Making Sense of Shakespeare

Making Sense of Shakespeare

Making Sense of Shakespeare

Making Sense of Shakespeare

Synopsis

"This book argues for the existence and deployment of non-visual imagination in the reading and viewing of Shakespeare. It seeks to save the imagination of Shakespeare from abstractness and restore such imagination to a literal concreteness of somatic sensory experience. Instead of considering "the body" from the outside in the manner of cultural critics, Frey considers the reader and viewer's body from the inside in the manner of subjective responders or some affective critics. He argues that Lear's "howl," for example, targets and rewards physical hearing, physical speaking, and their accompanying emotions as somatically connected to current or remembered sensations in mouth, throat, and lungs." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Through this book, I address "you" as reader of shakespeare and other imaginative writers. As you read such writers, I urge you to honor the engagement of your senses in your sensemaking.

To make sense of a text (or a day), you and I organize disparate parts—sounds, images, textures, tones, and feelings—into coherent wholes—sensations, perceptions, words, concepts, moods. in the course of such organizing, we share a tendency, I believe, to select from sensory experience so as to construct models of understanding. These models lack the vivid concreteness and particularity that arise when appearances are attended to carefully. We may attend selectively, of course, to concrete as well as abstract data, still, in much of life, the tendency to abstract concepts from concrete experience enhances progress through the day. Simply to heed its signal, I needn’t notice that the stoplight is dirty, dented, or swaying in the wind. in other parts of life, however, undue abstraction may hinder our purposes.

In the study of imaginative literature (and indeed all art), a tendency to construct selective interpretations may interfere with appreciation. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?" (Sonnet 18.1) can signal more to a reader than the abstract message: “you are lovely.” Considering how a cherished person might compare to a summer’s day—reaching into memories of summer days and pondering attributes that might link a lover or a friend to light, fragrance, warmth, happy sounds, relaxed postures, or movements through the tender air—may initiate an unaccustomed journey into complex, nonvisual, sometimes disturbing, sensory registers. Visual imagination, in particular, may resist yielding to or adding on nonvisual empathies, preferring to “see” the “darling buds of May” shake at some distance rather than to focus on sensations of bodily movement, the kinesthetic feel, of shaking in “rough winds.” Trained as we are, moreover, to read for “content,” as for the abstract message of words, we may find . . .

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