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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: January ::
Re: SHAXICON Meets SHAXICAN
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0193  Sunday, 27 January 2002

[1]     From:   Hugh Grady <
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        Date:   Friday, 25 Jan 2002 11:00:39 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.0172 SHAXICON Meets SHAXICAN

[2]     From:   Steve Roth <
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        Date:   Friday, 25 Jan 2002 13:07:00 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0172 SHAXICON Meets SHAXICAN


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hugh Grady <
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Date:           Friday, 25 Jan 2002 11:00:39 -0500
Subject: 13.0172 SHAXICON Meets SHAXICAN
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.0172 SHAXICON Meets SHAXICAN

I'm pleased to read that the many unsubstantiated claims made by Don
Foster are not completely forgotten, at least among some. Foster was
last heard from on NPR, discussing his work trying to deduce information
about the anthrax letters.

After talking about Foster's rare-word tests with several
mathematicians, I came to the conclusion that his problem was logical.
Such tests are essentially probability arguments, and he treats them as
"fingerprints" instead. And the quite plausible possibility that the
true author of the Funeral Elegy was a person who left no record of
writing on the various electronic text archives he searched is simply
undressed and unprovided for in the argument. Finally, as far as I have
been able to discover, the texts are unable to distinguish between uses
of rare words based on a recent reading of a text containing them and
one based on previous uses of the word in one's writing.

Best,
Hugh Grady

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Roth <
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Date:           Friday, 25 Jan 2002 13:07:00 -0800
Subject: 13.0172 SHAXICON Meets SHAXICAN
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0172 SHAXICON Meets SHAXICAN

Gabriel Egan wrote,

>Foster, long-time readers will remember,
>created a lot of media interest in 1995-6 by convincing journalists he
>had 'proved' that Funeral Elegy was a hitherto-neglected Shakespeare
>poem.

To clarify the chronology a bit:

"Elegy by W. S." was published in '89, based on what must have been
years of painstaking manual counting and analysis. Don was quite
diffident in the book in suggesting that he'd proven his case, and
encouraged others to check his work.

In a footnote (p. 258, n. 39) he says, "A 'computerized library' of
Renaissance texts in a machine readable format would prove invaluable to
literary scholarship. I suspect that the day is coming when virtually
all surviving Renaissance texts will be available on computer banks as
they are today on microfilm, so that any scholar with a terminal and
modem may consult them. When that day comes, I hope it will be found
that my margin of error has been negligible. In the meantime, nothing
could persuade me to undertake another study that would require the same
manual labors as were performed for this study."

Sheesh, I can imagine. It's not surprising that nobody attempted to
reproduce his lexical analysis.

In his three-part series of articles in Shakespeare Newsletter in '91
(which concerned, among other things, the parts Shakespeare might have
played), Don spoke of Shaxicon, and promised to publish it at some
point.

In a '95 article in Shakespeare Newsletter, he talked more of Shaxicon,
and offered slightly revised results for his playing-parts analysis.
Dave Kathman has that article up on his site:

http://ShakespeareAuthorship.com/shaxicon.html

Then in '98 Don posted a long message on SHAKSPER addressing the
Shaxicon issue. It was broken out into six posts:

http://ws.bowiestate.edu/archives/1998/0123.html
http://ws.bowiestate.edu/archives/1998/0124.html
http://ws.bowiestate.edu/archives/1998/0125.html
http://ws.bowiestate.edu/archives/1998/0126.html
http://ws.bowiestate.edu/archives/1998/0128.html
http://ws.bowiestate.edu/archives/1998/0129.html

All this history aside, the fact remains that Don's envisioned
"computerized library" is still not available to us (especially a
library that tags each word as is necessary to identify it as a "word").

There's a lot of early modern e-matter out there, of course, and more in
the works (i.e. the Cambridge Ben Jonson project
<http://www.english.uga.edu/CEWBJ.html>). But right now if you're
interested in Jonson, Dekker, Marston, Chapman, or any other
second/third-tier playwright or author, there are only dribs and drabs
available. What is available is not "lemmatized," and much/most isn't
even edited in the scholarly sense.

I hope the set of tools Gabriel instigated (and that I've moved forward
some) will spur others to contribute--both to those tools and to the
texts that are necessary to make those tools useful and interesting.

Thanks,
Steve
http://princehamlet.com

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