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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: April ::
Re: Funeral Elegy
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0297.  Friday, 19 April 1996.

(1)     From:   Joseph M Green <
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        Date:   Thursday, 18 Apr 1996 15:20:17 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0292  Funeral Elegy

(2)     From:   Don Foster <
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        Date:   Thursday, 18 Apr 1996 18:09:09 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   FE; use of statistics


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph M Green <
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Date:           Thursday, 18 Apr 1996 15:20:17 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 7.0292  Funeral Elegy
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0292  Funeral Elegy

The really good bad poem seems to be what is anticipated/hinted by recent
descriptions of the poem by its supporters.  A reply to Vickers characterizes
the poem as "strange and challenging" and Harry Hill has recently described the
poem as strange and something else. "Strange" seems to be the key -- not what
we would expect as the wily Bard creates another new genre.  Even Kenneth Muir
would be pleased.  I think we will soon be treated to a version of the poem as
"Unpoem" (like the "Uncola") as we are shown how our very banal expectations
are defeated so that they might be questioned/suspended/ subverted/ mis en
abymed all to hell.  The Bard takes us to Plutonian depths of ummeaning where
nothing is but what is not: the enjambments so cunning that they are made to
seem like what a more innocent age was to describe as "run-on sentences"
enforce a vision of funeral ribands in an idiot wind, slashed into meaningless
lengths and fluttering over the tomb of poetry which no-one visits except our
Bard who, due to his recent cerebral accident, isn't even sure why he is there
but remembers an injury (O Fortunatus!) done to him and makes moan no longer
motley to the view but free at last to tu-whit the Parson's saw as was his wont
when at home dandling (NOT) little Hamnet (dead as a doornail -- no, too
poetic) but clutching this or that writ which he will have served against his
neighbor or dreaming of exterminating the rough rug-headed kern. He lugs the
Muse's guts up Helicon and Helicon is transformed into a funeral mound --
death, death, death but at least William Peter cannot, like him, be slandered
and damn it if he could he would bring him back! Yes, write that down.  What
could be more banal?  And, I'll be a youth -- which I am not -- and that is the
point -- in this poem that is not a poem.

In this strange poem "Shakespeare," while, ostensibly, hyperbolizing and
problematizing the "project" of poetry by miming transactions with the corpse
of William Peter and, thereby, clearing a space, precisely by presenting the
monologic voice as overdetermined, for the sort of poetry heretofore thought
possible only after the atrocities of this century and the apocalyptic vision
of Tammy Faye Baker and Joyce Carol Oates coming to judge the living in the
dead in fact elides the category of difference by usurping subject positions
such as the maternal by evacuating meaning from the metaphysics of substance
while, at the same time, constructing the death-driven interiority of his
class, race, gender and sex as the only possible non-intersection of textual
surfaces.  Indeed, the very illusion of identification with nothingness marks a
moment of crises that is, certainly, constituative of readings that, unlike
mine, necessarily engage the text in this way through their acceptance of
identification with nothingness as deconstructed by the patriarchal,
misogynist, kern-hating bard and so act to deny a revisionary praxis that would
open this text to a consideration of what is really at stake for cultural
workers.  This, itself, is, of course, a grand a vulnerable claim but it is
only in this way that the critical process postulated by those whose jobs I
want can be satisfactorily tested and, perhaps, experimentally reproduced. As
Walter Benjamin remarks: "late and soon, getting and spending we lay waste our
hours."  This creme brulee, so unlike that intoned and ventroliquized by WS on
William Peter is, in fact, an argument ex silentio directed against the
banalization of art for it is precisely in the fact that what is called
"highart" is, in fact, banal that the necessary insight -- that no death driven
person of Shakespeares class, sex, gender, race and, especially, nationality
should tell us that -- that a politics can begin to be built on the ruins of th
banal so that persons in milltowns gobbling Prozac while creating a space for
banality can construe this poem not as issuing simply from l'homme meme but,
precisely, as what should be turned away from (this mise au point of the danse
de vertige of the mission civilitrice which seeks always to claim that les jeux
sont faits).  "Finita la commedia" must always be given a deferred
significance. What moment exactly are we talking about? And, yet, in denying
such a notion are we not, precisely, denying politics?

