English sous-titres

← 19. The New Historicism

Obtenir le code d’intégration
1 langue

Afficher la révision 1 créée 09/26/2012 par Amara Bot.

  1. Prof: So today we turn
    to a mode of doing literary
  2. criticism which was
    extraordinarily widespread
  3. beginning in the late seventies
    and into the eighties,
  4. called the New Historicism.
  5. It was definable in ways that
    I'll turn to in a minute and,
  6. as I say, prevalent to a
    remarkable degree everywhere.
  7. It began probably at the
    University of California at
  8. Berkeley under the auspices,
    in part, of Stephen Greenblatt,
  9. whose brief essay you've read
    for today.
  10. Greenblatt and others founded a
    journal,
  11. still one of the most important
    and influential journals in the
  12. field of literary study,
    called
  13. Representations--always
    has been and still is an organ
  14. for New Historicist thought.
  15. It's a movement which began
    primarily preoccupied with the
  16. Early Modern period,
    the so-called
  17. "Renaissance."
  18. The New Historicism is,
    in effect, responsible for the
  19. replacement of the term
    "Renaissance"
  20. with the term "Early
    Modern."
  21. Its influence,
    however, quickly did extend to
  22. other fields,
    some fields perhaps more than
  23. others.
  24. It would be,
    I think, probably worth a
  25. lecture that I'm not going to
    give to explain why certain
  26. fields somehow or another seem
    to lend themselves more readily
  27. to New Historicist approaches
    than others.
  28. I think it's fair to say that
    in addition to the early modern
  29. period,
    the three fields that have been
  30. most influenced by the New
    Historicism are the eighteenth
  31. century,
    British Romanticism,
  32. and Americanist studies from
    the late colonial through the
  33. republican period.
  34. That age--the emergence of
    print culture,
  35. the emergence of the public
    sphere as a medium of influence,
  36. and the distribution of
    knowledge in the United States--
  37. has been very fruitfully
    studied from New Historicist
  38. points of view.
  39. So those are the fields that
    are most directly influenced by
  40. this approach.
  41. When we discuss Jerome McGann's
    essay, you'll see how it
  42. influences Romantic studies.
  43. Now the New Historicism
    was--and this probably accounts
  44. for its remarkable popularity
    and influence in the period
  45. roughly from the late seventies
    through the early nineties--
  46. was a response to an increasing
    sense of ethical failure in the
  47. isolation of the text as it was
    allegedly practiced in certain
  48. forms of literary study.
  49. Beginning with the New
    Criticism through the period of
  50. deconstruction,
    and the recondite discourse of
  51. Lacan and others in
    psychoanalysis,
  52. there was a feeling widespread
    among scholars,
  53. especially younger scholars,
    that somehow or another,
  54. especially in response to
    pressing concerns--
  55. post-Vietnam,
    concerns with globalization,
  56. concerns with the distribution
    of power and global capital--
  57. all of these concerns inspired
    what one can only call a guilt
  58. complex in academic literary
    scholarship and led to a
  59. "return to history."
  60. It was felt that a kind of
    ethical tipping point had been
  61. arrived at and that the modes of
    analysis that had been
  62. flourishing needed to be
    superseded by modes of analysis
  63. in which history and the
    political implications of what
  64. one was doing became prominent
    and central.
  65. I have to say that in debates
    of this kind there's always a
  66. considerable amount of hot air,
    perhaps on both sides.
  67. In many ways it's not the case
    that the so-called isolated
  68. approaches really were isolated.
  69. Deconstruction in its second
    generation wrote perpetually
  70. about history and undertook to
    orient the techniques of
  71. deconstruction to an
    understanding of history,
  72. just to give one example.
  73. The New Historicism,
    on the other hand,
  74. evinced a preoccupation with
    issues of form and textual
  75. integrity that certainly
    followed from the disciplines,
  76. the approaches,
    that preceded them.
  77. Also to a large degree--and
    this is,
  78. of course, true of a good many
    other approaches that we're
  79. about to investigate,
    approaches based in questions
  80. of identity also--
    to a large degree,
  81. appropriated the language of
    the generation of the
  82. deconstructionists and,
    to a certain extent,
  83. certain underlying
    structuralist ideas having to do
  84. with the binary relationship
    between self and other,
  85. and binary relationships among
    social entities,
  86. as opposed to linguistic
    entities;
  87. but still, as I say,
    essentially inheriting the
  88. structure of thought of
    preceding approaches.
  89. So, as I say,
    it was in a polemical
  90. atmosphere and at a moment of
    widespread self-doubt in the
  91. academic literary profession
    that the New Historicism came
  92. into its own--
    a response, as I say,
  93. to the isolation of the text by
    certain techniques and
  94. approaches to it.
  95. Now very quickly:
    the method of New Historical
  96. analysis fell into a pattern,
    a very engaging one,
  97. one that's wonderfully
    exemplified by the brief
  98. introduction of Greenblatt that
    I have asked you to read:
  99. a pattern of beginning with an
    anecdote,
  100. often rather far afield,
    at least apparently rather far
  101. afield,
    from the literary issues that
  102. are eventually turned to in the
    argument of a given essay.
  103. For example:
    a dusty miller was walking down
  104. the road,
    thinking about nothing in
  105. particular,
    when he encountered a bailiff,
  106. then certain legal issues
    arise,
  107. and somehow or another the next
    thing you know we're talking
  108. about King Lear.
