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Old 04-16-2014, 03:55 PM   #1
oggbashan
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Shakespeare's The Tempest

My eldest daughter has asked me to give one of her students a masterclass on The Tempest.

I have tried explaining that I have never studied The Tempest, but the daughter considers me to be more competent on Shakespeare than she is.

Help! I need advice. What do you think an A Level student (University entrance level) should consider about The Tempest? Which critics would you recommend? Any useful links? (I can find dozens of links at a basic level, but some of them are just too simplistic to be any help.)

What does Caliban represent?

And Ariel?

Is Prospero Shakespeare himself?

Any bright ideas?

Please?
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Old 04-16-2014, 04:24 PM   #2
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That Prospero is Shakespeare is rather obvious; the real fun is in trying to figure out who everyone else is. Some are likely as allegorical as they seem to be, and that'll bring you to another level of having fun in the teapot. Test your knowledge of early 17th Century London, or take the easy way out and just tell them it's all a secret code for finding the Wholey Grill. After all, they're just A Levels!
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Old 04-16-2014, 04:35 PM   #3
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The Tempest is one of my favorite works from Shakespeare. To me it has an almost fairy tale theme: banished duke on a remote island finally gets his chance at revenge. Prospero is a powerful man made almost impotent by his seclusion on the isle, with nothing to do but protect his daughter Miranda and pick on Caliban all day. Then along comes a ship full of the very people Prospero despises.

Despite being a powerful sorcerer who can whip up a storm to suit his whims, Prospero never actually kills anyone; he doesn't want to. He wants to subjugate them, teach them a lesson for having stolen his dukedom. At the same time, he's a very doting and protective father who only wants the best for his daughter.

Caliban is, without a doubt, one of the most interesting characters Shakespeare ever created. He's the only native on the island, a product of a witch and the Devil. He's a misshapen, trollish little runt who, apparently, tried to rape pure, virginal Miranda at one point. Prospero has kept Caliban on a short leash ever since as a personal slave.

A lot of analysis has gone into just what Caliban is supposed to represent, if anything. There's the idea that his name is an anagram of cannibal, that he represents the "savages" of the Caribbean, or that he's somehow a metaphor for the results of European imperialism. A lot of people like the latter take, pointing out that Caliban is a "thing of darkness" (interpreted as being dark-skinned), a native of an isle to which big, bad Europeans have come to enslave him.

Take it as you will.

If you're going to search for analyses on The Tempest, you'd probably want to go through Google Scholar as opposed to the regular search.

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Old 04-16-2014, 04:42 PM   #4
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This actually isn't a bad analysis.
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Old 04-16-2014, 06:21 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oggbashan View Post
My eldest daughter has asked me to give one of her students a masterclass on The Tempest.

I have tried explaining that I have never studied The Tempest, but the daughter considers me to be more competent on Shakespeare than she is.

Help! I need advice. What do you think an A Level student (University entrance level) should consider about The Tempest? Which critics would you recommend? Any useful links? (I can find dozens of links at a basic level, but some of them are just too simplistic to be any help.)

What does Caliban represent?

And Ariel?

Is Prospero Shakespeare himself?

Any bright ideas?

Please?
If she's keen, she might want to check out Forbidden Planet which is essentially a sci-fi adaptation of FP: Ariel becomes Robbie the Robot, and Caliban is an invisible monster that's a projection of the "wizard"'s id.

It also shows up in Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" comic series; Morpheus (lord of dreams) makes a bargain with Shakespeare for two plays, and "The Tempest" is used as a good-bye note to wrap up the series. I'd recommend reading the issues "Men of Good Fortune", "A Midsummer Night's Dream", and then "The Tempest", although frankly the whole series is worth reading for anybody interested in storytelling.

*ish.
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Old 04-16-2014, 06:41 PM   #6
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I seem to remember a sci-fi film loosely based on this play.
Robby the Robot and I think the main character was played by Walter Pidgeon.
I think it was Forbidden Planet.
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Old 04-16-2014, 06:54 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by slyc_willie View Post
This actually isn't a bad analysis.
Thank you for that. There is a considerable amount of useful information on the site.
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Old 04-16-2014, 06:57 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bramblethorn View Post
If she's keen, she might want to check out Forbidden Planet which is essentially a sci-fi adaptation of FP: Ariel becomes Robbie the Robot, and Caliban is an invisible monster that's a projection of the "wizard"'s id.

