Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 8.0001. Thursday, 2 January 1997.
From: Hardy M. Cook <
Date: Thursday, January 2, 1996
Subject: New Year's Greetings and More
I would like to offer my best wishes to all of you for a healthy and prosperous
New Year and ask for your indulgence in a very long posting of my own.
SHAKSPER was founded on July 16, 1990, by Ken Steele and a group of thirteen or
so interested Shakespeareans (including myself), many of whom had met at the
1990 Annual Meeting of the Shakespeare Association of America in Philadelphia.
I became SHAKSPER's co-editor in February 1992 and editor in June of 1992.
Despite the July founding date, our digest numbers follow the calendar year, so
we are now entering our eighth year with approximately 1,250 members from
If you will allow me a few moments, I would like to describe my work in
bringing SHAKSPER to you and then to ask for your assistance on my upcoming
Shakespeare Association of America seminar paper.
I am currently a Professor of English and Interim Chair of the Department of
English and Modern Languages at Bowie State University. Founded in 1865, Bowie
State, an historically black institution, is a member of the University of
Maryland System. It is a regional comprehensive university of more than 5,000
students, offering 20 undergraduate majors and 13 graduate programs with a
graduate program in English that is under girded by Humanities Computing in its
final stages of approval. Faculty at UMS regional comprehensives have a four
course per semester teaching load; chairs have a fifty percent reduction. So I
currently teach two courses per semester, chair the largest department in the
School of Arts and Sciences, continue to prepare my edition of Shakespeare's
*Poems* for the Internet Shakespeare Editions, produce four Table of Contents
columns and the Summer Festivals List for *The Shakespeare Newsletter*, serve
on a number of boards, and spend approximately one hour a day working on
SHAKSPER. I also DO have a family, which includes my wife and teenage and
Most of my work for SHAKSPER involves preparing the digests, into which I group
related messages. Each digest has a header and a table of contents. The table
of contents includes the name and e-mail address of the person making the
submission, the date of the submission, and the subject of the submission. I
also lightly edit the submissions principally to keep a consistent look and
feel. This light editing includes occasionally correcting typos, deleting
emoticons and Internet-speak abbreviations, reducing signatures to the barest
essentials, and so on.
Many SHAKSPER files require regular updating: some daily, some weekly, some
monthly, and other when needed. This updating of files is just one of the
tasks of maintaining the SHAKSPER file server.
SHAKSPER is not open to automatic subscription and prospective members are
requested to supply brief autobiographies of themselves. Thus, another part of
my work for SHAKSPER includes adding and deleting members and maintaining the
biography and membership files. I also respond to personal inquires and attend
to technical problems associated with running a listserv.
One might reasonable ask why I spend so much time on these tasks. The easy
answer is that I normally enjoy what I do; however, there is also the issue
that the work is important to me because I have such low tolerance for
unmoderated discussion groups and I am concerned with the product itself.
My moderation brings to the membership organized digests with a consistent
format, yet approximately once a year someone complains of the quality of some
of the submissions. One such complaint arrived a few weeks ago and I will post
it as the next digest of this year, but I want to add that naive questions from
non-academics have provoked some of our most memorable threads. This
meta-issue about the nature of the Conference poses a dilemma for me - the
works of Shakespeare are appealing in ways that perhaps no other body of
literature is. Thus, as much as I want SHAKSPER to be an exclusively academic
list, many non-academics compose its membership. One way that I responded to my
dilemma was to announce on Friday, April 26, 1996, my intention of forming a
SHAKSPER Advisory Board (SHK 7.0320). At that time, I wrote the following:
>I have been slow in making any changes in the manner in which SHAKSPER
>operates, but circumstances are such that I now feel a change is in order.
>I have encouraged diversity and inclusiveness; nevertheless, SHAKSPER was
>founded as an "academic" conference and I still view it as such. Our current
>membership of 1250 includes many Shakespearean textual scholars and
>bibliographers, editors and critics, but it also includes professors and high
>school teachers, undergraduate and graduate students, actors, poets,
>playwrights, theatre professionals, librarians, computer scientists, and
>interested bystanders. The variety of SHAKSPEReans has led to wide-ranging
>discussion, but many have lamented the recent infrequency of the engaging
>scholarly exchange that SHAKSPER was intended to cultivate.
>I want SHAKSPER principally to be a forum for serious academic discussion
>(especially since electronic alternatives exist) and to that end I intend to
>establish a SHAKSPER Advisory Board. This board will be composed of from four
>to six Shakespearean scholars from within its membership.
>The purpose of the SHAKSPER Advisory Board will be to advise the editor
> 1) On matters of policy affecting the entire conference,
> 2) On resolving complaints, and
> 3) On determining the appropriateness of certain posting.
>A LISTSERV discussion group of its nature is different from a journal
>(electronic or traditional) and peer-reviewed posting is not possible or
>desirable; however, I do need advice from peers regarding issues that affect
>the conference and particular posting that are questionable.
On Tuesday, May 14, 1996, I announced the membership of the Board: Michael
Best, Thomas Bishop, Edna Boris, Ralph Alan Cohen, Kurt Daw, Roy Flannagan,
Phyllis Gorfain, Terence Hawkes, Dale Lyles, Cary Mazer, Michael Mullin, David
Schalkwyk, and Raymond G. Siemens (SHK 7.0370). I have consulted with the Board
on a number of occasions and have found the advise of the members extremely
What I would like to do now is to use the meta-issue - what is SHAKSPER for? -
as an opportunity to gather information for my upcoming SAA seminar paper. I
will be a participant this year in the "Politics of Electronic Texts" seminar.
My abstract for my intended paper follows:
>"The Politics of an Academic Discussion Group"
>As the owner/editor/moderator of SHAKSPER: The Global Electronic
>Shakespeare Conference, I am interesting in exploring some issues I have
>faced in the past few years in my labors with SHAKSPER and their larger
>implications. SHAKSPER is not open to automatic subscription, but I
>generally do not turn requests for membership down. SHAKSPER is
>moderated, but there are only a few topics that I have ruled off limits.
>SHAKSPER digests are formatted and lightly edited, but I often wonder if
>there are limits I should put on myself - in other words, is any editing an
>intrusion on the medium itself. These and other issues are all related to
>the larger issue I wish to explore: what academic currency does a
>listserv such as SHAKSPER have - what place do the conversations in
>an informal medium like a listserv have in the greater academic world?
In terms of "academic currency," I know that many have used SHAKSPER
discussions in teaching, in planning performances, and in scholarly papers. At
last year's World Congress, the session on Characters was in some part inspired
by SHAKSPER discussions and our discussions have also led many of us to
recognize our critical diversity, especially our differing cross-Atlantic
orientations. However, I would like to learn more by posing four questions and
encouraging members to respond either through the list or personally to me (if
you wish your response to be personal, please indicate so).
What part if any has SHAKSPER had in any of your scholarly publications?
What part if any has SHAKSPER had in your teaching?
What part if any has SHAKSPER had in other areas of your professional life?
What other parts has SHAKSPER played?
I am genuinely not interested in "fan" mail, but I would like to hear from
members and use those responses in preparing my paper for the SAA.
Thanks so much for putting up with such a long post, and once again Happy New