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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: August ::
Re: Attributing Masterworks
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1734  Thursday, 1 August 2002

[1]     From:   Marcus Dahl <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 31 Jul 2002 10:09:33 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1726 Re: Attributing Masterworks

[2]     From:   Hugh Grady <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 31 Jul 2002 11:03:58 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.1726 Re: Attributing Masterworks

[3]     From:   Elliott H. Stone <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 31 Jul 2002 19:17:53 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1726 Re: Attributing Masterworks


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marcus Dahl <
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Date:           Wednesday, 31 Jul 2002 10:09:33 EDT
Subject: 13.1726 Re: Attributing Masterworks
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1726 Re: Attributing Masterworks

Dear All,

Having recently returned from the ALC / ALLH Humanities Computing
Conference in Tuebingen I find the rather emotive comments of some of
the commentators in this thread somewhat embarrassing. As Sean Lawrence
writes, it is difficult to tell when Terence Hawkes is being ironic, but
the kind of throw away remarks which simply dismiss the hard work and
careful statistical analysis of linguistic data by Ward Elliott seems to
me a tad like reviving the 'two cultures' views examined by C.P. Snow
many years ago.

I would recommend to those more conventionally minded of the SHAKSPER
group to read for example Joseph Rudman on the nature, achievements and
difficulties of modern stylometric analysis. The duty of the scholar
interested in the attribution or stylistic analysis of texts is to try
out as many forms of what we may call 'traditional' literary scholarship
before turning to any 'non-traditional' (or computer assisted /
statistical etc) methods of analysis. Thus if as with so many of these
subjects ordinary literary investigation can be found to be inconclusive
or incomplete it is surely rational to look to other methods of analysis
which may focus and explain a subject which has hitherto proved
recalcitrant. Though as Gary Taylor has said, the burden of proof
remains always with the dis-integrators of accepted canons and
'traditional' methods of attribution (such as those of Prof. Monsarrat
recently) it is also always necessary to remain open to techniques such
as those of Ward Elliott or David Holmes which make statistically very
strong cases for the ability of statistical techniques to discriminate
successfully different author groups / texts on the basis of linguistic
and statistical analysis.

The available literature on the subject of less observable linguistic
phenomena is also a lot older than many more 'traditionally' minded
scholars often think. One only has to compare older editors of
Shakespeare (particularly in the days high German philology) to realise
that scholars have been interested in using less readily observable
linguisitic traits and their quantitative analysis as a means for
discrimination and comparison between different authors for over 100
years.

Lastly it can only be a matter of time and effort before these kinds of
questions are resolved since the available data source of Early Modern
electronic texts is finite whilst the methods of analysis are in turn
becoming more subtle as well as more accessible (not to mention
reproducible).

Humanities subjects should not and cannot be removed from the march of
science and understanding and our understanding of literary texts can
only be impaired by an insistence on singular and exclusive modes of
analysis.

Best,
Marcus 'Just who did write 1HVI' Dahl

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hugh Grady <
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Date:           Wednesday, 31 Jul 2002 11:03:58 -0400
Subject: 13.1726 Re: Attributing Masterworks
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.1726 Re: Attributing Masterworks

Richard Kennedy writes, apropos of the attribution of "Funeral Elegy by
W.  S." to Shakespeare, now happily if belatedly recanted, that "...the
attribution worked on modern day scholars, most all of them, and that's
an ugly comment on the times." Granted that the poem was re-printed in
three recent editions of the Works and that only a few hardy souls went
into print with their doubts about the attribution. But to interpret
what struck me as massive scholarly--as opposed to media--indifference
to a dubious claim would be to misread the situation. A cursory
examination of the introductions to the poem in the Riverside, the
Bevington, and the Norton would show a fairly massive dose of skepticism
about the attribution in each case. Market pressure demanded
"up-to-dateness" for each work. But what the market giveth, the market
taketh away, and now each of these is "dated" in another sense of the
term. I wonder if my copy of the 4th ed. Bevington, with its back cover
note allusion to the "Elegy" as "a sonnet recently proposed with
considerable authority as written by Shakespeare" will be worth
something someday, like the Wicked Bible. Bevington's real introductory
note inside itself concludes, "The attribution remains uncertain." The
juxtaposition of these two statements, one from marketing, one from
academia, speaks volumes about the real situation and dynamics.
Scholarship was ugly in its capitulation to marketing, but not in its
own conclusions. And many of us did speak out about the dubiousness of
Foster's and Abram's arguments; we just didn't get quoted in the New
York Times.

--Hugh Grady

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Elliott H. Stone <
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Date:           Wednesday, 31 Jul 2002 19:17:53 EDT
Subject: 13.1726 Re: Attributing Masterworks
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1726 Re: Attributing Masterworks

Clifford Stetner is right on track in his explication of the Dedication
and first 66 lines of the Funeral Elegy By W. S. as a parody or satire.
I would like to point out that there is one word and only one word in
the Dedication that is in italics. It is the word "TRUTH" that is also
capitalized. The author is telling us right up front that he has no
intention of telling the "TRUTH". This in itself is a big hint that the
intention is satire!

Best, Elliott H. Stone

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