  109. This rather marvelous,
    oblique way into literary
  110. topics was owing to the
    brilliance in handling it of
  111. Greenblatt,
    in particular,
  112. and Louis Montrose and some of
    his colleagues.
  113. This technique became a kind of
    a hallmark of the New
  114. Historicism.
  115. In the long run,
    of course, it was easy enough
  116. to parody it.
  117. It has been subjected to parody
    and, in a certain sense,
  118. has been modified and chastened
    by the prevalence of parody;
  119. but it nevertheless,
    I think, shows you something
  120. about the way New Historicist
    thinking works.
  121. The New Historicism is
    interested, following
  122. Foucault--and Foucault is the
    primary influence on the New
  123. Historicism.
  124. I won't say as much about this
    today as I might feel obliged to
  125. say if I weren't soon be going
    to return to Foucault in the
  126. context of gender studies,
    when we take up Foucault and
  127. Judith Butler together--
    but I will say briefly that
  128. Foucault's writing,
    especially his later writing,
  129. is about the pervasiveness,
    the circulation through social
  130. orders,
    of what he calls
  131. "power."
  132. Now power is not just--or,
    in many cases in Foucault,
  133. not even primarily-- the power
    of vested authorities,
  134. the power of violence,
    or the power of tyranny from
  135. above.
  136. Power in Foucault--though it
    can be those things and
  137. frequently is--
    is much more pervasively and
  138. also insidiously the way in
    which knowledge circulates in a
  139. culture: that is to say,
    the way in which what we think,
  140. what we think that it is
    appropriate to think--
  141. acceptable thinking--is
    distributed by largely unseen
  142. forces in a social network or a
    social system.
  143. Power, in other words,
    in Foucault is in a certain
  144. sense knowledge,
    or to put it another way,
  145. it is the explanation of how
    certain forms of knowledge come
  146. to exist--
    knowledge, by the way,
  147. not necessarily of something
    that's true.
  148. Certain forms of knowledge come
    to exist in certain places.
  149. So all of this is central to
    the work of Foucault and is
  150. carried over by the New
    Historicists;
  151. hence the interest for them of
    the anecdotes.
  152. Start as far afield as you can
    imaginably start from what you
  153. will finally be talking about,
    which is probably some textual
  154. or thematic issue in Shakespeare
    or in the Elizabethan masque or
  155. whatever the case may be.
  156. Start as far afield as you
    possibly can from that,
  157. precisely in order to show the
    pervasiveness of a certain kind
  158. of thinking,
    the pervasiveness of a certain
  159. social constraint or limitation
    on freedom.
  160. If you can show how pervasive
    it is,
  161. you reinforce and justify the
    Foucauldian idea that power is,
  162. as I've said,
    an insidious and ubiquitous
  163. mode of circulating knowledge.
  164. All of this is implicit,
    sometimes explicit,
  165. in New Historicist approaches
    to what they do.
  166. So as I said,
    Foucault is the crucial
  167. antecedent and of course,
    when it's a question of
  168. Foucault, literature as we want
    to conceive of it--
  169. perhaps generically or as a
    particular kind of utterance as
  170. opposed to other kinds--
    does tend to collapse back into
  171. the broader or more general
    notion of discourse,
  172. because it's by means of
    discourse that power circulates
  173. knowledge.
  174. Once again, despite the fact
    that New Historicism wants to
  175. return us to the real world,
    it nevertheless acknowledges
  176. that that return is language
    bound.
  177. It is by means of language that
    the real world shapes itself.
  178. That's why for the New
    Historicist--
  179. and by this means,
    I'll turn in a moment to the
  180. marvelous anecdote with which
    Greenblatt begins the brief
  181. essay that I've asked you to
    read--
  182. that's why the New Historicist
    lays such intense emphasis on
  183. the idea that the relationship
    between discourse--
  184. call it literature if you like,
    you might as well--
  185. and history is reciprocal.
  186. Yes, history conditions what
    literature can say in a given
  187. epoch.
  188. History is an important way of
    understanding the valency of
  189. certain kinds of utterance at
    certain times.
  190. In other words,
    history is--as it's
  191. traditionally thought to be by
    the Old Historicism,
  192. and I'll get to that in a
    minute--history is a background
  193. to discourse or literature.
  194. But by the same token there is
    an agency, that is to say a
  195. capacity, to circulate power in
    discourse in turn.
  196. Call it "literature":
    "I am Richard II,
  197. know you not that?"
  198. says Queen Elizabeth when at
    the time of the threatened Essex
  199. Uprising she gets wind of the
    fact that Shakespeare's
  200. Richard II is being
    performed,
  201. as she believes,
    in the public streets and in
  202. private houses.
  203. In other words,
    wherever there is sedition,
  204. wherever there are people who
    want to overthrow her and
  205. replace her with the Earl of
    Essex,
  206. the pretender to the throne,
    Richard II is being
  207. performed.
  208. Well, now this is terrifying to
    Queen Elizabeth because she
  209. knows--
    she's a supporter of the
  210. theater--she knows that
    Richard II is about a
  211. king who has many virtues but a
    certain weakness,
  212. a political weakness and also a
    weakness of temperament--
  213. the kind of weakness that makes
    him sit upon the ground and tell
  214. sad tales about the death of
    kings,
  215. that kind of weakness,
    who is then usurped by
  216. Bolingbroke who became Henry IV,
    introducing a whole new dynasty
  217. and focus of the royal family in
    England.
