Monday, January 25, 2010

"O! thou hast damnable iteration, and art indeed able to corrupt a saint."

Your loyal blogger was up last night reading Marjorie Garber's Shakespeare and Modern Culture, an occasionally excellent set of essays on our evolving contemporary perceptions of the Bard's plays.  I must admit a bias towards Garber's work, stemming from her defence of the 1996 movie Romeo + Juliet as just-as-good-if-not-better than the 1968 film adaptation.  As anyone else who was in school when Baz Luhrmann's utterly charming, painfully witty, and visually epic R+J was released remembers, it was wrongfully yet universally despised by English teachers nationwide as mere pop pablum.

A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but apparently a Southern California setting, and an MTV-approved soundtrack disqualify the Bard's work from the status of "great art".

Perhaps more interesting in Shakespeare and Modern Culture is Garber's ambitious look at Henry V as an example of Jacques Derrida's concept of iterability.  Remember: he is not just his in own eponymous play, but he's Henry IV's disappointing lowlife son, Prince Hal.  In Henry V, he is the same character written by the same playwright in the same series of histories, but a new iteration of himself: once the young gadabout is now the mature hero of Agincourt.

And now for another illustration of iterability: our 262nd Annual Meeting is tomorrow night, at 5PM.  While it won't be as lavish as the 20th iteration (1768, for which our records show a price tag of just under a million dollars in today's money), it will have wine (unlike, say, the 259th iteration), and it will have Bernard Cornwell -a man who knows a little something about Agincourt- as guest speaker, making it the first iteration to be addressed by an Officer of the Order of British Empire (at least, the first time since we stopped being a member of the British Empire).  It's also the first time parking will be available at the SCE&G lot adjacent to the Library.

Derrida wrote:

iterability makes possible idealization- and thus, a certain identity in repetition that is independent of the multiplicity of  factual events- while at the same time limiting the idealization it makes possible: broaching and breaching it at once.

Which, I think means, that while we won't have a spiral sliced ham or those little pastel mints, there will be tasty little egg rolls, and Bernard Cornwell, which is pretty close to ideal.  So, as Derrida himself, and all the dead knights of Agincourt might say, vous devez être là!

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