"Beyond a common joy": Criticism and the value of Shakespeare's romances.

Title: "Beyond a common joy": Criticism and the value of Shakespeare's romances.
Authors: Maillet, Gregory.
Date: 1996
Abstract: Aware that much recent criticism in Shakespeare studies has again made controversial the long assumed high value of Shakespeare's writings, my thesis is motivated and unified by one central question: how can literary critics "move closer to a true knowledge of the actual value" of Shakespeare's romances? This question itself provokes many other questions, however, and to answer these the dissertation falls in three distinct sections. Chapter one addresses fundamental philosophical questions, particularly what is knowledge, what is truth, what is value, and how many humans, in general, progress towards a true knowledge of the actual value of any object? My thesis follows E. D. Hirsch in distinguishing between meaning and value, interpretation and evaluation, and in arguing that both must be objects of knowledge for literary criticism. To answer the foundational question of what knowledge is, and how inquirers may move toward truth, my thesis adopts the epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and methodology of a twentieth-century Canadian Jesuit philosopher, Bernard J. F. Lonergan. My own first chapter concludes by arguing that, after one answers the question, "what is literature?", Lonergan's theological method can also provide a framework for literary critics who hope to be intellectually converted to the meaning of literature, aesthetically converted to its beauty, and morally or perhaps even religiously converted to its actual value. Yet rather than providing a 'Lonerganian reading of Shakespeare' my thesis illustrates what it means for a Lonerganian critic to pursue knowledge of Shakespeare. Chapter two of my thesis attempts to show that the methodology posited by Lonergan can be adapted to organize and apply a wide variety of Shakespearean criticism. In the third major section of my dissertation, chapters three through six, each chapter is devoted to a single romance and begins with a dialectical survey of each play's criticism, particularly the interpretative issues that have especially affected the play's evaluation. Attention is then focused upon a passage from each play which summarises the primary purpose that each play asks critics to evaluate. However, because value is offered by the entire dynamic structure and content of Shakespeare's play, my approach normally moves chronologically through each play and evaluates diverse aspects of its meaning. The values emphasized as the climactic conclusion of each romance then provide the foundation for an evaluation that is made within the broadest intellectual, moral, and religious horizons that I currently envision. This varied heuristic finds a wide variety of valuable meaning in each romance. In conclusion, the "joy beyond a common joy" felt by the characters at the end of The Tempest is an emotion common to the conclusion of each of Shakespeare's romances, and in each case occurs not only because these characters learn human virtue especially stressed by Christian teaching, but moreover because they experience the grace offered by the providential action of Divinity. In an implicity manner characteristic of medieval and Renaissance art, the apparently classical settings of Shakespeare's romances actually serve to teach Christian truth, and thus become valuable as Christian sacred art. The very nature of sacred art ensures that the evaluation of Shakespeare's romances must be an unending attempt to be converted not only to their aesthetic joys, but also to the value of life itself, particularly the Life who freely offers joy to us all. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/9573
CollectionTh├Ęses, 1910 - 2005 // Theses, 1910 - 2005
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