  218. Queen Elizabeth says,
    "They're staging this play
  219. because they're trying to
    compare me with Richard II in
  220. preparation for deposing me,
    and who knows what else they
  221. might do to me?"
  222. This is a matter of great
    concern.
  223. In other words,
    literature--Fredric Jameson
  224. says "history
    hurts"--literature hurts,
  225. too.
  226. >
  227. Literature, in other words,
    has a discursive agency that
  228. affects history every bit as
    much as history affects
  229. literature: literature "out
    there," and theater--
  230. especially if it escapes the
    confines of the playhouse
  231. because,
    as Greenblatt argues,
  232. the playhouse has a certain
    mediatory effect which defuses
  233. the possibilities of sedition.
  234. One views literary
    representation in the playhouse
  235. with a certain objectivity,
    perhaps, that is absent
  236. altogether when interested
    parties take up the same text
  237. and stage it precisely for the
    purpose of fomenting rebellion.
  238. Literature, especially when
    escaped from its conventional
  239. confines,
    becomes a very,
  240. very dangerous or
    positive influence,
  241. depending on your point of view
    on the course of history.
  242. So the relationship between
    history and discourse is
  243. reciprocal.
  244. Greenblatt wants to argue with
    a tremendous amount of stress
  245. and, I think,
    effectiveness that the New
  246. Historicism differs from the Old
    Historicism.
  247. This is on page 1443 in the
    right-hand column.
  248. John Dover Wilson,
    a traditional Shakespeare
  249. scholar and a very important
    one, is the spokesperson in
  250. Greenblatt's scenario for the
    Old Historicism.
  251. The view I'm about to quote is
    that of John Dover Wilson,
  252. a kind of consensus about the
    relationship between literature
  253. and history:
    Modern historical scholarship
  254. [meaning Old Historicism]
    has assured Elizabeth
  255. >
  256. that she had [this is the
    right-hand column about two
  257. thirds of the way down]
    >
  258. nothing to worry about:
    Richard II is not at all
  259. subversive but rather a hymn to
    Tudor order.
  260. The play, far from encouraging
    thoughts of rebellion,
  261. regards the deposition of the
    legitimate king as a
  262. "sacrilegious"
    act that drags the country down
  263. into "the abyss of
    chaos";
  264. "that Shakespeare and his
    audience regarded Bolingbroke as
  265. a usurper,"
    declares J.
  266. Dover Wilson,
    "is incontestable."
  267. But in 1601 neither Queen
    Elizabeth nor the Earl of Essex
  268. were so sure…
    Greenblatt wins.
  269. It's a wonderful example.
  270. It's the genius of Greenblatt
    to choose examples that are so
  271. telling and so incontrovertible.
  272. We know Queen Elizabeth was
    scared >
  273. on this occasion,
    which makes it quite simply the
  274. case that John Dover Wilson was
    wrong to suppose that Richard
  275. II was no threat to her.
  276. It's not at all the point that
    a broad, ideological view of
  277. Richard II was any
    different from what Wilson said;
  278. that was perfectly true.
  279. Bolingbroke was
    considered a usurper.
  280. It was considered tragic that
    Richard II was deposed;
  281. but that doesn't mean that the
    text can't be taken over,
  282. commandeered and made
    subversive.
  283. Wilson doesn't acknowledge this
    because his view of the
  284. relationship between history and
    literature is only that history
  285. influences literature,
    not that the influence can be
  286. reciprocal.
  287. You see, that's how it is that
    the New Historicism wants to
  288. define itself over and against
    the Old Historicism.
  289. If there is a political or
    ideological consensus about the
  290. legitimacy of monarchy,
    the divine right of kings,
  291. the legitimacy of succession
    under the sanction of the Church
  292. of England and all the rest of
    it--
  293. all of which is anachronistic
    when you're thinking about these
  294. history plays--
    if there is this broad
  295. consensus, that's it,
    that's what the play
  296. means according to the Old
    Historicism,
  297. even though plainly you can
    take the plot of the play and
  298. completely invert those values,
    which is what the Essex faction
  299. does in staging it in those
    places where Queen Elizabeth
  300. suspects that it's being staged.
  301. Okay.
  302. Now another way in which the
    Old Historicism and the New
  303. Historicism differ--
    correctly, I think-- according
  304. to Greenblatt is that in the Old
    Historicism there is no
  305. question--
    I'm looking at page 1444,
  306. the right-hand column about a
    third of the way down--
  307. of the role of the historian's
    own subjectivity.
  308. "It is not thought,"
    says Greenblatt,
  309. "to be the product of the
    historian's
  310. interpretation…"
    History is just what is.
  311. One views it objectively and
    that's that.
  312. Now notice here that we're back
    with Gadamer.
  313. Remember that this was
    Gadamer's accusation of
  314. historicism,
    the belief of historicism--what
  315. Greenblatt calls the Old
    Historicism--
  316. that we can bracket out our own
    historical horizon and that we
  317. can eliminate all of our own
    historical prejudices in order
  318. to understand the past
    objectively in and for itself.
  319. This is not the case,
    said Gadamer,
  320. remember.
  321. Gadamer said that
    interpretation must necessarily
  322. involve the merger of horizons,
    the horizon of the other and my
  323. own horizon as an interpreter.
  324. I cannot bracket out my own
    subjectivity.
