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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: September ::
Editing SHAKSPER
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1630  Tuesday, 27 September 2005

From: 		Hardy M. Cook <
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Date: 		Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Subject: 	Editing SHAKSPER

Dear SHAKSPEReans,

I received many e-mails complaining of my posting of Ben Alexander's 
claim that "The Sonnets were written under a pseudonym, and are the 
poetical correspondence of two lovers, Mary Fitton, Sonnets 1-126, and 
her lover, William Herbert, Earl Pembroke, 127-152" in the "BBC 
Shakespeare This Autumn" thread.

"How did this slip through moderation?"

"How did this post get under the radar?"

"Have you changed your policy regarding posts from anti-Stratfordians?"

"If we now have to argue that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare, I'm leaving!"

"I was under the impression that SHAKSPER was to be blessedly free from 
such grotesque 'authorship' fantasies.  R. K., however, who seems to 
post quite frequently, never writes about anything else."

And so on . . .

Tom Pendleton, I am sure, spoke for many when he wrote the following:

{BEGIN QUOTATION}

First, I--and I suppose the huge majority of SHAKSPER list members-find 
Ben Alexander's positions preposterous.

Second, I am surprised to find this posting on SHAKSPER.  Alexander's 
teams of writers who put together the plays as Christmas entertainments 
for a "highly intelligent and probably inebriated" audience, not to 
mention his First Folio intended as a birthday present for Mary Sidney 
from her boys, is the sort of eccentric anti-Stratfordianism that I 
understood had long ago been ruled out of bounds for SHAKSPER.  If this 
kind of thing is to be communicated, then there ought to be at least an 
occasional post that says that the evidence (especially the will, the 
Stratford Monument, and the First Folio) that Shakespeare of Stratford 
wrote the plays is abundant if not overwhelming.

Third, I find it offensive that Alexander implies that the Birthplace 
Trust, by displaying only the first page of the will, is hiding what 
they know to be evidence of its falsity.  And I find it greatly more 
offensive that Alexander questions "the integrity of what academics have 
taught us."  Anti-Stratfordians far too often and far too casually 
intimate that those who do not share their odd position know it to be 
true, but from craven self-interest conceal, evade, and outright lie to 
fend it off.  This kind of boorishness has no place in scholarly 
discourse nor in any civil discussion, and it should not have been 
admitted into SHAKSPER.

I am very reluctant to criticize Hardy, whom I know, like, and respect, 
and whose labors on SHAKSPER are either heroic or masochistic or both, 
but this one calls for it.  If Hardy replies that he couldn't stay 
focused on the absurdities Alexander was promoting and didn't quite 
realize what was being said, I'll accept the excuse.

{End}

The only excuse that I can offer is that making decisions about what to 
post and what to reject is not easy.

Alexander began his post with the confident statement "The Sonnets were 
written . . . ": a statement that is absolute in its contention -- no 
doubt -- no room for disagreement -- this is how it is, period. But how 
many posts begin with similar prologues? How many members have 
discovered the ultimate meaning of this play or that poem?

I imagine in retrospect that I should not have sent this post out. The 
first time Alexander expressed his views 
[http://www.shaksper.net/archives/2005/1341.html] I wrote in preface this:

Editor's Note: Once again, let me remind members, old and new, that I do 
not permit postings on the so-called "authorship" question. If you wish 
to contend that William Shakespeare of Stratford was not the author of 
the plays and poems generally associated with him, then you have 
subscribed to the wrong list. Other authorship issues are acceptable, 
including apocrypha, collaborative writing, and possible misattributions 
such as <I>A Lover's Complaint</I>. This is an academic list and I as an 
educator have a responsibility not to distribute posting that I view as 
misleading or scholarly unsound. A number of years ago, I gave 
Anti-Stratfordians the floor to air their arguments. The ensuing 
discussions threatened to consume the list, so I ended them. There are 
plenty of places to have such discussions; SHAKSPER is just not one of 
them. I will regard any (and please I am overburdened and in a great 
deal of pain and physical discomfort as it is) responses to this 
Editor's Note as PERSONAL e-mail to me and I will NOT post them or 
respond to them. They will be quietly deleted.

That was then, this is now.

My objection to Alexander's post involved not only its outrageousness 
but also its essentialist claim to discovering the one truth. To counter 
such thinking, I normally begin my undergraduate Shakespeare courses by 
having my students read Laura Bohannan's "Shakespeare in the Bush":

http://www.cc.gatech.edu/people/home/idris/Essays/Shakes_in_Bush.htm

I am deeply suspicious of true believers, conspiracy theorists, and 
those in possession of universal or absolute truth. But I don't feel as 
though I should, therefore, suppress every post that I would consider 
expressing one of these positions. My hope is that members will respond 
in kind.

I suppose I slipped here, but this is not an apology, just random 
thoughts about the sorts of things I think about as I edit the daily 
submissions.

Hardy

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