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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: December ::
Behind the Scenes Edition
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0829  Thursday, 20 December 2007

From: 		Hardy M. Cook <
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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 
diverse membership.

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 
simply ignore.

And then there is the conundrum presently presented by the present 
Presentism thread.

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 
deliver them.

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


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