  325. Okay.
  326. If that's the case,
    then Gadamer anticipates
  327. Greenblatt in saying that the
    naïveté
  328. of the Old Historicism is its
    supposition that it has no
  329. vested interest in what it's
    talking about--
  330. that is to say,
    its supposition that it wants
  331. history to accord in one way or
    another with its own
  332. preconceptions,
    but isn't aware of it.
  333. The anecdote--again,
    wonderfully placed in the
  334. polemical argument--
    that after all,
  335. John Dover Wilson delivered
    himself of these opinions about
  336. Richard II before a group
    of scholars in Germany in 1939
  337. is,
    after all, rather interesting.
  338. Hitler is about to be the
    Bolingbroke of Germany.
  339. John Dover Wilson wants his
    audience to say,
  340. "Hey, wait a minute.
  341. Stick with vested authority.
  342. >
  343. You have a weak democracy,
    but it is a democracy.
  344. Don't let it get away from
    you."
  345. And so he is speaking,
    the horse already having
  346. escaped from the barn,
    in this reassuring way about
  347. German politics as a means of
    sort of reinforcing his own view
  348. of the politics of Elizabethan
    England.
  349. But this, Greenblatt supposes,
    is something about which he has
  350. very little self-consciousness.
  351. That is to say,
    his own interest,
  352. as of course it should be on
    this occasion,
  353. is in the preservation of
    vested authority,
  354. and his own interest then folds
    back into his understanding of
  355. Elizabethan ideology in such a
    way that it can conform to that
  356. interest.
  357. He has, in other words,
    as we say today,
  358. a hidden agenda and is very
    little aware of it,
  359. unlike the New Historicist who,
    following Gadamer in this
  360. respect,
    is fully cognizant of the
  361. subjective investment that leads
    to a choice of interest in
  362. materials,
    a way of thinking about those
  363. materials,
    and a means of bringing them to
  364. life for us today and into
    focus.
  365. In other words,
    it's okay for Greenblatt,
  366. as it was for Gadamer--much to
    the horror of E.
  367. D.
  368. Hirsch--to find the
    significance of a text,
  369. as opposed to the meaning of a
    text.
  370. The significance of the text is
    that it has certain kinds of
  371. power invested in it.
  372. Those kinds of power are still
    of interest to us today,
  373. still of relevance to what's
    going on in our own world.
  374. All of this is taken up openly
    as a matter of
  375. self-consciousness by the New
    Historicists in ways that,
  376. according to Greenblatt and his
    colleagues,
  377. were not available consciously
    in the older Historicism.
  378. Now the world as the New
    Historicism sees it--
  379. and after I've said this,
    I'll turn to McGann--
  380. is essentially a dynamic
    interplay of power,
  381. networks of power,
    and subversion:
  382. that is to say,
    modes of challenging those
  383. networks even within the
    authoritative texts that
  384. generate positions of power.
  385. The Elizabethan masque,
    for example,
  386. which stages the relation of
    court to courtier,
  387. to visitor, to hanger-on in
    wonderfully orchestrated ways,
  388. is a means--because it's kind
    of poly-vocal--
  389. of containing within its
    structure elements of
  390. subversion,
    according to the argument
  391. that's made about these things:
    the same with court ritual
  392. itself,
    the same with the happenstance
  393. that takes place once a year in
    early modern England,
  394. in which the Lord of Misrule is
    so denominated and ordinary
  395. authority is turned on its ear
    for one day.
  396. Queen for a day,
    as it were, is something that
  397. is available to any citizen once
    a year.
  398. These are all ways of defusing
    what they,
  399. in fact, bring into visibility
    and consciousness--
  400. mainly the existence,
    perhaps the inevitable
  401. existence,
    of subversion with respect to
  402. structures and circulatory
    systems of power.
  403. It's this relationship between
    power and subversion that the
  404. New Historicism,
    especially in taking up issues
  405. of the Early Modern period,
    tends to focus on and to
  406. specialize in.
  407. Now it's not wholly clear that
    Jerome McGann has ever really
  408. thought of himself as a New
    Historicist.
  409. He has been so designated by
    others,
  410. but I think there is one rather
    important difference in
  411. emphasis,
    at least between what he's
  412. doing and what Greenblatt and
    his colleagues do in the Early
  413. Modern period.
  414. McGann doesn't really so much
    stress the reciprocity of
  415. history and discourse.
  416. He is interested in the
    presence of history,
  417. the presence of immediate
    social and also personal
  418. circumstances in the history of
    a text.
  419. His primary concern is with--at
    least in this essay--textual
  420. scholarship.
  421. He himself is the editor of the
    new standard works of Byron.
  422. He has also done a standard
    works of Swinburne,
  423. and he has been a vocal and
    colorful spokesperson of a
  424. certain point of view within the
    recondite debates of textual
  425. scholarship: whether textual
    scholarship ought to produce a
  426. text that's an amalgam of a
    variety of available manuscripts
  427. and printed texts;
    whether the text it produces
  428. ought to be the last and best
    thoughts of the author--
  429. that's the position that McGann
    seems to be taking in this
  430. essay--
    or whether the text,
  431. on the contrary,
    ought to be the first burst of
  432. inspiration of the author.
  433. All the people who prefer the
    earliest versions of
  434. Wordsworth's Prelude,
    for example,
  435. would favor that last point of
    view.
