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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: November ::
Dead Horses and Closing Threads
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1906  Saturday, 19 November 2005

[1] 	From: 	Larry Weiss <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 17 Nov 2005 15:34:19 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1901 Dead Horses and Closing Threads

[2] 	From: 	John D. Cox <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 17 Nov 2005 16:33:47 -0500
	Subj: 	Dead horses and closing threads

[3] 	From: 	Holger Schott Syme <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 17 Nov 2005 17:14:41 -0500
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 16.1901 Dead Horses and Closing Threads

[4] 	From: 	Joseph Egert <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 17 Nov 2005 22:29:19 +0000
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1901 Dead Horses and Closing Threads

[5] 	From: 	Jack Heller <
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	Date: 	Friday, 18 Nov 2005 07:51:32 -0500 (EST)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1901 Dead Horses and Closing Threads


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Larry Weiss <
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Date: 		Thursday, 17 Nov 2005 15:34:19 -0500
Subject: 16.1901 Dead Horses and Closing Threads
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1901 Dead Horses and Closing Threads

I think it is healthy from time to time to consider the mission 
statement of any enterprise, and it is perhaps past time for that to be 
done for SHAKSPER.

Mr. Blackie's plea for infinitely ranging scope because list members are 
free to disregard any post that bores them would justify all sorts of 
spam emails.  And it fails to account for the limited time and patience 
of our moderator.  Fair consideration of his needs as well as our own 
mandates a more restrictive approach.

It seems to me that even Hardy's proposal to

 >simply to end some discussions earlier than I have done in the past

may not go far enough.  Some subjects, like the "authorship 
controversy," should be barred at the door.

I suggest that Hardy announce a list of permissible and impermissible 
subjects, and simply reject those that don't meet the announced 
qualifications.  I have given a little thought to the subject and offer 
the following for consideration:

Permissible posts (beginning with the most prosaic):

Announcement of relevant job openings
Obituaries of members of the Shakespeare community
Calls for papers
Announcements of forthcoming conferences, seminars, lectures, etc.
ToCs of current journals
Reviews by SHAKSPER members of recent Shakespeare books (published 
reviews need not be forwarded)
Reviews by SHAKSPER members of current major Shakespeare productions on 
stage or film (published reviews need not be forwarded)
Textual issues, including attribution of portions of canonical works
Critical issues
Biographical and historical issues supported by documentary evidence 
which bear on critical issues

Impermissible posts:

The "authorship question"
Reviews of local, provincial and student performances, especially if 
they have closed
Allusions to Shakespeare in popular films, TV shows, novels, magazines, 
political speeches, etc.
Political observations
Anything involving codes or cryptograms
Crackpot textual theories, especially attributions of apochryphal works 
that have not received significant scholarly acceptance
Crackpot critical theories, including spun-out biographies of fictional 
characters
Crackpot biographical theories about Shakespeare unsupported by anything 
but wishful thinking and faith

There is, deliberately, a lot of room for discretion.  But some 
guidelines should be apparent.  For example, it would be legitimate to 
discuss whether WS was a recusant Catholic, but not whether he was a 
secret Jew.  Obviously, Hardy would have a great deal of discretion and 
will certainly not please everyone, nor should he try.  Hey, this ain't 
a democracy!

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John D. Cox <
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Date: 		Thursday, 17 Nov 2005 16:33:47 -0500
Subject: 	Dead horses and closing threads

I applaud Hardy's decision to close discussions on the listserv earlier. 
It's impossible to please everyone, but Holger Syme is certainly right 
that SHAKSPER has become less appealing to scholars, because so much 
commentary is ill-informed and repetitive. Maybe it's impossible for a 
single listserv to be useful to both a popular and academic audience, 
but as one who mostly lurks and quickly deletes, I would be grateful to 
have shallow and poorly informed commentary brought to a swifter end, 
especially if those involved show little or no inclination to read 
carefully considered views that have been published elsewhere than on 
the listserv.

Best,
John Cox
Hope College

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Holger Schott Syme <
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Date: 		Thursday, 17 Nov 2005 17:14:41 -0500
Subject: 16.1901 Dead Horses and Closing Threads
Comment: 	RE: SHK 16.1901 Dead Horses and Closing Threads

Many thanks to Jim Blackie for comparing me to fundamentalists, the Bush 
administration, and Fox News: I've been called many things, but that's a 
first.

SHAKSPER is not an open forum. Certain topics are explicitly excluded 
from the list, and Hardy surely filters out other postings he considers 
inappropriate. I am as happy as Jim to trust our moderator. At the same 
time, I think it is worth pointing out that just as endless discussions 
of the authorship non-issue would kill the list, endless discussions of 
Shakespeare's Jewishness, his intentions in _Hamlet_, the backstories of 
that play or _The Merchant of Venice_, and assorted other discussions 
that proceed in largely evidence-free regions are fruitless, generate a 
sense of inertia, and have nothing whatsoever in common with current 
academic discussions of the plays, their author(s), or early modern 
culture. If that's the sort of listserv you'd like to be a part of, 
fine-but it's not the kind of forum SHAKSPER used to be (as Hardy has 
pointed out).

