Archive for September, 2009

Shakespearan drama…

September 26, 2009

Shakespearan drama is usually thought of as the embodiment of a truly popular art, whatever ‘bourgeois’ or aristocratic dimensions it also possesses.
But Shakespeare remains something of an embarrassment to contemporary theorists of levelling tendency.
One contributor to Re-Reading English wants to deconstruct Shakespeare and his texts into the socio-economic-cultural-political contexts in which they originated.
He writes, ‘The notion of the sacrosanct text is alien to the period and yet it is central to the literary criticism of Shakespeare.’
In what spirit and then, was the First Folio produced in 1623?
The work of recent British theorists does have lines of connection with older forms of discourse, whether the New Criticism and traditional scholarship, earlier Marxist criticism, or the Cultural Studies approach given a fresh impetus in the 1950s by Richard Hoggart and Raymond Williams.
Even Terry Eagleton and the eminent Marxist now installed at Oxford to teach critical theory exclusively, has, as I have elsewhere argued, never completely escaped from the Leavisite Cambridge of the sixties.
His most rebarbative work,Criticism and Ideology , is an Althusserian rewriting of The Great Tradition .
As an American commentator has remarked of Eagleton, ‘You can take the boy out of Cambridge, but you can’t take Cambridge out of the boy.’
Yet whatever continuities there are and the general impression, whether pleased or panicky and that recent theoretical work represents something new is broadly correct.
The newness is apparent in manner as well as in matter; a rude, derisive tone is noticeable, particularly in the prose of Eagleton and Hawkes.
The latter concluded an argument with Graham Hough in the correspondence columns of the London Review of Books with the suggestion that Hough should ‘piss off’.
Some readers may have been shocked that one professor of English should thus refer to another, but these are robust times.
The objects of derision may be placed, in order of increasing generality, in the following list: the institutional study of English Literature in British higher education; English Literature; Englishness; literature; bourgeois society (which includes racism and sexism); late capitalism; Western culture.
These items are all connected, and any of them may be used  as analogies or homologies for each other.
The polemic is supported by an implicit mythology, in which English culture is presented as insular, complacent, empirical, philistine, unreflective, untheoretical, and generally slumped in dogmatic slumbers.
Against the dominant dullness and grossness a growing band of lively and intelligent spirits have embarked on a hopeful struggle, calling in aid the power of ideas from other parts of the world, particularly, France.
This looks very like the rerun of a scenario first enacted in the early years of this century, when two unknown expatriate American poets attacked a torpid English literary establishment in the name of nascent modernism, looking to France for their intellectual inspiration and their models of literary achievement.
Eliot and Pound did establish a poetic revolution, and in the seventies and early eighties the rhetoric of revolution became attractive to anglophone poststructuralists.
But it remained rhetoric, language rather than achievement.
The breakdown of English intellectual insularity is welcome in principle, but a few things need to be said about this new turn to France.
It has become common form to invoke the magic names of the French theorists, as if the names alone would cause a torpid academic establishment to collapse.
The use of names rather than arguments as ammunition has become noticeable in such exercises, on both sides of the Atlantic, as Chris Baldick remarks in a review of Frederick Crews’s Skeptical Engagements :
One lamentable practice which Crews rightly scorns is the increasingly revived trick or medieval rhetoric in which one attempts to substantiate one’s theoretical argument not by anything so vulgarly empirical as a fact or a text but merely by invoking a name from the sacred pantheon.
Derrida, Foucault, Kristeva, Lacan, Barthes: just reeling off their names is (as Auden said in a very different context) ever so comfy and since it safely defers the issues at hand to nothing less than a transcendent signified: in short and to a star.
This clinging to authority has, in my experience, become noticeable in graduate students and young academics in the past ten years or so.
I take it to be a product of the myth I described above: ‘I am fighting against the entrenched forces of insular stupidity, and I call upon the French to aid me!’
Such invocations are, in fact, very vulnerable.


It is only when one moves…

September 7, 2009

It is only when one moves into the realms of complicated, multi-column pages which have several different sizes and styles of print with perhaps some photographs as well that the user really needs to worry about page makeup software.
Once again there are many names to choose from but it is at this point that the design of the Amstrad PC starts to interfere.
Because of the restrictions placed on adding high resolution display cards or monitors much of the product on sale or announced for PCs will not operate.
Limiting oneself to just the products that run on the standard graphics card, be it colour or monochrome and reduces the options to a mere handful.
Two programs which are virtually guaranteed to work are Fontasy and Fleet Street Editor which is the same as Clickart Personal Publisher to all intents and purposes.
While the latter is much more of a page makeup program than Fontasy they both produce roughly the same results at the end of the day.
A product well worth noting that definitely isn’t a page makeup package in the terms described here but which does a better job when it comes to producing newsletter pages and so on is Newswriter.
This should also work perfectly happily on a 1512 system as it make no special demands on graphics presentation.
Desktop publishing, as far as the user is concerned, is really the action of producing documents that look as though they have been professionally designed and produced by traditional methods.
The software used to produce the end results is, by and large, fairly irrelevant.
The important thing is to establish just what the end result is to be and then find the right software.
Attacking the problem from the other end can be expensive and time consuming and involve the use of skills which the artistically untrained user is unlikely to have.
Unless someone can crack the problem of how to incorporate higher quality displays and graphics cards in an Amstrad PC it is unlikely that the machine will figure largely at the page makeup end of the market.
In most cases the processing power required is that of an AT type machine with a Hercules or EGA graphics card so until Amstrad come out with the next generation machine this aspect of desktop publishing will have to wait.
There is, however, nothing to stop the PC1512 being used where either text on it own or simple text and graphics from programs like Gem Draw are involved.
There is also a strong argument for using several of the machines as word processors or graphics generators and passing the data on to a larger central system for final assembly.