On Shakespeare’s late plays, autofiction, Notre-Dame redux & more.
Recent links of note:
Michael Dobson, London Review of Books
Fairies, monsters, and magicians take the stage in Shakespeare’s later plays, which are often considered departures from his preceding work. The presence of otherworldly characters in The Winter’s Tale, The Tempest, and the like is a major reason that centuries of scholars have traced Shakespeare’s career as a linear development from the actor’s workshop as he learned the trade in his early plays, to the world in his mature histories and comedies, to the depths of the human experience in his tragedies, and finally to the heights of the supernatural as he returned to his quiet childhood home in Stratford-upon-Avon and meditated on his coming death. But Michael Dobson argues that this increasingly mystical Shakespeare is in many ways a trick of geography. While Shakespeare did die in Stratford in 1616, he often traveled to London in the preceding years and even bought a gatehouse near the Blackfriars theater there in 1613. His late plays are deeply involved in Jacobean politics and trends in the theaters of his day. Dobson’s review of Seth Lerer’s Shakespeare’s Lyric Stage shows us a Shakespeare worldly to the end, spending more time on the city’s streets and in its playhouses than “warbling his native woodnotes wild,” as Milton put it.
“Fiction of facts”
Alice Attlee, Times Literary Supplement
The literary genre of autofiction was defined by Serge Doubrovsky in the late 1970s as “fiction, of events and facts strictly real.” But it’s not autobiography, its practitioners insist. And it’s not confessional writing. The most famous recent autofiction work is Karl Ove Knausgaard’s six-part My Struggle, which clocks in at 3,600 pages of painstaking detail about his own life—not the objective facts, but as close as he can get to the truth from his point of view. Rachel Cusk’s Outline trilogy does something similar, attempting to present her experience of “events and facts strictly real.” Alice Attlee reports on a panel in which Cusk and a group of novelists attempt to describe the genre and how it can be distinguished from other narrative forms. Attlee notes that with the current popularity of autofiction, the novelists on the panel found themselves on the defensive, arguing that their imaginations, of course, are also part of reality. Cusk is comfortable with erasing the “false dichotomy” between fact and fiction to eliminate the problem. But I remain unconvinced by her understanding of fiction, which suggests that first-personal experience is fictional merely because it is subjective and incomplete. Perhaps autofiction could be better understood as subjective nonfiction, or an extended monologue or personal testimony.
“French senate says Notre Dame must be restored ‘in the same way as before’ ”
Gareth Harris, The Art Newspaper
In response to architects’ plans for rebuilding Paris’s fire-damaged Notre-Dame Cathedral, which range from the creative to the depressing to the insane, the French Senate voted that the cathedral should be restored “in the same way visually as before.” This is a responsible choice in light of a recent evaluation that has found the cathedral structurally unstable and unlikely to hold up under the wilder and weightier proposals for the roof and spire. But it also reflects the French government’s desire to finish the project before the 2024 Paris Olympics, a timeline that some architects believe will compromise the quality of the reconstruction.
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