Theater department insisting that students use foul language
LEVINSON at JURIS.LAW.NYU.EDU
Mon Jan 24 16:22:11 PST 2000
I cannot resist the shameless self-promotion here of mentioning a new piece by Jack Balkin and myself, Interpreting Law and Music: Performance notes on "The Banjo Serenader" and "The Lying Crowd of Jews, 20 CARDOZO L. REV. 1513 (1999). I look forward to reading the responses to Eugene's question. The title, among other things, refers to a piece of traditional Catholic liturgy that was set to exquisitely beautiful music in the late 15th century by Francois Busnoys. The Church has long since changed the text, but "early music" buffs seem to want to remain faithful to the original. Should they be tolerated in doing so, or should the text be changed to take account that it is offensive?
Let me offer another, perhaps more volatile, example, though, to test one's first intuitions. Should a Jewish member of a college choir (for which credit is given) properly expect to be excused from performing Bach's St. John's Passion (let's say that performance is a prerequisite for receiving credit) because it is, according to many, anti-Semitic and helped to create a mind-set within Central European Christianity that, to put it mildly, helped to contribute to the catastrophes in later years?
Finally, is the "theatre department insisting that students use foul language in performance" or, rather, "insisting that they remain faithful to the text as written"? I assume it makes a difference, though, as Balkin and I write, it may not always be dispositive, particularly when the author is long dead and there is no reason to believe that (s)he was particularly racist, sexist, anti-semitic, etc.
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