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East-West Dialogues: The Transferability of Concepts in the Humanities

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Edited By Christoph Bode, Michael O'Sullivan, Lukas Schepp and Eli Park Sorensen

This is an edited collection of essays drawn from collaborative events organized jointly by The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. The book focuses on how literary and cultural perspectives from different humanities academic environs in Asia and Europe might contribute to our understanding of the "transferability of concepts." Exploring ways in which these traditions may enter into new and productive collaborations, the book presents readings of a wide range of Western and Eastern writers, including Shakespeare, J.M. Coetzee, Yu Dafu. The book contains a virtual round table followed by four thematic sections – "Travels and Storytelling," "Translation and Transferability," "Historical Contexts and Transferability," and "Aesthetic Contexts and Transferability."

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Chapter 9: Towards a Grammar of “Seems” in Hamlet: Julian Lamb

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Julian Lamb

Towards a Grammar of “Seems” in Hamlet

This essay is about the transferability of a philosophical idea, scepticism, into the theatrical world of a Shakespearean play, Hamlet. More specifically, it is concerned with what happens when an act of sceptical doubt, typically played out by the solitary, detached philosopher, is enacted by a character who cannot so easily extricate himself from the scenes and scenarios, the public contexts, the courtly display, and the relationships with other characters that make up his life. For the sake of clarity, I have chosen to write in short sections, each of which discloses something about the nature of scepticism, or about the various natural shocks that the sceptic is heir to.

Let me make a strategic error at the outset by posing a question that I have little hope of answering: what does it say about human experience that we make such frequent use of a word like “seems”? The profound need we have for this word might be intimated via negativa by imagining a people whose language did not contain it, or its cognates, or any of its synonymous expressions – such as “appear,” or “look as if”; or any expression that distinguished appearance from reality, and thus allowed its speakers to doubt that what they perceived was the unequivocal, unadulterated, absolute truth. I can only assume that such people would either be utterly unconcerned with the consequences of perceptual error, or that perceptual error simply...

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