It also shows up in Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" comic series; Morpheus (lord of dreams) makes a bargain with Shakespeare for two plays, and "The Tempest" is used as a good-bye note to wrap up the series. I'd recommend reading the issues "Men of Good Fortune", "A Midsummer Night's Dream", and then "The Tempest", although frankly the whole series is worth reading for anybody interested in storytelling.

*ish.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Handley_Page View Post
I seem to remember a sci-fi film loosely based on this play.
Robby the Robot and I think the main character was played by Walter Pidgeon.
I think it was Forbidden Planet.
Thank you for those.

I am aware of Forbidden Planet and some of the other works inspired by The Tempest, but it is Shakespeare's play that has to be the focus this time, not the other works derived from it.
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Old 04-16-2014, 07:08 PM   #9
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I am getting old so that often I remember ideas but not details, but I believe one of the purposes of the play was to poke fun at one or more actual monarchs who infact ususrped a throne. I do know that the groundlings hears the satirical royal stuff and howled with glee. Shakespeare often poked fun at his own royalty, who often as not might actually be in the theatre. Then the groundlings really loved it!

The first question in my shakespeare unit for my classes was: How many bathrooms were there in the globe theatre?
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Old 04-16-2014, 07:27 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by robertreams View Post
...

The first question in my shakespeare unit for my classes was: How many bathrooms were there in the globe theatre?
Since we are on Literotica, a more appropriate question might be:

"How many prostitutes were there in the Globe theatre?"

Thespians and Prostitutes were considered as polluting the City of London - which is why the Globe had to be built on the South Bank, outside the City limits. Prostitutes worked theatres and accosted theatre patrons up to the early 20th Century. Actresses, once there were actresses instead of all male players, were assumed to be ladies of easy virtue.

Earlier, the City Fathers had been content to assign particular areas for sex and entertainment. There was a Grope Cunt Lane in the City of London - the red light district. The street still exists but has been renamed.
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Old 04-16-2014, 08:19 PM   #11
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Og. Just be thankful she didn't ask you to do Lear. That's the old guysplay - and the one about dads and daughters - and the bad things the girls get up to.
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Old 04-16-2014, 08:47 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oggbashan View Post
What does Caliban represent?

And Ariel?

Is Prospero Shakespeare himself?
Prospero was most certainly Shakespeare. From what we know, Shakespeare usually got the "old man" parts which is why a lot of his plays have some old man or other who gets to say a lot--and often the best lines, even if it's a small or side part. In this instance, the play seeming to be his "retirement" play, his older gent role gets to be the very cool lead. And Shakespeare gets to say all he wants to say about being the wizard who creates plays and directs them.

Shakespeare, as we can see from Hamlet's words to the players, was the typical artist in that he didn't like actors messing around with his words or directions. If he wrote it down for them to do this or that, he expected them to do this or that. Just as Prospero expects Ariel to do as he's told.

Ariel represents higher reason and magic, obedient to Prospero, our Rennissance man. Caliban is base nature, disobeying or trying to disobey Prospero and only kept in line by fear and pain. He would rather serve the buffoons who give him drink and promise him pleasure, but he does have a saving grace. Unlike those buffoons, he doesn't care anything for wealth, and he does, in the end, respect Prospero over the buffoons when their buffoonery finally becomes obvious to him.

And, yes, he is based on all the stories that were arriving at that time of natives that were being discovered. Not surprisingly, Shakespeare holds that the civilized white man is doing these uncivilized natives a favor and they're not appreciating it when they attempt to civilize them. There is only so much, he seems to think, that can be done to change their natures, but like Prospero, he acknowledges them as "ours" and the white man's burden, as it were, to do what can be done.

Ariel, magic and imagination are set free at the end and Prospero's books "drowned" in the sea (Shakespeare retires from creating plays)--lot of ocean, water, metaphors in it. The play that starts with a storm, and a situation all wrong, ends with weddings and calm and everything put right. Though the play draws on a lot of other sources, by the way (myth with the father daughter set adrift at sea, etc.), it is considered one of Shakespeare's only "original" plays (though Merry Wives might also be?). Meaning he didn't use any other source as the skeleton. This he patched together all by himself.

And I can recommend the Helen Mirren version. Very nice to have a "Prospera."
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Old 04-16-2014, 10:02 PM   #13
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I've not read Tempest (it's on my to read shelf) but your description brings a movie to mind.

Forbidden Planet.

From what I can see almost every element is there in some form... Hum.

