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Critical Studies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2007

Stanley Wells
Affiliation:
University of Birmingham
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Summary

‘The study of literature has clearly changed profoundly in many ways during the last twenty years or so, and all of us have perforce participated in these changes with varying degrees of delight, resistance, confusion, excitement and so on.’ Edward Pechter’s summary is undeniably accurate, and over the last five years it has often been convenient to use the varying responses to this changing landscape as a means of structuring the first section of this annual survey. But in this, my final year, there seems to have come something of a change of temper. In place of often acrimonious confrontation there seems to be more interest in modes of accommodation between different critical perspectives. Edward Pechter’s book, What Was Shakespeare?, is, indeed, founded upon an attempt not to reconcile conflicting positions, but to accept the fact of disagreement as necessary, inevitable and irresolvable, and to characterize it as something to live with and through. In a series of rewritings of already published essays he gives his grounds, often wittily, for a belief that ‘the fundamental conflicts within Shakespeare criticism cannot be resolved’. But his response is neither despair, nor an embattled espousal of one or other critical position, but a Rortyinspired pragmatism, so that the answer to the question ‘What is to be done?’ turns out to be ‘business as usual’.

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Shakespeare Survey , pp. 281 - 298
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1996

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