Shakespeare's Universal Wolf: Studies in Early Modern Reification

By Hugh L. Grady | Go to book overview

Conclusion: Shakespeare and the Postmodern Condition

CULTURAL MATERIALISM AND THE SUBJECT

After the earlier work of Greenblatt, Dollimore, Sinfield, Belsey, Eagleton, Felperin, Goldberg, Marcus, and the other feminists, deconstructors, cultural materialists, and new historicists to whom my notes attest my indebtedness -- and after Terence Hawkes's pioneering studies in the inevitable construction of Shakespearean interpretations in the interpreter's present;1 and after my own The Modernist Shakespeare, which disclosed the aging 'Modernist' element in the governing approaches to Shakespeare of the recent past -- I am presuming that my enterprise of using twentieth-century social theory as a prism for the reading of early modern texts will seem less scandalous than it might have only a few years ago. However, it is already clear that the professionalist response (particularly in the USA) to the insurgency of recent Shakespearean criticism has been to produce a domesticated, largely deradicalized version of the new historicism, stripped of much of its theoretical edge and committed to a return to positivist historicism with a new set of terms and topics to replace the now completely depleted and discredited store that had been supplied in 1943 by E. M. W. Tillyard. My aim in this work instead has been to emphasize the very 'presentist', theoretical aspects of cultural materialism and cultural poetics that are in danger of disappearing as the dust of the recent paradigm shift settles and we enter a period of 'normal science'. My interest in reification in the Renaissance is closely linked to my perception that we are still living in a reified world following a good deal of the logic identified and problematized in Shakespeare's texts. And I believe some version of the critique of reification discussed here will be crucial in developing an ideologically new, post-Communist oppositional politics for the twenty-first century.

As I noted in Chapter 1, I have worked out of a version of

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1
Terence Hawkes, That Shakespeherian Rag: Essays on a Critical Process ( London: Methuen, 1986) and Meaning by Shakespeare ( London: Routledge, 1992).

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