Like Jim Blackie, I used to enjoy SHAKSPER as "an active, lively forum 
for debate on ideas and new thoughts." The problem is that these days, 
there are too few "new" thoughts (and at the risk of sounding "pompous," 
those of us who study Shakespeare for a living-academics and theatre 
people alike -- are in a better position to make that judgment-that's 
why this list is moderated by a professional specialist!), and there's 
far too little debate: a genuine discussion needs to consist of more 
than four people who reiterate their unalterable and well-known opinions 
over and again.

Finally, I can't see what's remarkable or deplorable about my 
"willingness to point to specific topics as beneath [me]." Of course I'm 
willing to say what in particular I find objectionable-otherwise I'd be 
simply indulging in meaningless generalities. For Jim Blackie's benefit, 
let me make a more general point, though: practically all the threads I 
find objectionable share a set of common characteristics. They all 
sooner or later wind up as a discussion among the same predictable 
members of the list; they almost never yield new insights but revert to 
previously stated positions, no matter where they started from (that's 
possibly my major gripe: even initially interesting threads all too 
often develop rapidly into the same old pseudo-debates); they almost all 
circle around theories that aren't based on textual evidence (or at 
least not on evidence produced by methods anyone who deals with these 
texts professionally would find acceptable), and frequently speak of 
literary characters as though they were real people (to use another 
insultingly specific example, cf. the current "discussion" of _The 
Merchant of Venice_); and they usually treat issues that have already 
been discussed extensively either on the listserv or in print (usually 
not within the last 25 years or so). In other words, these threads make 
no worthwhile contribution to the study of Shakespeare and his times.

To be perfectly clear, I don't think only academics or theatre 
professionals are able to make such contributions; that would be a 
ridiculous attitude.  But I do think that a list like this should be 
mindful of current and past debates, and such debates usually take place 
among people who study Shakespeare professionally. I don't care if my 
interlocutors have an academic affiliation; but I prefer informed 
discussions over conversations in which basic principles need to be 
established constantly and repeatedly.

All the best,
Holger Syme

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Joseph Egert <
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Date: 		Thursday, 17 Nov 2005 22:29:19 +0000
Subject: 16.1901 Dead Horses and Closing Threads
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1901 Dead Horses and Closing Threads

Jim Blackie, responding to Professor Syme's call "to improve things" on 
the List, argues rather for continuation "as it exists."

I'm in tune with Brother Blackie's cri du coeur, yet agree 
half-heartedly with Prof. Syme as well. Why not let the threads peter 
out on their own, so that any thread without posts on say two successive 
posting days would automatically terminate? Hence, both "Railed Stage" 
and "Lear's Illegitimate Son" would continue for those interested, 
barring obsessive repetition within the thread by the same poster. 
Admission to the List should give the posters tenure. Hardy would 
intervene only if the admitting rules of the List were violated 
(obscenity, etc.) or where obsessive repetition prevailed. Let Hardy try 
this approach for a few weeks, testing whether threads would spool on 
infinitely or not.

At the same time, I'd urge Prof. Syme to contain any Procrustean 
impulses to prune away the non-academic exegetes from the List and 
thereby reduce its vocabulary to scholastic Newspeak (sorry, Professor, 
I couldn't resist). In a tardy unposted missive on the Lear thread, I 
noted Coke's policy toward illegitimacy and would have most welcomed 
Prof. Syme's elucidation in response. Yet we have both been denied a 
public airing.

At least think about it, Hardy.

A fellow groundling,
Joe Egert

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Jack Heller <
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Date: 		Friday, 18 Nov 2005 07:51:32 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 16.1901 Dead Horses and Closing Threads
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1901 Dead Horses and Closing Threads

Three thoughts on this discussion:

1) There was a time when we were all non-academic or 
not-quite-professional Shakespeareans. Then, for most of us came a time 
when what we found in his works merited a hearing of our evidence and 
conclusions. I don't mind a certain amount of indulgence shown to 
developing scholars.

2) The list sometimes gets postings from members who live in countries 
where English is not a significant first language. Sometimes their 
inquiries would seem rudimentary, but I would like to see some more 
generosity when their libraries may not hold the same resources that a 
US, British, Canadian, or Australian citizen may access.

3) On the other hand, volume of discourse cannot, by itself, demand 
affirmation. Postings persist and vanity publications are touted despite 
any number of efforts to show where their ideas are flawed-and good 
academics do expect their own ideas to be critiqued. I find it is hardly 
possible to discuss Hamlet (Measure for Measure, Merchant of Venice) 
anymore on this list without the discussion being taken over by marginal 
or non-academics with axes to grind. For the most part, I have decided 
privately to give up responding to some individuals because doing so 
would be like fighting the tar baby. It is just not worth the effort.

Jack Heller

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