I'm at a big important annual conference. And I am having a wondeful time.
Perhaps it's because I'm surrounded by Shakespeareans, but I'm thinking about plays and players today. One of the best things I've discovered about blogging anonymously (though most of my dear readers know I am much less anonymous than those blogs I love to read and support), is that it is rather like play acting. One takes on a new identity that permits a liberty of language and expression only associated with performance and with assuming a role. In the same way that Rosalind-as-Ganymede really begins to relish the rhetoric, wit, and play of her newfound pants role, and Hamlet is able to transcend class barriers by insulting Polonius and ceding the platea to the grave-digger's joke routine, blogging under a pseudonymous identity permits a certain freedom and jouissance.
Which makes me think about a discussion I had over lunch yesterday with a gentle and sage senior professor at a small obscure university who expressed such a delight for our profession that it momentarily humbled my vaulting ambition. We were talking about Shakespearean clowns. He laid out his theory that clowning and "clowniness" is transferrable from character to character on the Shakespearean stage. Wit is, in other words, infectious, and easily picked up by characters surrounding a clown. He cited Viola's playing with Feste in Act V of Twelfth Night and of course Hamlet and the Gravedigger.
Since I have been investigating the philological and cultural impact of "antic/antique" for some time, I brought up the connection that Margreta de Grazia makes between Hamlet's "antic disposition" and clowning, that to have an antic disposition means to play the fool on the Renaissance stage (and to play the medieval vice character on the Renaissance stage). He concurred with me very graciously.
But what my research on "antic/antique" has also uncovered is that "antic" frequently meant "disguised" in the Renaissance, so in many ways it's not just about clowning but also about the way an assumed identity allows for a freer circulation of wit, humor and social critique.
Which is precisely what pseudonymous blogging at its best is all about. And that is the reason why it has to continue. At the conference, I may or may not have privately "made discovery" of a number of pseudonymous bloggers I greatly respect and depend upon for their humorous critique and celebration of the profession. However whether this is true or fabricated, I shall vehemently refuse to "delate" on them. Also, if wit is indeed transferrable, perhaps some of it might rub off on me.
In order for the academic blogging community to survive, we need to maintain their antic dispositions: Let them be well used, for they are the abstract and brief chronicles of our time. And they are also very funny.