Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: January ::
New Year's Greetings
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0001  Thursday, 3 January 2008

From: 		Hardy M. Cook <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date: 		Thursday, January 03, 2008
Subject: 	New Year's Greetings

Dear SHAKSPEReans,

This digest is the first in SHAKSPER's nineteenth year. I just spent an 
hour or so browsing the archives and reading the first message of each 
of SHAKSPER's previous years: "What a long, strange trip it's been." 
Anyone wishing to do as I have should go to this link, click on a 
Volume, sort by date, read, and enjoy. 
http://www.shaksper.net/archives/index.html

I am including an excerpted essay without notes or citations about the 
history of SHAKSPER and a few of the interesting exchanges of the past 
that because of my health last semester I missed a publication deadline 
so it will not be published after all. As for my health, I spent another 
week in the hospital and have requested sick leave for the spring 
semester to stabilize myself and to dedicate to the scholarship I have 
neglected.

S H A K S P E R: The Global Electronic Shakespeare Conference: An Overview

SHAKSPER, now in its eighteenth year, is an international "electronic 
seminar" that enables ongoing discussion of all things Shakespearean. 
Technically an e-mail distribution list, it uses Listserv software to 
deliver, archive, and manage its digests.  In addition, the SHAKSPER web 
site <www.shaksper.net>makes all the list's archived materials readily 
accessible over the Internet.  The membership currently includes more 
than 1,200 SHAKSPEReans from sixty-four countries.  Shakespearean 
textual scholars and bibliographers, editors and critics are members, 
but so are university, college, and community-college professors, 
high-school teachers, undergraduates and graduates, actors, theatre 
professionals, authors, poets, playwrights, librarians, computer 
scientists, lawyers, doctors, retirees, and other interested 
participants.  SHAKSPER strives to focus on the scholarly by offering 
the opportunity for the formal exchange of ideas through queries and 
responses regarding literary, critical, textual, theoretical, and 
performative topics and issues.  Announcements of conferences, of calls 
for papers, of seminars, of lectures, of symposia, of job openings, of 
the publication of books, of the availability of online and print 
articles, of Internet databases and resources, of journal contents, and 
of performances and festivals are regular features as are reviews of 
scholarly books, of past and present theatrical productions, and of 
Shakespeare and Shakespeare-inspired films as well as citations and 
discussions of "popular" culture references to Shakespeare and his 
works.  Further, SHAKSPER provides occasion for spontaneous informal 
discussion, eavesdropping (known as lurking), peer review, and a sense 
of belonging to a worldwide scholarly community.

On May 14, 1987, Willard McCarty then of the Centre for Computing in the 
Humanities at the University of Toronto founded HUMANIST as "a 
Bitnet/NetNorth electronic mail network for people who support computing 
in the humanities" to "foster discussion of basic problems and exchange 
of information among humanists world-wide, thus aiding research and 
strengthening the community".  HUMANIST was the prototype for all 
academic e-mail distribution lists and continues to this day under 
McCarty's able editorship.  Kenneth Steele, then a graduate student at 
the University of Toronto, inspired by HUMANIST, decided to found a 
similar list dedicated to Shakespeare.  The name he chose was SHAKSPER; 
at the time, for technical reasons, list names could be no longer than 
eight characters.  On July 26, 1990, Steele's dream became reality.

I met Ken Steele at the 1990 Shakespeare Association of America annual 
meeting in Philadelphia.  We were both members of a seminar on computing 
approaches to Shakespeare.  He told me about his plans for the 
Shakespeare Conference, and I expressed my interest.  About a dozen 
Shakespeareans including myself formed the core of founding members.  On 
February 21, 1992, I became SHAKSPER's co-editor, at first being 
responsible for the file server.  On March 25, I took over the editing 
of the daily submissions into the digests.  On June 3, Ken decided to 
take a leave of absence from his graduate studies, and I became 
SHAKSPER's owner, editor, and moderator.  At that time, the 293 members 
were virtually all from academia.  Commercial Internet service providers 
were just getting started in the early 1990s.  The January 1, 1992, 
membership list of 223, for example, contains only eight addresses that 
ended in ".COM," and none of these are from the Internet service 
providers we are so familiar with today.  The remaining, except for one 
with an "ORG" extension, i.e., an organization, are Bitnet or Internet 
addresses from academic institutions.  Through the early 1990s the 
number of members steady increased: 400 in October 1993, 500 in February 
1994, 700 in September 1994, and 1,000 in March 1995.  Since the late 
1990s, the membership has hovered around 1,300.

