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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: June ::
Re: A Lover's Complaint
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1158  Wednesday, 11 June 2003

From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Jun 2003 16:37:32 +0100
Subject: 14.1134 Re: A Lover's Complaint
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1134 Re: A Lover's Complaint

Ward Elliott rejects the objection that writers imitating one another's
style might fool his stylistic tests:

>We were skeptical at the time, and remain so, both
>because of the inherent improbability -- why would
>he or anyone do such a thing?

We don't need to find a reason for imitation of style, simply to admit
that it frequently occurs. We've seen the phenomenon here on SHAKSPER
recently. On 23 May Bill Arnold wrote:

>yes, Shakespeare wrote the play Hamlet, to the best
>of my knowledge, but the character Hamlet in the play
>Hamlet reacted in accordance with his CHARACTER.

Never mind what he's writing about, just look at that characteristic (ie
Arnoldian) use of all uppercase letters for "CHARACTER".

On 2 June Terence Hawkes responded:

>This is certainly the basic flaw (sorry, FLAW) in his
>argument, let alone Grebanier's: the unargued presupposition
>that Shakespeare wrote realistic plays and that these function,
>in the main, as portrait galleries for realistic 'characters'.

Hawkes is clearly imitating Arnold and writing in a way that I'm fairly
sure we would find nowhere else in the Hawkes corpus. One might
construct a test based on Arnold's demonstrable fondness for this
stylistic oddity and Hawkes's demonstrable strong avoidance of it. One
might well find Arnold to be "gazillions" (now I'm at it*) of times more
likely to write "FLAW" than Hawkes, and so, if one didn't know that
Hawkes wrote it, attribute the second quotation above to Arnold.

N'est pas?

>... it's hard to believe that he or anyone then could
>have anticipated the tests we use now, such as enclitic
>and proclitic microphrases. No one even knew what
>these were till Marina Tarlinskaja showed what you
>could do with them in the 1960's.

One doesn't need to anticipate the tests for the tests to be fooled.
I've got a C++ program that'll count how many times a whole word is
rendered in uppercase in a particular piece of writing, based on the
ASCII codes for characters a-z being different from the codes for A-Z
and it finds word-boundaries using regular expressions. Hawkes needn't
know what I'm talking about (C++, ASCII codes, regular expressions), nor
to anticipate my approach, for his imitation to fool my test.

Gabriel Egan

* I have on my computer every word that I've typed since 1990 and a
search for 'gazillion' shows that I've never written it before. Based on
my past behaviour one might confidently assert that I don't use it, yet
here I am imitating Elliott's use of it.

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