October 9, 2015

Now Playing

(Reviewed August 29, 2014)

A portrait of modern sanctity which — very oddly, in my view — asks not to be taken too seriously

(Reviewed August 27, 2014)

The movie it took twelve years to make — about a childhood that appears to be taking much, much longer

America: Imagine the World Without Her
(Reviewed July 31, 2014)

Another foray by Dinesh D’Souza into the lists in order to break a lance on President Obama — and Howard Zinn. At least the latter is effectively unhorsed.

(Reviewed June 30, 2014)

An austerely beautiful film by the Anglo-Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski that could hardly be a greater departure from his earlier My Summer of Love

ENTRY from October 1, 2015

He’s at it again. The Wall Street Journal at the weekend ran another piece by Professor John McWhorter of Columbia heralding the increasingly common theatrical practice of translating the plays of Shakespeare into simpler, more contemporary language in order to facilitate comprehension. Or at least what audiences wishing to be spared the trouble of understanding what Shakespeare actually wrote believe is comprehension. It is Dr McWhorter’s purpose to flatter that belief and to reassure those who want Shakespeare without difficulty, Shakespeare pre-digested for easy swallowing, that they are quite right to do so.

But Shakespeare is difficult, and if he is not difficult he is not Shakespeare anymore. Any translation is not the genuine article but something adapted to the audience’s own presumptively limited capacity to understand him. In the name of "accessibility" it is not to be allowed to make up its own mind about his meaning but rather to be left undisturbed in the naive assumption that he thought and spoke and wrote very much as we do about the world. Those who have taught Shakespeare to young people know the result. They do not actually learn anything about him or the times in which he wrote or the people he wrote about or for, but instead are merely confirmed in their own prejudices and encouraged to congratulate themselves for being so by their association with the Shakespearean "brand."

"Shakespeare’s English is so far removed from the English of 2015 that it often interferes with our own comprehension," writes Professor McWhorter. But isn’t this a bit like saying that the differential calculus is so far removed from simple arithmetic that it interferes with our comprehension? Well, yes. But it is our comprehension of it, not of arithmetic, which is in question. You do not facilitate the comprehension of something by translating it into something else, you only confuse it further, for in the new struggle to comprehend whatever the something else is, you have simply abandoned your attempt to comprehend the thing that has been translated.
  Full Entry

Media MadnessMy book Media Madness, is available for order from Encounter Books. Less a polemic than an attempt to understand the origins of the mass media’s folie de grandeur, the book is a warning even to those who are deserting the big networks, newsweeklies and large-circulation dailies not to carry with them into the more attractive world of niche media the undisciplined habits of thought that the old media culture has given rise to. To order this book, click here.

Honor, A HistoryAlso available, now in paperback, is Honor, A History, which was first published in 2006. A study of Western cultural artifacts, from the epics of Homer to the movies and TV shows of today, it is focused on explaining why Western ideas of honor developed so differently from those elsewhere — and especially from the savage honor cultures of the Islamic world. The book then goes on to trace the collapse and ultimate rejection of the old Western honor culture from World War I until the present day and to suggest the conditions that would have to prevail for its revival.

Recent Articles

Sixteen no-Trump September 30, 2015.
America’s political culture becomes ever more royalist — and contemptuous. From The New Criterion of September, 2015 ... Full Article

Power Coupling August 31, 2015.
A Victorian alliance of love and politics — From The Weekly Standard of August 24- 31, 2015 ... Full Article

A Ghost’s Lament July 27, 2015.
The collision at the corner of Language and Politics — From The Weekly Standard of July 27, 2015 ... Full Article

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