[ . . . ]

Over the years, SHAKSPEReans have talked about thousands of different 
topics.  Members surely will differ about which ones they consider most 
memorable.  But what long-time member could forget the announcement of 
the As You Like It Hike: "a performance of 'As You Like It' (by Equity 
actors) performed at various locations throughout an actual forest.  The 
actors and audience will walk together to each new location, covering 
about 4 miles all told.  The audience is told to bring a sack lunch, 
which everybody will eat together during the supper scene in 2.7".  Or 
Terence Hawkes's subsequent: "We may have to abandon our annual 'King 
Lear' Cakewalk. Persuading the audience to jump off the cliff was always 
difficult. However, guests will continue to be welcome at the Titus 
Andronicus Lunch (no substitutions)".  I will not soon forget the 
disagreements about the appropriateness of postings about 
Shakespeare-related pornography, the extended discussion of A Funeral 
Elegy, or the first mentions of "Presentism".  From SHAKSPER, I learned 
of the deaths of O. B. Hardison, Fredson Bowers, Peggy Ashcroft, 
Northrop Frye, Joseph Papp, Judith Anderson, G. B. Harrison, Sam 
Schoenbaum, M. C. Bradbrook, A. L. Rowse, Harold Jenkins, Maynard Mack, 
Jonas Barish, J. L. Styan, Marvin Rosenberg, Roland Mushat Frye, and 
Levi Fox.  I enjoyed postings about the proper time to take tea, and as 
an added bonus I learned about "elevenses."  The catalog goes on and on, 
but three extended discussions exemplify what I consider SHAKSPER at its 
best.  In the following, I will attempt to capture the essence of these 
threads rather than to recount every detail or to make extensive 
commentary on cited postings.

Earlier in this essay, I mention that Phyllis Rackin, in her Shakespeare 
Association of America "President's Letter," cited the heated discussion 
that followed the announcement that Sam Wanamaker had been awarded a CBE 
for his work on the Bankside Globe; she wrote, "Outraged responses from 
the UK provoked a series of exchanges that exposed profound differences 
between the political and cultural locations occupied by 'Shakespeare' 
on the two sides of the Atlantic."  Before examining some of those 
exchanges, let me provide some background.  In 1970, Sam Wanamaker 
established the Shakespeare Globe Playhouse Trust, whose principal 
objective was to raise funds to rebuild the Globe Theatre.  In the same 
year, the Southwark Council offered the Trust a 1.2 acre site for the 
project.  This site was located beside the Thames River, opposite St. 
Paul's Cathedral, approximately 200 yards from the site of the original 
Globe.  In 1987 a ground-breaking ceremony was held, and the site was 
cleared.  In February 1989, the remains of the Rose were discovered; in 
October 1989 approximately five percent of the foundation of the Globe 
was uncovered.  On October 25, 1990, Stephen Miller of King's College 
London provided information for the first SHAKSPER posting about the two 
sites and some of the activities related to them.

On August 11, 1993, Australian Robert O'Connor asked if anyone knew the 
mailing address of The International Shakespeare Globe Centre (ISGC). 
The next day, Kenneth Rothwell, after providing it, added "His friends 
will be interested and pleased to learn that the Director, Sam 
Wanamaker, has recently been honored by the Queen with the designation 
of 'Honorary Commander of the British Empire (CBE).'.  A few days later, 
John Drakakis remarked:

I understand that there has been some transatlantic genuflecting in 
response to the apparent fact that Sam Wanamaker has been given an 
honorary CBE.  Far be it from me to dampen the enthusiasm of some of my 
more naive Shakespearean colleagues. I'm left wondering what one has to 
DO to get an honorary CBE (Commander of the British Empire!) Aside from 
helping to oust a few roadsweepers from their depot in Southwark, and 
contributing to the further impoverishment of still one of the poorest 
boroughs in England, I guess it must have something to do with the 
National Bard! It also, if my memory serves me right, has something to 
do with Harry and Leona Helmsley among others!"

Several days after this posting, Stephen Miller reported: "This morning 
was a fine crisp sunny morning in London and I decided to walk along 
Bankside. Workmen on Sam Wanamaker's GLOBE site were erecting 
scaffolding.  There are now two sections of two bays each of the oak 
super-structure of the Globe in place, facing each other.  The new 
scaffolding is on the North side and it looks as though one section of 
two bays is to be extended by another two bays.".  To these 
observations, John Drakakis continued:

I wonder if in Stephen Miller's next communication from the Globe site 
he might mention the 7 million pounds compensation which Southwark 
borough council were ordered to pay to a property developer at an 
earlier stage in the life of this project.  Also is he aware that two 
intending financial contributors to the project in the USA have been 
prosecuted on charges of tax evasion.

Or maybe he's so besotted with the idea of a Globe theatre on or near 
the original site, that these small matters are of no concern to him. 
I'd like to see a monument on the site to the seven (or was it eleven?) 
roadsweepers who were so unceremoniously displaced from their depot to 
make way for the unrestrained exercise of misplaced idealism to operate 
unchecked.

Across the Atlantic, Edward Bonahue reacted: "To many of us here in the 
States, John Drakakis's interesting details about the Globe project are 
not widely known.  I'd be interested in hearing more about how the 
project is being received by both academics and the general public in 
Great Britain".  In the same digest, Jerald Bangham declared:
Considering the number of high-rise office buildings being built in the 
area, it strikes me as highly unlikely that the dustmen's lot would have 
remained inviolate even without the theatre project.

