Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Shakespeare NOW!

When I was browsing in Shaman Drum last month, I came upon a set of slim volumes with the series title, Shakespeare NOW! The series is published by Continuum Books, London and New York and is edited by Simon Palfrey and Ewan Fernie with the intention of offering “ . . . a series of intellectual adventure stories: animate with fresh and often exposed thinking, with ideas still heating in the mind.”

The book that caught my eye is Shakespeare Thinking by Philip Davis of the University of Liverpool School of English. This is a dense book in terms of ideas and thrilling to read – I believe Davis has met the challenge of talking about the work of Shakespeare in new and challenging ways. From what I understand, Davis argues that Shakespeare’s language accesses the actual creation of thought – that Shakespeare shows us reality coming into language, unfiltered by consciousness.
In this language, nothing is taken for granted and nothing is already known. With Shakespeare, whatever it is, it is always as though for the first time again. Mind, like character itself, is not there to begin with in Shakespeare; it is dramatically thought into being on the stage. It is that way round: the thought suddenly creating consciousness – the consciousness of what it is that is thinking it. It is not the old classical principle of operari sequitur esse – such that ‘being’ comes first and then ‘function’ follows from it. It is not that characters can enter fully-formed. Rather, the right order with Shakespeare is that of evolutionary theory and of process philosophy – that being follows from function and is itself created by what can be done. In a sort of mental loop, the mind of a Lear or a Macbeth is terrified to see what events show he has become. p. 39

Intriguing and exciting with lots to think about. My copy bristles with orange, yellow, blue and green flags – ridiculous! I must simply read it over and over again and not try to piece out the good parts.

The other books in the Shakespeare NOW! series that are already published are:
To Be Or Not To Be by Douglas Bruster
Shakespeare Inside by Amy Scott-Douglass
Godless Shakespeare by Eric S. Mallin

Coming out next year are:
Shakespeare’s Modern Collaborators by Lukas Erne Feb
Shakespeare’s Double Helix by Henry S. Turner Feb
Shakespearean Metaphysics by Michael Witmore June
Shakespeare & the Political Way
by Elizabeth Frazer Jul

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