Have got a week out of town coming up need to pack this along.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by slyc_willie View Post
The Tempest is one of my favorite works from Shakespeare. To me it has an almost fairy tale theme: banished duke on a remote island finally gets his chance at revenge. Prospero is a powerful man made almost impotent by his seclusion on the isle, with nothing to do but protect his daughter Miranda and pick on Caliban all day. Then along comes a ship full of the very people Prospero despises.

Despite being a powerful sorcerer who can whip up a storm to suit his whims, Prospero never actually kills anyone; he doesn't want to. He wants to subjugate them, teach them a lesson for having stolen his dukedom. At the same time, he's a very doting and protective father who only wants the best for his daughter.

Caliban is, without a doubt, one of the most interesting characters Shakespeare ever created. He's the only native on the island, a product of a witch and the Devil. He's a misshapen, trollish little runt who, apparently, tried to rape pure, virginal Miranda at one point. Prospero has kept Caliban on a short leash ever since as a personal slave.

A lot of analysis has gone into just what Caliban is supposed to represent, if anything. There's the idea that his name is an anagram of cannibal, that he represents the "savages" of the Caribbean, or that he's somehow a metaphor for the results of European imperialism. A lot of people like the latter take, pointing out that Caliban is a "thing of darkness" (interpreted as being dark-skinned), a native of an isle to which big, bad Europeans have come to enslave him.

Take it as you will.

If you're going to search for analyses on The Tempest, you'd probably want to go through Google Scholar as opposed to the regular search.
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Old 04-16-2014, 10:06 PM   #14
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Old 04-16-2014, 11:15 PM   #15
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Over the last twenty years, the most important influential approaches to The Tempest have focused on post-colonial theory. Caliban has been of particular importance in these readings, as well as the "construction" of the New World. Critics have considered the ways that imperialism and colonialism have shaped the representation of the cultural/ethnic "Other," and ponder the power imbalance between cultural/national margins and centers. This is part of the broader movement of what's called "cultural studies," itself a late iteration of post-structuralism. You might look up Edward Said and Homi Bhabha, but the simplest thing to do, in order to get up to speed on university-level readings of The Tempest, would be to do a google search of the play and post-colonial theory. It's kind of dense stuff. Good luck!
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Old 04-17-2014, 04:16 AM   #16
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Over the last twenty years, the most important influential approaches to The Tempest have focused on post-colonial theory.
Bollocks! Over the last twenty years the most important approach to The Tempest has been that of the 99% who saw it as a good night's entertainment.

But on second thought, mebbe not bollocks, but pretentious, pseudo intellectual bollocks.
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Old 04-17-2014, 04:54 AM   #17
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I don't buy the idea that any writer spends a moment coding prose with mysterious meanings for perfessers to mine. I wonder what Don McLean has to say about it.
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Old 04-17-2014, 07:23 AM   #18
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Bollocks! Over the last twenty years the most important approach to The Tempest has been that of the 99% who saw it as a good night's entertainment.

But on second thought, mebbe not bollocks, but pretentious, pseudo intellectual bollocks.
Why the rudeness? I was not endorsing post colonial theory, and in fact I'm no fan. The OP asked what a university student should know, and I took that to mean: "what's the current academic take on The Tempest?" I answered.

Seriously, why all the anti-intellectualism out here? I'm all for entertainment, though I also think we can reach a little bit when we encounter something complex, difficult, and challenging. Why not ask questions of a great work of art? The notion that we should discouraging thinking about art and "take it for what it is" or just "enjoy" it is fine if that's you thing, but why is it so offensive to want to talk it out, look at it from different perspectives, appreciate it in these other ways? Should the OP merely tell his daughter's class to ignore the plurality of meanings, as well as current intellectual trends, and see it only as a good night's entertainment? Doesn't that at least beg the question: what is a good night's entertainment? And why has The Tempest become a critical darling over the last twenty years? What's wrong with *thinking* about the play's extraordinary power?

I presume that some people out here take the Literotica stories as 99% entertainment and discourage any kind of insight or interpretation. But I think it's also possible to find *pleasure,* even erotic pleasure, in thinking about the stories, thinking about their cultural content, thinking about the craft and wordplay, thinking about the authorship, thinking about desire in a broader context, etc. Why put limits on how we approach and appreciate, even love, art?
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Old 04-17-2014, 07:24 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colddiesel View Post
Bollocks! Over the last twenty years the most important approach to The Tempest has been that of the 99% who saw it as a good night's entertainment.

