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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: August ::
Re: Funeral Elegy (Joe Klein and SHAXICON)
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0604.  Friday, 9 August 1996.

From:           Patrick Gillespie <
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Date:           Wednesday, 07 Aug 1996 13:51:21 -0400
Subject: 7.0601  Re: Funeral Elegy (Joe Klein and SHAXICON)
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0601  Re: Funeral Elegy (Joe Klein and SHAXICON)

>Bob Evans asked:

>When he looked at Klein's prose
>more closely, he found many distinctive characteristics -- words, phrases,
>constructions -- shared by Klein and Anonymous, but not by any other
>candidates, and the ideas and themes found in the novel, particularly on race,
>closely matched those expressed by Klein in his Newsweek column.

>I think it gives a big boost to the credibility of Foster's attribution methods

I *does* give a significant boost to Mr. Foster's methods. I find it
interesting however, that Mr. Foster felt compelled to not only use word
overlap (which seems to be Shaxicon's sole criteria (?)) but also to compare
phrases, constructions, ideas and themes! It seems Mr. Foster feels that
Shaxicon's criteria, is only *part* of the overall process. I understand that
he has attempted to prove FE as Shakespeare's by means other than the sole use
of Shaxicon. However, it is freely accepted (isn't it?) that FE's use of
phrases, contructions, ideas and themes are emphatically *not* typical or
unique to Shakespeare. (There is an extreme paucity of figurative language, for
example.) Does this not cast the FE attribution into doubt? If *the* primary
feature of an author's "style" is missing, despite word overlap, isn't this
pause for reconsideration? Word overlap *is* statistically significant, but I'm
not sure it can be universally interpreted. In other words, just because there
is word overlap should not, in itself, signify a common author. Is it not
possible to interpret the word overlap in FE as, possibly, the influence of
Shakespeare on the author of FE? (I wish I had Foster's book, which I
understand is out of print.) Does the word overlap , for example, stem from one
play of Shakespeare's, the entire corpus, or from one character's vocabulary?
Foster, for instance, has been able to trace which characters Shakespeare might
have played using this technique. If the rare word overlap stems from one play,
isn't an equally good interpretation suggested in the idea that the author of
FE was familiar with that play by Shakespeare? Was that play printed in the
author's lifetime, for instance? Is word overlap the sole criteria for
attributing FE to Shakespeare?

As an aside, I have been doing some of my own stastical analysis, for instance:

The following are words from the first 150 lines of FE that were *never* used
by Shakespeare (according to my collected works on CD):

predestinated
bypath
ridgeway
unremembered
overswayed
ensnaring
innated
offenseless
miscontruction
unblushing

defame                  only used once by Shakespeare, not including "defamed".

Using *only* Ford's other Funeral Elegies we find:

unremembered            Fame's Memorial l. 736
innated                 Fame's Memorial l. 503
defame                  Used three times in FM

Unfortunately, I do not have Ford's plays in any database and so I cannot
discover if the other words are present in Ford's works without carefully
reading them. However, given the small sampling I have of Ford, compared to the
entirety of Shakespeare, I cannot help but feel it is statistically significant
that two of the ten words Shakespeare never used (again, according to my CD),
appear in such a small sampling of Ford. Consider also "defame", which appears
only once in the entirety of Shakespeare's works as compared to three times in
Fame's Memorial alone. If anyone knows if Ford's works have been put into
electronic media, I would be grateful for the knowledge and would be better
able to make an accurate comparison. We need a FORDICON!

Yours,
Patrick Gillespie
 

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