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Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Greenblatt’

The Topic for Today: Cultural Mobility

I was introduced to this concept at a lecture I attended in September. The featured speaker was a scholar by the name of Stephen Greenblatt. Greenblatt coached us on the idea of “rewriting Shakespeare”. It makes perfect sense; Shakespeare himself molded some of his works based upon the works of others. Take, for example, Cardenio. This little-known Shakespeare play was the focus of Stephen Greenblatt’s lecture. Now, the point of this post is not to summarize the play, but rather to elaborate on the idea of cultural mobility, but I feel it necessary to give a little bit of the back story of the play. Basically, Cardenio’s character was first found within the pages of Don Quixote, a story within a story. Shakespeare based his play on this character. Now this is where it gets interesting: Stephen Greenblatt, in turn, based a play upon a story within that story, making minor characters the driving force in his play, along with his co-writer, Charles Mee. So here we have a story within a story within a story. It is an interesting concept.

If my understanding is correct, Stephen Greenblatt’s “cultural mobility”, as it pertains to written works, is the evolution of a text that is made possible by passing through the hands of several different authors, each elaborating upon the ideas of the preceding authors. To reinforce this concept, Stephen Greenblatt experimented by encouraging diverse writers from different countries to rewrite his version of Cardenio. The results were perhaps more diverse than the writers themselves. It is an interesting notion that from one work, thousands of distinct stories can evolve. It is, in a sense, the act of authors bouncing ideas off of one another. It is brilliant.

I love this idea. I fully intend on incorporating this concept into my classroom in the future. I find that expanding upon another person’s idea is a much easier task than developing an original idea. I am an aspiring writer, not in the sense that I hope to make it big via written works, but in the sense that I HOPE TO WRITE. As silly as it seems coming from an English major, I have never been one much for developing a plot. My focus is usually on developing the characters, so any writing I do ends up as sketches, rather than stories. I cannot be the only one with this fault. This idea of cultural mobility helps the writing impaired, like myself. And believe me, there are MANY writing impaired students in English classrooms across America. Even for those who have a knack for developing a plot, cultural mobility adds an interesting twist to writing, for the simple fact that one starting point can produce several ending points. It is beautiful. BEAUTIFUL!

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