  436. In other words,
    McGann is making a contribution
  437. here not least to the debates
    surrounding editing and the
  438. production of authoritative
    scholarly texts.
  439. It's in that context that the
    remarks he's making about Keats
  440. have to be understood.
  441. I think the primary influence
    on McGann is not so much
  442. Foucault,
    then, with the sense of the
  443. circulation of power back and
    forth between history and
  444. literary discourse,
    as it is Bakhtin,
  445. whom he quotes on pages
    eighteen and nineteen;
  446. or whose influence he cites,
    I should say rather,
  447. in a way that,
    I think, does pervade what you
  448. encounter in reading what he
    then goes on to say at the
  449. bottom of page eighteen in the
    copy center reader:
  450. What follows [says McGann]
    is a summary and extrapolation
  451. of certain key ideas set forth
    by the so-called Bakhtin School
  452. of criticism,
    a small group of Marxist
  453. critics from the Soviet Union
    who made an early attack upon
  454. formalist approaches to poetry
    [just as he,
  455. McGann, is, and as the New
    Historicists are themselves,
  456. in their turn, doing].
  457. The Bakhtin School's
    socio-historical method
  458. approaches all language
    utterances--
  459. including poems--as phenomena
    marked with their concrete
  460. origins and history.
  461. That is to say,
    phenomena voiced by the
  462. material circumstances that
    produce them or phenomena,
  463. in other words,
    in which the voice of the
  464. Romantic solitary individual is
    not really that voice at all,
  465. but is rather the polyglossal
    infusion of a variety of
  466. perspectives,
    including ideological
  467. perspectives,
    shaping that particular
  468. utterance and also,
    in the case of the textual
  469. scholar,
    shaping which of a variety of
  470. manuscripts will be chosen for
    publication and for central
  471. attention in the tradition of
    the reception of a given text.
  472. So all of this McGann takes to
    be derived from Bakhtin rather
  473. than from Foucault.
  474. I do think that's a significant
    difference between our two
  475. authors.
  476. Now McGann's most important
    contribution to the return to
  477. history of the seventies and
    eighties is a short book called
  478. The Romantic Ideology,
    and this book--well,
  479. what it is is an attack on
    Romanticism.
  480. At least it's an attack on
    certain widely understood and
  481. received ideas about
    Romanticism--
  482. ideas with which,
    by the way, I don't agree,
  483. but this course isn't about me.
  484. The Romantic Ideology is
    an amalgam of two titles.
  485. One of them is the important
    early critique of Romanticism by
  486. the German poet and sometime
    Romantic Heinrich Heine called
  487. Die romantische Schule,
    or The Romantic School,
  488. in which the subjectivity,
    even solipsism,
  489. and the isolation from social
    concern and from unfolding
  490. historical processes of the
    Romantic poets is emphasized and
  491. criticized.
  492. In addition to that--that's
    where the word
  493. "Romantic"
    comes from in the title The
  494. Romantic Ideology--
    the other title that it
  495. amalgamates is Marx's book
    The German Ideology,
  496. which is about many things
    but is in particular about
  497. Lumpenproletariat
    intellectuals who think with
  498. Hegel--
    still following Hegel despite
  499. believing themselves to be
    progressive--
  500. who think with Hegel that
    thought produces material
  501. circumstances rather than the
    other way around:
  502. in other words people,
    in short, who are idealists and
  503. therefore,
    under this indictment,
  504. also Romantic.
  505. McGann's title,
    as I say, cleverly amalgamates
  506. these two other titles and sets
    the agenda for this short book,
  507. which is an attack not just on
    Romanticism but on what he
  508. believes to be our continued
    tendency still to be
  509. "in"
    Romanticism,
  510. still to be Romantic.
  511. There his particular object of
    attack is the so-called Yale
  512. school, which is still under
    attack in the essay that you've
  513. read for today.
  514. Paul de Man and Geoffrey
    Hartman's well-known essay on
  515. Keats's "To Autumn"
    are singled out for particular
  516. scorn and dispraise,
    all sort of on the grounds that
  517. yes,
    it's all very well to read
  518. Romanticism,
    to come to understand it,
  519. and even to be fascinated by
    it;
  520. but we can't be Romantic.
  521. In other words,
    our reading of Romanticism--
  522. if we are to be social animals,
    politically engaged,
  523. and invested in the world as a
    social community--
  524. must necessarily be an
    anti-Romantic critique.
  525. This is, as I say,
    still essentially the position
  526. taken up by McGann.
  527. All right.
  528. So I've explained the ways in
    which he differs from Greenblatt
  529. in leaning more toward Bakhtin
    than toward Foucault.
  530. I have explained that McGann is
    engaged primarily in talking
  531. about issues of textual
    scholarship in this particular
  532. essay,
    that he defends Keats's last
  533. deliberate choices,
    that he believes the so-called
  534. "indicator"
    text of 1820 of "La Belle
  535. Dame Sans Merci"
    is Keats's last deliberate
  536. choice,
    as opposed to the 1848 text
  537. published by Monckton Milnes in
    the edition of Keats's poems
  538. that he brought out at that
    time.
  539. Now I think that in the time
    remaining to sort of linger over
  540. McGann, I do want to say a few
    things about what he says about
  541. Keats.
  542. I want to emphasize that his
    general pronouncements about the
  543. historicity of texts,
    about the permeation of texts
  544. by the circumstances of their
    production,
  545. their conditioning by
    ideological factors,
  546. is unimpeachable.
