The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0829 Thursday, 20 December 2007
From: Hardy M. Cook <
Date: Thursday, December 20, 2007
Subject: Behind the Scenes Edition
Behind the Scenes Edition
After yesterday's mailings, I received a half dozen messages, several of
them private and not intended for the list, regarding the ongoing
Presentism thread. These messages, urging me to end this thread, were
from both established and up-and-coming scholars whose work and options
I value greatly. I would like to share anonymously a few of those
observations. By doing so, I take full responsibility for including
them, and I hope that I am not violating the spirit of confidentiality
under which they were sent to me.
". . . the posts in recent days have been degenerating into a cat-fight
with little reference to Shakespeare."
" . . . I think you really need to tell . . . [names deleted] . . . to
buck their ideas up and stop wasting everyone's time (especially yours).
How do you have the patience to read and edit the copious crap they send
in every day? They sound like egotistical fools when they weigh in with
their self-righteous, uninformed, intuitive contributions, and are not,
as far as I can tell, in possession of anything like the level of
knowledge or analytical faculties to respectfully and responsibly engage
in this debate, and are certainly not in a position to accuse respected
theorists like Hawkes, Grady, and Drakakis of being full of hot air.
'Good old common sense' will not win this argument, and it will not do
as a mode of critique, and I worry that it does nothing but devalue the
integrity of this list and waste your time."
Another submission intended for the list but one that I intend not to
publish after all, addresses one of the contributors to the most recent
round of exchanges by saying that the contributor sounds as if he is
"invoking the Socratic method of dialectic enquiry," and concludes by
writing, "But, if truth be told, your common-sense clarity actually
impedes the scholarly dialogue you desire precisely because you presume
that we all necessarily share in the self-evidence of your meanings.
For my own part, I prefer at least some recourse to the
two-thousand-or-so-year-old dialogue, however circuitous, that informs
our shared understanding of 'truth' of 'history'."
I received two other submissions in the Presentism thread: one of which
I fully support and the other of which I will publish as an example of
what I consider a *thoughtful* contribution to an ongoing scholarly
exchange. Both of these will be included in the digest that follows this
one. With that digest, I intend to give the Presentism discussion a
"time-out" - a term I used when raising my two daughters but one that
seems fully appropriate in light of some of the exchanges that have
appeared in this thread over the past few months.
Well, now, it is time to continue to take the membership with me for a
brief tour behind the scenes of editing SHAKSPER. As it is with posts of
this nature, this one will contain some autobiographical information.
Should reading about me or my internal struggles not be to your liking,
you are forewarned and can feel free to hit the delete button now.
On June 22 of this year, Christy Desmet announced that Issue 2.2 of
_Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation_
was now online at http://www.borrowers.uga.edu. The digest that followed
Christy's announcement was one that I titled "Shameless Plug"; in it, I
noted that I had written one of the articles in B&L 2.2, "SHAKSPER: An
Academic Discussion List," an essay that was comprised of my reflections
about the growth of the SHAKSPER and subsequent difficulties that I have
had as the list's editor with the contributions from the increasingly
Writing this essay for B&L further revealed to me that I am a slow
learner. When I became the full-time editor of SHAKSPER in 1992, the
members of list were virtually all from academia. However, it was not
until the new year of 2006 that I began to figure out why discussions
for the previous ten years were not of the same caliber as those from
the earliest days. My B&L essay recounted what I determined had been the
reason for this sea-change, ideas I also explored in a June 27, 2007,
post titled "It's Academic":
While working on that paper, I determined that at the present
half the members of SHAKSPER were academics and the other
half non-academics. I went on to write that I welcomed the
diversity of members, but that I wanted to regain the academic
focus of the early days of the list. Then I announced that the
only way that I could see that regaining the academic focus
was possible was for me to become active as moderator and
by my only posting messages that I believe are of interest to
the academic community.
For the past two years now, I have been learning that being an active
moderator of what constitutes interest to the "academic" community
[INSERT favorite litote].