But on second thought, mebbe not bollocks, but pretentious, pseudo intellectual bollocks.
True. But that's what good A level students are expected to read - all the flood of drivel that has been written about Shakespeare in the last 20 years.

I'm trying to recall a SF short story in which Shakespeare was brought by a time traveller to a University in the 20th Century. He was enrolled in a freshman module on Shakespeare - and failed it.

Edited: Googled it.

Isaac Asimov: The Immortal Bard.

Plot summary

The physics professor, Dr. Phineas Welch, has gotten himself slightly drunk and begins speaking with Scott Robertson, a young English teacher. Welch announces, "I can bring back the spirits of the illustrious dead." He goes on to explain that, via "temporal transference", he can bring people from the past into the present. At first, Robertson treats Welch's story as an amusing, alcohol-induced fantasy, and he begins to enjoy the conversation. Welch says that he first tried bringing eminent scientists from earlier eras—Archimedes, Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei. However, none of the scientists were adaptable enough to handle twentieth-century society; Welch realized that he needed to find an adaptable, universal mind.

"So," he continues, "I tried Shakespeare." This startles and incenses Robertson, since it strikes "closer to home". Shakespeare, according to Welch, was flexible enough to understand human beings of every era, and he adjusted to the modern world much more easily. Welch reports that Shakespeare was eager to find what future generations thought of him. When Welch finds him a book of literary criticism, Shakespeare cries in exasperation, "God ha' mercy! What cannot be racked from words in five centuries? One could wring, methinks, a flood from a damp clout!"

Eventually, Welch says, he enrolled Shakespeare in a night school class on Shakespeare's plays—taught, as it happens, by Robertson. At this point, Robertson begins to become genuinely worried. He recalls a bald man with an unusual accent, and starts to doubt whether Welch's story was all alcoholic fantasy. Timidly, he asks Welch what happened, and the physicist explodes with anger. Shakespeare had been humiliated, he says, and Welch had to send him back to 1600: "You poor simpleton, you flunked him!"

Asimov comments that he wrote the story to get back at English teachers. Additionally he says, that the story is really about himself. Not being able to answer most of the questions he's posed on his works, he realizes he would probably flunk a test on himself.
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Old 04-17-2014, 07:36 AM   #20
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Why the rudeness? I was not endorsing post colonial theory, and in fact I'm no fan. The OP asked what a university student should know, and I took that to mean: "what's the current academic take on The Tempest?" I answered.

Seriously, why all the anti-intellectualism out here? I'm all for entertainment, though I also think we can reach a little bit when we encounter something complex, difficult, and challenging. Why not ask questions of a great work of art? The notion that we should discouraging thinking about art and "take it for what it is" or just "enjoy" it is fine if that's you thing, but why is it so offensive to want to talk it out, look at it from different perspectives, appreciate it in these other ways? Should the OP merely tell his daughter's class to ignore the plurality of meanings, as well as current intellectual trends, and see it only as a good night's entertainment? Doesn't that at least beg the question: what is a good night's entertainment? And why has The Tempest become a critical darling over the last twenty years? What's wrong with *thinking* about the play's extraordinary power?

I presume that some people out here take the Literotica stories as 99% entertainment and discourage any kind of insight or interpretation. But I think it's also possible to find *pleasure,* even erotic pleasure, in thinking about the stories, thinking about their cultural content, thinking about the craft and wordplay, thinking about the authorship, thinking about desire in a broader context, etc. Why put limits on how we approach and appreciate, even love, art?
Because it becomes a Rorschach Test when you drift away from what it is and start the imagination-projection bull shit.
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Old 04-17-2014, 07:52 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oggbashan View Post
True. But that's what good A level students are expected to read - all the flood of drivel that has been written about Shakespeare in the last 20 years.

I'm trying to recall a SF short story in which Shakespeare was brought by a time traveller to a University in the 20th Century. He was enrolled in a freshman module on Shakespeare - and failed it.

Edited: Googled it.

Isaac Asimov: The Immortal Bard.

Plot summary

The physics professor, Dr. Phineas Welch, has gotten himself slightly drunk and begins speaking with Scott Robertson, a young English teacher. Welch announces, "I can bring back the spirits of the illustrious dead." He goes on to explain that, via "temporal transference", he can bring people from the past into the present. At first, Robertson treats Welch's story as an amusing, alcohol-induced fantasy, and he begins to enjoy the conversation. Welch says that he first tried bringing eminent scientists from earlier eras—Archimedes, Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei. However, none of the scientists were adaptable enough to handle twentieth-century society; Welch realized that he needed to find an adaptable, universal mind.