  547. It seems to me that this is a
    necessary approach at least to
  548. have in mind if not,
    perhaps, necessarily to
  549. emphasize in one's own work of
    literary scholarship.
  550. The idea that a text just falls
    from a tree--if anybody ever had
  551. that idea, by the way
    >
  552. --is plainly not a tenable one,
    and the opposite idea that a
  553. text emerges from a complex
    matrix of social and historical
  554. circumstances is certainly a
    good one.
  555. So if one is to criticize,
    again it's not a question of
  556. criticizing his basic
    pronouncements.
  557. It seems to me nothing could be
    said really against them.
  558. The trouble is that in the case
    of McGann--
  559. who is a terrific,
    prominent Romantic scholar with
  560. whom one,
    I suppose, hesitates to
  561. disagree--everything he says
    about the text that he isolates
  562. for attention in this essay is
    simply,
  563. consistently, wrong.
  564. It's almost as if by compulsion
    that he says things that are
  565. wrong about these texts,
    and the reason I asked you in
  566. my e-mail last night to take a
    look at them,
  567. if you get a chance,
    is so that these few remarks
  568. that I make now might have some
    substance.
  569. Take for example "La Belle
    Dame Sans Merci."
  570. In the first place,
    who says we only read
  571. the 1848 text?
  572. A scholarly edition--and his
    main object of attack is Jack
  573. Stillinger's scholarly edition
    of Keats--gives you basically a
  574. variorum apparatus.
  575. Yeah, maybe it gives you a
    particular text in bold print,
  576. but it gives you the variant
    text in smaller print in a
  577. footnote.
  578. It doesn't withhold the variant
    text from you.
  579. It says, "No,
    look, there's this too.
  580. Take your choice."
  581. Really the atmosphere of a
    variorum scholarly edition is an
  582. atmosphere of take your choice,
    not a kind of tyrannical
  583. imposition on the public of a
    particular version of the text.
  584. Everybody knows the 1820
    Indicator text.
  585. "What can ail thee,
    wretched wight?"
  586. is at least as familiar to me,
    as a Romanticist,
  587. as "What can ail thee,
    knight at arms?"
  588. the way in which the 1848 text
    begins;
  589. and frankly how many people who
    aren't Romanticists know
  590. anything about either text?
  591. What are we talking about here?
  592. >
  593. The Romanticists know what's
    going on.
  594. They're not in any way
    hornswoggled by this historical
  595. conspiracy against the 1820
    indicator text,
  596. and people who aren't
    Romanticists don't care.
  597. That's what it comes down to;
    but, if it's not enough simply
  598. to say that, turning to the
    question of which text is
  599. better--well,
    it's hard to say which text is
  600. better.
  601. McGann's argument is that the
    1820 version is better because
  602. it's a poem about a guy and a
    girl who sort of meet,
  603. and the next thing you know
    they're having sex and that
  604. doesn't turn out so well.
  605. In other words,
    it's about the real world.
  606. These things happen.
  607. It's not a romance,
    whereas the "What can ail
  608. thee, wretched knight?"
  609. in the 1848 version--and all of
    its other variants,
  610. the "kisses four"
    and so on--
  611. the 1848 version is a kind of
    unselfconscious--
  612. in McGann's view--romance
    subscribing to certain medieval
  613. ideas about women,
    simultaneously putting them on
  614. a pedestal and fearing,
    at the same time,
  615. that they're invested with a
    kind of black magic which
  616. destroys the souls and
    dissipates the sap of deserving
  617. young gentlemen:
    all of this is ideologically
  618. programmed,
    according to McGann,
  619. in the 1848 version.
  620. Why?
  621. Because Charles Brown behaved
    despicably toward women,
  622. he didn't like Fanny Brawne,
    and because Monckton Milnes,
  623. the actual editor of the 1848
    edition,
  624. loved pornography and was a big
    collector of erotica.
  625. So that's why the 1848 text
    with its fear of and denigration
  626. of women, in contrast to the
    1820 text, is inferior.
  627. Well, two things:
    first of all,
  628. who's to say the 1848 text
    wasn't Keats's last thoughts?
  629. In other words,
    yes, he was already ill when
  630. the Indicator text was
    published in 1820.
  631. It is pretty close to the end
    of his ability to think clearly
  632. about his own work and to worry
    very much about the forms in
  633. which it was published,
    but at the same time we don't
  634. know when Brown received his
    version of the text.
  635. We can't suppose,
    as McGann more than half
  636. implies, that Brown just sort of
    sat down and rewrote it.
  637. >
  638. Nobody has ever really said
    that, and if he didn't rewrite
  639. it, then Keats must have given
    it to him in that form.
  640. Who's to say that wasn't his
    last and best thoughts?
  641. Who's to say Keats didn't
    really want to write a poem of
  642. this kind?
  643. After all, the title,
    taken from a medieval ballad by
  644. Alain Chartier,
    "La Belle Dame Sans
  645. Merci," bears out the
    "What can ail thee,
  646. knight at arms?" version.
  647. It's about a Morgan Le Fay-type.
  648. For better or worse,
    whatever we think of that
  649. ideologically,
    it is about,
  650. if the title is right,
    the kind of woman who is evoked
  651. in the 1848 version,
    as opposed to the kind of woman
  652. who is evoked in the 1820
    version.
  653. So the 1848 version is simply
    more consistent with the title.
