This presentation explores how pauses are written in texts. One version argued not writing out pauses explicitly but merely leaving an unfinished pentameter. Another argued using dashes and dots, and which is better. Jones staged a few scenes to demonstrate how pauses can be used: how they can be distracting or useful. Pauses, if overstretched, can make the whole thing pretentious and tedious, but they can also be a place where audiences can fill the space with what they already perceive to exist on the stage.

Matthew Kozusko: Of Moralls, Murals, and Moons

The Folio reads “Now is the morall downe” in the play within a play in Midsummer Night’s Dream. Most editors correct “morall” to “wall” and connect it to what happened onstage just a few moments before and to assist the set-up of Demetrius’ joke about walls being willful to hear without warning. The Quarto, however, says “Now is the moon used.” Demetrius’ line depends on Theseus’, forcing editors to decide how to deal with a text that doesn’t appear to make sense. Kozusko offers two suggestions. His first is to leave the text as is and use it to inform what happens onstage. Perhaps, Theseus does mean to talk about the moon, anticipating that the moon will be abused in a similar way to the Wall. Then, Demetrius connects the Wall’s abuse to the moon’s abuse. Kozusko also suggests that the joke may lie in original pronunciation, imperceptible and nonsensical to our modern ears. The joke will not play as written because today’s audiences will not hear it as it was intended to be heard. Learning more about original pronunciation can increase our understanding of Shakespeare’s texts.

The session wrapped up with a Q&A.

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