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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: November ::
Dead Horses and Closing Threads
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1958  Tuesday, 29 November 2005

From: 		Bill Lloyd <
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Date: 		Monday, 28 Nov 2005 09:41:22 EST
Subject: 16.1930 Dead Horses and Closing Threads
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1930 Dead Horses and Closing Threads

[Editor's Note: I closed this thread; however, this contribution makes 
points that I believe are worth consideration.]

Is SHAKSPER a 'scholarly' forum or is it an open door that anyone, 
regardless of education, background or occupation may enter? Both, I'd 
like to think.

Scholarly doesn't mean only professional scholars [academics] can 
participate. It's an approach, a tone, a goal. I'm sort of a scholar, 
sort of a theatre person, sort of an amateur [I'll spare you the 
details], so I can sympathize to an extent with all sides, and I think 
people are being defensive where they don't need to be. I didn't find 
Holger Schott Symes' post dismissive of non-academics, but thought that 
it spoke to the quality of the discussions, whoever may have 
contributed. I have found that SHAKSPER [and academics in general] are 
welcoming of 'outsiders' with a serious interest in the subject. But 
[and how do I say this without sounding elitist or valuative?] I think 
SHAKSPER should be a forum for discussions at a certain 'level'. There 
are other, more 'anything-goes' forums for Shakespeare 'chat'-- not that 
there's anything wrong it! -- but I think it's a waste of SHAKSPER [and 
Hardy's time and energy] to let *this* forum go that way. Everyone's 
invited-- but everyone's invited to be scholarly.

Scholarly! -- the very word is like a bell to toll me back...  what is 
in that word, scholarly? I think it implies a certain level of 
commitment and seriousness, frankness and open-mindedness, and a 
willingness to learn what past and present scholars think and say.

Contention is ok, but on a gentlemanly or ladylike level. Tell me I'm 
wrong, or even that what I say is silly or incredible, but don't call me 
an idiot. But if what I say is silly, tell me. Was Edmund Lear's 
illegitimate son or did Gertrude murder Ophelia? Ask the question-- ok I 
guess. But they're silly questions, not really worth much discussion 
[oops, a value judgment!] so let's move on. What was Hamlet thinking? 
Was Shylock meant to be sympathetic? questions to be asked, but the "I 
think - yes, but - no, I think - no, but - you said - yes, but" approach 
doesn't really get us anywhere. There's a limit to where uninformed 
personal opinion can take us. Ah! another value judgment... but not of 
'personal opinion', rather of in 'uninformed'. Study up-- this isn't 
Shakespeare 101, it should be more like 301, 401, 601, 801.  And I'm 
afraid I agree that where speculative hashing out of a character's 
back-story is concerned [treating the fictional/theatrical characters as 
if they're real], a little bit goes a long way.

Larry Weiss offered suggested lists of Permissible and Impermissible Posts:

 >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

I mostly agree but I think some of his 'Impermissibles' may be given 
some latitude. Richard Burt's scholarly mandate is the presence of 
Shakespeare in popular culture [see his books], so his posts on that 
subject [usually quite brief] are not inappropriate. I'm not always 
interested, but I don't think it's out of place. Al Magary rarely joins 
discussions but is invaluable at pointing us to useful 
Shakespeare-related web resources-- this sort of thing isn't on the 
Permissible list but also belongs. Reviews of any actual performances 
aren't out of place, even local ones-- these posts tend to be brief and 
to not generate threads. The Whole Contention between the Houses of 
Vickers and Carroll, or Krause/Weiss and Larque, or M. Egan and Elliott 
scare some people off with their length and, well, contentiousness, but 
although after a while the discussion's got to grind to a halt [not much 
more to be said] I think these are valuable 'scholarly' threads. It's 
difficult without some preliminary discussion to determine which textual 
or critical theories are 'crackpot'.  Does Larry mean A Lover's 
Complaint? Titus Andronicus? Woodstock? Some may have thought the 
Measure for Measure/Currency theory that Larry defended so vehemently 
bordered on the crackpot. (For the record, I didn't buy the theory, but 
didn't think it crackpot.) Sometimes there's not a clear demarcation, 
but rather a continuum between responsible speculation and crackpotation.

Like Larry, I personally would like to see more discussion of textual 
issues, critical issues, "biographical and historical issues supported 
by documentary evidence which bear on critical issues", and not only by 
academics-- though it goes without saying that they have a lot to teach 
us and each other-- but by 'serious students' of the subject, whatever 
their educations, backgrounds or occupations. I would especially like to 
see "reviews by SHAKSPER members of recent Shakespeare books" or 
Shakespeare-related books. There are so many books and articles 
published on Shakespeare and early modern drama which are never reviewed 
in general book reviews, and are reviewed in scholarly publications only 
after several years have passed. For example, just published is Donna B. 
Hamilton's *Anthony Munday and the Catholics*, a literary/critical 
biography that seeks to show that Munday was, so far from being the 
'rabid anti-Catholic' he's usually thought to be, instead a high wire 
artist who struggled to balance loyalty to Elizabeth and England with 
apologies and toleration for Catholicism. I haven't finished it, but 
it's very intelligent and seems well done-- worth checking out.

Bill Lloyd

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