  654. That's one point to be made,
    but the additional point to be
  655. made is that taking advantage of
    the New Historicist
  656. acknowledgement that one's own
    subjectivity,
  657. one's own historical horizon,
    is properly in play in thinking
  658. about these things,
    McGann is then able to infuse
  659. Keats's text and therefore
    Keats's intentions with a
  660. pleasing political correctness.
  661. That is to say,
    Keats can't possibly have
  662. thought in that demeaning way
    about women.
  663. By the way, everything-- I like
    Keats,
  664. but everything in his letters
    suggests that he did--
  665. but back to McGann:
    Keats can't possibly have
  666. thought in that demeaning way
    about women.
  667. Therefore, the 1820 text is the
    text that he intended and
  668. preferred.
  669. Okay.
  670. That, of course,
    makes Keats more consistent
  671. with our own standards and our
    own view of the relations
  672. between the sexes,
    but does it,
  673. in other words,
    make sense
  674. vis-à-vis the
    Keats whom we know and,
  675. despite his weaknesses and
    shortcomings,
  676. love?
  677. There is a great deal,
    in other words,
  678. to be said over against
    McGann's assertions about this
  679. textual issue,
    not necessarily in defense of
  680. the 1848 text but agnostically
    with respect to the two of them,
  681. saying, "Yeah,
    we'd better have both of them.
  682. We'd better put them
    side-by-side.
  683. We'd better read them together;
    but if by some fiat the 1820
  684. were somehow subsequently
    preferred to the 1848,
  685. that would be every bit as much
    of an historical misfortune as
  686. the preference,
    insofar as it has actually
  687. existed,
    of the 1848 or the 1820."
  688. I think that's the perspective
    one wants to take.
  689. Now I was going to talk about
    "To Autumn."
  690. I'll only say about his reading
    of "To Autumn"
  691. that McGann,
    who doesn't seem to like the
  692. poem very much--
    he likes "La Belle Dame
  693. Sans Merci,"
    so he makes it politically
  694. correct.
  695. He doesn't like "To
    Autumn" because he thinks
  696. that "Autumn"
    was published in collusion with
  697. Keats's conservative friends in
    the Poems of 1820,
  698. which bowdlerized everything he
    had to say of a progressive
  699. political nature.
  700. He thinks that "To
    Autumn" is a big sellout,
  701. in other words,
    and that yes,
  702. 1819 happened to be a year of
    good harvest,
  703. and so Keats turns that year of
    good harvest into something
  704. permanent,
    into a kind of cloud
  705. cuckoo-land in which the fruit
    falls into your basket and the
  706. fish jump into your net and
    everything is just perfect.
  707. Well, do you think the poem is
    really like that?
  708. You've read the third stanza,
    which McGann totally ignores
  709. apart from "Where are the
    songs of Spring?
  710. Ay, where are they?"
  711. In other words,
    he gives you the opening but he
  712. doesn't give you any sense of
    the rest of the stanza,
  713. because for him "To
    Autumn" is all about the
  714. first stanza.
  715. For him, Keats seems to
    identify with the bees who think
  716. warm days will never cease,
    "for Summer has
  717. o'er-brimmed their clammy
    cells."
  718. Keats is like a bee.
  719. He's all into the sensuous.
  720. Well, again just in terms of
    historical evidence,
  721. this is outmoded by at least
    eighteen months if we consult
  722. Keats's letters.
  723. He was like that early in his
    career,
  724. but he has had severe
    misgivings about a point of view
  725. which is represented in what he
    said in an early letter:
  726. "Oh,
    for a life of sensations rather
  727. than thoughts…"
    That's no longer Keats's
  728. position when writing "To
    Autumn."
  729. Keats's position when writing
    "To Autumn"
  730. is the position of a guy who
    has a sore throat just as his
  731. tubercular brother did,
    who is increasingly afraid that
  732. he's going to die soon and is
    trying to confront mortality in
  733. writing what is in fact--
    and I say "in fact"
  734. advisedly--
    the most perfect lyric ever
  735. written in the English language,
    and which is most certainly not
  736. a celebration of sort of
    wandering around like an aimless
  737. bee,
    thinking that the autumn is
  738. perfect but that autumn is
    always perfect,
  739. that warm days will never
    cease, and that everything is
  740. just lovely in the garden.
  741. It is not that kind of poem,
    and it's really a travesty of
  742. it to suppose that it is simply
    on the grounds that it was
  743. published in the Poems of
    1820 as a kind of sellout to the
  744. establishment under the advice
    of Keats's conservative friends.
  745. All right.
  746. So much then for McGann's
    remarks on Keats,
  747. which I want to say again in no
    way impugn or undermine the
  748. general validity of the claims
    that he's making about taking
  749. historical circumstances into
    account.
  750. Precisely, we need to take them
    into account and we need to get
  751. them right.
  752. That's the challenge,
    of course, of working with
  753. historical circumstances.
  754. You have to get it right.
  755. With that said,
    let me turn quickly to a review
  756. of Tony from Bakhtin to
    the New Historicism.
  757. I may glide over Tony
    according to Jameson,
  758. because we did that at the end
    of the last lecture,
  759. so let me go back to Bakhtin.
  760. You can see the way in which in
    the structure of Tony the Tow
  761. Truck the first part of the
    poem is absolutely saturated
  762. with the first person singular:
    I do this,
  763. I do that, I like my job,
    I am stuck-- I,
  764. I, I, I.
  765. Then as you read along through
    the text you see that the
  766. "I"
    disappears,
  767. or if it still appears,
    it's in the middle of a line
  768. rather than at the beginning of
    a line.