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Foster <
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Date:           Thursday, 18 Apr 1996 18:09:09 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        FE; use of statistics

I have been content to stay out of the SHAKSPER discussion of "A Funeral
Elegy," eavesdropping now and then as I have had time, but jumping in only when
asked to do so: and this is one such instance.  Two SHAKSPERians have asked me
to respond to Mr. Kennedy's remarks about the Claremont-McKenna "Shakespeare
Authorship Roundtable," headed Prof. Ward Elliott, a political scientist and
quondam anti-Stratfordian who seems to have been convinced by his research that
Shakespeare actually wrote Shakespeare.  Mr. Kennedy has gleefully reported
that FE *fails* five of Elliott's tests for Shakespearean authorship.  But Mr.
Kennedy seems either not to have read, or not to have understood, Prof.
Elliott's study, for the five "rejections" for FE are *precisely* those tests
for which FE *should* get rejections: Elliott has not in every instance
understood the implications of his own research (as I will show in a moment),
but his work fully supports a Shakespearean attribution for FE as a text
written by the Bard, in 1612, in continuous verse.

Because Prof. Elliott has had trouble getting his study published except as a
privately distributed Xerox, few members of SHAKSPER will be familiar with his
work. Elliott takes the dramatic works as his norm, with three batteries of
statistical tests, some more reliable than others:  "Round 1," 17 tests; "Round
2," 24 tests; "Round 3," 15 tests.  Of these 56 tests, *ALL* of Shakespeare's
nondramatic generate numerous "rejections," not just FE. But in a special
appendix, Elliott has culled out 17 tests (from a total of 56 tests) that
generate no more than 1 "rejection" for just *Ven*, *Luc*, and *Son*.  He then
supplies data for those 17 tests only, and compares them with other canonical
and noncanonical poems.  Even under these extraordinarily limited
circumstances, FE generates only 5 "rejections," fewer than for LC or PhT, and
fewer rejections than for *Ven*, *Luc*, and *Son* in the 3-battery section.

The first "rejection" for FE is that of "grade level": Elliott has used a word
processor's "Grade-Level" tester to evaluate selections from all of
Shakespeare's dramatic and nondramatic works,  and from dozens of plays and
poems by other poets. ("Grade level" is determined by sentence length, from
capital-letter to end-puncutation, and has no direct relation to the poet's
education.)  Elliott finds that Shakespeare's dramatic dialogue (the plays)
ranges in average sentence-length from Grade Level 5 to GL 7.  The poems have a
higher GL because they are written in stanzaic form without the frequent breaks
of dramatic dialogue: they vary thus from GL 10 to GL 22. PhT, having a
four-line stanza, has a GL of 8. Elliott's *Ven* samples, written in a six-line
stanza, have a median GL of 10;  the *Luc* and *LC* samples, written in a
seven-line stanza, both have a median GL of 11; the *Son* samples, written in a
fourteen-line stanza, have a median GL of 13; and FE, written in continuous
verse without any stanzaic breaks, has a GL of 22.  The only other text tested
by Elliott with a GL higher than 19 is Heywood's *Troia Britannica*, also in
continuous verse without stanzaic breaks; while other non-Shakespearean texts
in continuous verse tend to hover around 16-18.  When adjusted for stanzaic
form, FE should register a GL between 19 and 24 if written by Shakespeare.  At
GL 22, it's right on the money.  Elliott works from my 1989 text of FE, which
is more lightly pointed than the original, and somewhat more lightly pointed
than the *Riverside* text that serves as the basis for his canonical sample;
but it is impossible to punctuate FE in any sensible fashion so that it falls
outside the expected range for continuous verse by Shakespeare. By "rejection"
of a 22 Grade Level, Elliott's shows only that FE is in a different stanzaic
form than Shakespeare's other works (which might be taken as evidence against
his authorship); but given its form, the GL figures suggest that Shakespeare
wrote it.  Mr. Kennedy, if he has even *looked* at Elliott's study, has
confusedly taken GL--a generic marker--to be an attributional marker, perhaps
having been misled by Prof. Elliott's own confusion on this point.

Those SHAKSPERians who would like more information on the remaining four
"rejections" for FE, or for the six rejections for LC, may write me directly.
These are "No / (No + Not); "Enclitics"; "Proclitics"; and "BoB5"; additional
"rejections" (not mentioned by Elliott because *Ven* and *Luc* likewise get
"rejections") include various colloquialisms and oaths ("i'faith") and
interjections ("hark").  The Elliott tests for which FE gets a "pass" are
"hyphenated compounds/20k," "relative clauses/20k," "feminine endings,"
"enjambment," "*with*,"  "modal distance block," "modal distance corpus"; FE
also gets additional passes (not mentioned by Ellott because *Ven* and *Luc*
get two or more "rejections") for multiple other tests, including "periphrastic
do," "prefixes," "suffixes," "rare words," "new words, "and various of
Elliott's "BoB" tests other than "BoB5").

In other words, Mr. Kennedy has (once again, unwittingly) been trumpeting
evidence that demolishes his own thesis (though not, of course, his
confidence).

    Hope this helps.
    Foster
 

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