Stanley Cavell

Visiting a couple of friends at Harvard back in 1982 or so, I was invited to attend a seminar on Shakespeare taught by Stanley Cavell. Holy moly – it was amazing! Graduate students piped up now and then, but the class was essentially a monologue – one of surpassing learning and agility – that felt wholly improvised.

He asked a question that has stayed with me all these years: Does an interpretive approach need to account for every word of a literary work, as it would, let’s say, of each note in a symphony or an opera, or is it enough that the approach makes sense of only certain passages? (It was not a rhetorical question.)

This short memoir of Cavell in the New York Review of Books is very good.

RIP.

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