  769. In other words,
    the "I,"
  770. the subjectivity,
    the first person singular,
  771. the sense of having a unique
    voice--
  772. this is gradually subsumed by
    the sociality of the story as it
  773. unfolds.
  774. I am no longer "I"
    defined as a Romantic
  775. individual.
  776. I am "I,"
    rather defined as a friend--
  777. that is to say,
    as a person whose relation with
  778. otherness is what constitutes
    his identity,
  779. and in that mutuality of
    friendship,
  780. the first person singular
    disappears.
  781. What is spoken in Tony the
    Tow Truck, in other
  782. words,
    in the long run is not the
  783. voice of individual subjectivity
    but the voice of social
  784. togetherness,
    the voice of otherness.
  785. According to Jauss,
    the important thing about
  786. Tony the Tow Truck is
    that it is not the same story as
  787. The Little Engine that Could.
  788. In other words,
    in each generation of
  789. reception, the aesthetic
    standards that prevail at a
  790. given time are reconsidered and
    rethought, reshuffled.
  791. A new aesthetic horizon
    emerges, and texts are
  792. constituted in a different way,
    much also as the Russian
  793. formalists have said,
    only with the sense in Jauss of
  794. the historical imperative.
  795. The Little Engine that Could
    is all about the inversion
  796. of power between the little guy
    and the big guy,
  797. so that the little guy helps
    the big guy and that is
  798. unequivocal,
    showing, as in Isaiah in
  799. the Bible,
    that the valleys have been
  800. raised and the mountains have
    been made low.
  801. That's not the way Tony the
    Tow Truck works.
  802. The little guy himself needs
    help.
  803. He needs the help of another
    little guy.
  804. There is a reciprocity not
    dialectically between little and
  805. big,
    but a mutual reinforcement of
  806. little-by-little,
    and that is the change in
  807. aesthetic horizon that one can
    witness between The Little
  808. Engine that Could and
    Tony the Tow Truck.
  809. In Benjamin the important
    thing, as I think we've said,
  810. is the idea that the
    narrator is the apparatus.
  811. The humanization of a
    mechanized world,
  812. through our identification with
    it, is what takes place in
  813. Tony the Tow Truck.
  814. In other words,
    all these cars and trucks,
  815. all these smiling and frowning
    houses,
  816. of course, have as their common
    denominator their non-humanity,
  817. but the anthropomorphization of
    the cars and trucks and of the
  818. houses constitutes them as the
    human.
  819. They are precisely the human.
  820. We see things,
    in other words,
  821. from the point of view of the
    apparatus.
  822. Just as the filmgoer sees
    things from the point of view of
  823. the camera,
    so we see Tony the Tow Truck
  824. from the point of view of
    the tow truck,
  825. right?
  826. And what happens?
  827. Just as the camera eye point of
    view leaves that which is seen,
  828. as Benjamin puts it,
    "equipment-free"--
  829. so, oddly enough,
    if we see things from the
  830. standpoint of equipment,
    what we look at is the moral of
  831. the story: in other words,
    the humanity of the story.
  832. What we see,
    in other words,
  833. surrounded by all of this
    equipment, is precisely the
  834. equipment-free human aspect of
    reality.
  835. So Tony the Tow Truck
    works in a way that is
  836. consistent with Benjamin's
    theory of mechanical
  837. reproduction.
  838. For Adorno, however,
    the acquiescence of this very
  839. figure--
    the apparatus of mechanical
  840. reproduction,
    of towing again and again and
  841. again--
    in the inequity of class
  842. relations,
    rejected as always by Neato and
  843. Speedy,
    proves that the apparatus which
  844. Benjamin's theory takes to be
    independent of the machinations
  845. of the culture industry,
    that the apparatus in turn can
  846. be suborned and commandeered by
    the culture industry for its own
  847. purposes.
  848. All right.
  849. I will skip over Jameson.
  850. The Old Historicist reading of
    Tony simply reconfirms a
  851. status quo in which virtue is
    clear,
  852. vice is clear,
    both are uncontested,
  853. and nothing changes--in other
    words,
  854. a status quo which reflects a
    stagnant,
  855. existent, unchanging social
    dynamic.
  856. The New Historicism in a lot of
    ways is doing this,
  857. but let me just conclude by
    suggesting that if literature
  858. influences history,
    Tony the Tow Truck might
  859. well explain why today we're
    promoting fuel-efficient cars,
  860. why the attack on the gas
    guzzler and the SUV or minivan--
  861. remember the car that says
    "I am too busy"--
  862. is so prevalent in the story,
    and why if we read today's
  863. headlines we need to get rid of
    the Humvee if GM is to prosper,
  864. and we need to downsize and
    streamline the available models.
  865. The little guys,
    Tony and Bumpy,
  866. reaffirm the need for
    fuel-efficient smaller vehicles
  867. and you can plainly see that
    Tony the Tow Truck is
  868. therefore a discourse that
    produces history.
  869. All of this,
    according to the prescription
  870. of Tony, is
    actually happening.
  871. All right.
  872. Thank you very much.
  873. One thing that needs to be said
    about Tony the Tow Truck
  874. is it has no women in it,
    and that is the issue that
  875. we'll be taking up on Thursday.