"So," he continues, "I tried Shakespeare." This startles and incenses Robertson, since it strikes "closer to home". Shakespeare, according to Welch, was flexible enough to understand human beings of every era, and he adjusted to the modern world much more easily. Welch reports that Shakespeare was eager to find what future generations thought of him. When Welch finds him a book of literary criticism, Shakespeare cries in exasperation, "God ha' mercy! What cannot be racked from words in five centuries? One could wring, methinks, a flood from a damp clout!"

Eventually, Welch says, he enrolled Shakespeare in a night school class on Shakespeare's plays—taught, as it happens, by Robertson. At this point, Robertson begins to become genuinely worried. He recalls a bald man with an unusual accent, and starts to doubt whether Welch's story was all alcoholic fantasy. Timidly, he asks Welch what happened, and the physicist explodes with anger. Shakespeare had been humiliated, he says, and Welch had to send him back to 1600: "You poor simpleton, you flunked him!"

Asimov comments that he wrote the story to get back at English teachers. Additionally he says, that the story is really about himself. Not being able to answer most of the questions he's posed on his works, he realizes he would probably flunk a test on himself.
I had an experience similar to this, if on a much, much, much, lesser scale.

When I was in college, there was a university-wide short story contest. The prize for the contest was the small amount of acclaim that comes with such things, a run in the university rag, just a smidge of scholarship money ($500--be still my heart) ,and that the winning story would be taught in a 100-level creative writing class that the author would sit in on.

The fickle gods of undergrad fiction smiled on me--or at least gave me a drunken thumbs-up--and I won. When it came time for the last part, the teaching part, the professor for the class, a blustery fellow with a solid education and little to no doubt about his own keen intellect, proceeded to expound at great length about the hidden symbolism and vast cultural references inherent in my stunning opus.

Except, of course, it was all absolute tripe. He had dressed up my little pig of a story to look like Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra, and then slid his tenured dick into it like he was bedding an empress, hard enough to elicit some squeals, dragging it out, sure to leave his own stamp. It was something akin to that old SNL sketch, where Maya Angelou writes a poem for Fruit Loops. Just eat the fucking cereal, bitch. It was the first moment in which I understood, profoundly, that higher learning might be as much bullshit as brilliance.
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Old 04-17-2014, 08:12 AM   #22
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Old 04-17-2014, 08:53 AM   #23
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The notion that literature "speaks itself" seems hopeless to me. I understand the desire to let a work "be what it is," but what could that possibly mean? Zen Buddhism teaches that the thusness of things is the highest form of understanding, and yet it takes a rare mind to see such thusness. Even putting aside my earlier comments about the intellectual and even erotic *pleasure* that some of us take in developing readings, even putting aside the sad rejection of the humanities as a field of knowledge, I am mystified by the notion that we should take a work of art for what it is.

Let's consider The Tempest. To say that it's "entertainment" is not to "take it for what it is"; rather, it's to give it a category (entertainment) that carries with it certain expectations about its consumption (that we won't "overthink" it and will enjoy it). That's a notion that is entirely contrived. Worse, we can say that it's passive; the danger is that the meanings of a work come packaged for us (in this case, "don't think about it, and especially don't think about any cultural subversive or aesthetically blistering passages, and just let it slide over you as entertainment"). So 1960s protest songs are now used in advertisements in between segments of commercially-driven television shows; it's all entertainment. But we can see art as more than that--as protest, as beauty, as therapy, as experiment, and so on. And, to return to my main point, for someone to claim that they know "what it is" amounts to a pre-emptive strike against dissenting voices and possibilities.

Or: what IS "The Tempest"? It's a trick question, because however you answer you're in a category of thought and language, and you've always already lost "what it is." We can ask the same question of anything. What is a tree? What is an erotic story? What is desire?

I don't mean that we need to write a dissertation on every movie we see or meal that we eat. But it is to say that movies and meals are not experienced in a vacuum, and their "meaning" is not self-evident.
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Old 04-17-2014, 09:15 AM   #24
JAMESBJOHNSON
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Too much navel gazing for me.

We want tuna that tastes good NOT tuna with good taste.
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Old 04-17-2014, 09:19 AM   #25
headdoctor
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JAMESBJOHNSON View Post
Too much navel gazing for me.

We want tuna that tastes good NOT tuna with good taste.
"Navel gazing" is a metaphor. The tuna sentence is an allusion as well as a metaphor. Neither line means what it says.
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