Now, further behind the arras:
As difficult as it is for me, I continue to strive to do my best.
However, on many occasions, I simply have failed to live up to my
pledge. In other cases, there are contributors to whom I explain my
reasons for not posting a submission and those explanations are
understood and accepted or others who rewrite a submission after I offer
suggestions about it. But editing SHAKSPER is not, as much as it may
seem to me at times, my full-time job. It certainly does not pay the
mortgage. And so as it turns out there are some members whose virtually
weekly submissions to me on the same topic, over and over again, I
And then there is the conundrum presently presented by the present
DISCLOSURE: In the interests of remaining completely above board about
where I stand, I have made it clear a number of times over the years
that Terry Hawkes and John Drakakis along with Hugh Grady have been
among the most important intellectual and theoretical influences in my
professional life and thought. I have many other heroes, and although it
seems silly to start mentioning any of them, knowing full well I will be
omitting so many others, there are Ralph Alan Cohen, Ian Lancashire,
Jerome McGann, Randy McCloud, Steve Urkowitz, Bernice Kliman, Michael
Warren, Ken Rothwell, Sam Schoenbaum, Alan Dessen, Alan Sinfield,
Tiffany Stern (see I never should have gotten started). . . .
Now, back to the present.
I was delighted that our first SHAKSPER Roundtable was on Presentism.
However, when the topic appeared again a few months ago I was not
terribly enthusiastic about seeing it. After the thread got under way,
contributions to it almost immediately got out of hand. There appear to
be a handful of members of this list who seem constitutionally incapable
of letting an intellectually progressive thought pass without their
being compelled to make disparaging remarks. And then there are those
who cannot permit theoretically interesting ideas to be shouted down and
drown out by the defenders of ANTI-intellectualism that has striven for
so long to pass for thought on this side of the Atlantic (extending
considerable beyond the eight-year reign of the current White House
inhabitant: Richard Hofstadter's _Anti-intellectualism in American Life_
was published in 1969).
FOLKS, this is my PULPIT, and I am doing the BULLYING right now. Grin
and bear it.
Well, back to where I stand.
This iteration of the Presentism thread is (after the one post to
follow) now timed out.
Furthermore, in future, I simply will be ignoring contributions that I
consider to be repetitions of the same old, same old complaints that I
have been bearing (and not very well at that) for so long.
My last remark brings up two more brief points about SHAKSPER and about me.
I still intend at some time soon to establish SHAKSPER as a
not-for-profit corporation so that I can accept tax-deductible
contributions to help me out with the expenses of maintaining and
delivering SHAKSPER and so that I can establish a legal entity that can
be passed on when I am no longer able to continue with it.
Which brings me to my final point. I have been undergoing yet another
medical challenge this semester, which is one of the reasons that
digests have not been arriving with the regularly with which I prefer to
Unfortunately, it has taken a long time to determine the cause of my
current malady, one thankfully that turns out not to be serious.
However, I will require yet another surgery and a bit of a recovery time
afterwards. As a result, I am seriously considering taking sick leave
for the spring semester, teaching only one of my normal four-course per
semester load. I need this time to recover physically and emotionally
and to provide me the time to get some of the writing and research that
I have been neglected since my mind has been so focused lately on my
pain and suffering. I am hoping that having a semester with a
dramatically reduced workload will recharge me so that I will not then
be forced to retire earlier than I had intended.
However, retirement is surely in my future. As much as I cannot imagine
a life without teaching, I have reached a point in my life in which I
just must be doing more of what I want to do in terms of scholarship.
Something has to go, and that something would appear to be teaching
service classes such as technical communications and other undergraduate
writing classes and responsibilities. Since working at a Comprehensive
II University requires a heavy teaching load, I will have either to
retire or find another employment situation so that I will have the time
to pursue the scholarship that I have only been able to slip in here and
there during my thirty plus past years.
Miles to go and all that jazz,
Hardy M. Cook
Owner-Editor-Moderator of SHAKSPER
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook,
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>
DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.