It also seems likely that the local economy will benefit from the influx 
of tourists into the neighborhood.

The lines were drawn.  In the next day's digests, Michael Mullin noted a 
political connection:

Whether or not the Globe restored rises on the South Bank or not, the 
project holds obvious importance in the present British political scene, 
especially the Labour-Tory or working class-merchant class conflict. 
And John D. stands firmly on the Labour side, to the far left.  Many 
theatre artists and scholars do not take such a narrow and parochial 
view. Peggy Ashcroft and others lay down in the dirt to prevent the 
bulldozing of the site; the Wanamaker effort enjoys wide support around 
the world. Terence Hawkes responded:

At least Michael Mullin allows that the Globe project HAS a political 
dimension.  However, it goes well beyond the material issues raised on 
the South Bank site.  What does he think the function of these phony 
links with a past "Golden Age" really is?  Why has the British 
government recently legislated that the study of Shakespeare shall 
become compulsory at every level of the education system?  Why has 
Prince Charles, this summer, instigated his own Shakespeare summer 
school at Stratford?  Has it got absolutely nothing to do with our 
imminent absorption into Europe?  With Ireland?  With the declining 
fortunes of the House of Windsor?  Think about it, Michael - as 
presumably Sam "Commander of the British Empire" Wannamaker has.

The debate continued: Was Shakespeare a radical or a conservative?; Can 
we know? Are his works radical and politicized?; What are the ways that 
Shakespeare's texts have been used as icons in British culture?; and so 
on.  The British position was articulated by John Drakakis - "There is 
an irony . . . in the fact that an American should wish to rebuild the 
Globe AND that his efforts should be rewarded with a particular kind of 
royal honour.  On this side of the Atlantic, where politics is not an 
optional add-on, some of us find this matter interesting." - and by 
Terence Hawkes - ". . . don't ANY of our colleagues in The Republic find 
it slightly distasteful that an American citizen should accept the title 
'Commander of the British Empire' with an apparently straight face?". 
John Lavagnino provided an American perspective:

In response to Terence Hawkes's inquiry: no, I at least don't find it 
distasteful that an American citizen should accept a title like 
"Commander of the British Empire"; I find it amusing.  Cultures vary 
from country to country, not just from century to century; I can believe 
that this honor (and the Globe business generally) can seem appalling to 
those in the UK, but in the context of American culture it all looks 
different.  Titles like CBE, to us, are one of those quaint things they 
have over in Merrie England that make it such an interesting tourist 
attraction . . .

The discussions that followed concentrated more on politics than on Sam 
Wanamaker's CBE and seemed to wind down with this observation by Dennis 
Kennedy:

. . . there were two subjects in this lengthy exchange, one about the 
politics of Shakespeare, the other about Wanamaker's CBE and the Globe 
project.  The fact that discussion about the first became conflated with 
the second seems to prove the point some of us have been trying to make 
in print, that ideas about Shakespeare's own ideology or the ideological 
status of the plays cannot be extricated from our own political (or 
social or cultural) positions in the fin of our siecle.

On Sunday, December 18, 1993, Kenneth Rothwell announced Sam Wanamaker's 
death.  In the summer of 1994, construction of the "New" Globe building 
began.  The next few years saw a number of reports on the progress of 
the Globe "restoration."  By September of 1996, reports of productions 
during the "Prologue Season" began to turn up.  In late 1996, notices 
about the 1997 "Opening Season" appeared.  Discussions about politics 
and the commercialization continued but began to give way to discussions 
of productions in the theatre, with the 1997 Henry V and the 1998 
Merchant of Venice receiving a fair share of attention.  Nevertheless, 
the 1993 debate was certainly an enlightening, unforgettable one. 
Another memorable dispute concerned the so-called "Authorship Question."

[What follows is a discussion of the so-called "Authorship Question," 
and an account of how I eventually "banned" discussion of the topic."]

The issue of talking about Shakespeare's characters as if they were 
"real" people - a la L. C. Knights's question, "How Many Children Had 
Lady Macbeth?" - is regularly raised on SHAKSPER.  On several occasions, 
the thread has resulted from a naive question.

[What follows is an account of exchanges regarding "characters."]

The character debate has reemerged on several occasions.  In early 
February 1996, the question of whether Hamlet and Ophelia had sexual 
relations was brought up.  After members expressed many opinions on the 
matter, including Louis Scheeder's "Only in the Chicago company", John 
Drakakis sounded the point made a year and a half earlier, "I fail to 
understand the need to treat Ophelia as a real person.  Whether she is 
pregnant or not is about as irrelevant as whether Gertrude and Claudius 
had a clandestine affair before the death of Old Hamlet, or whether Lady 
Macbeth had any children (and how many).  Terence Hawkes observed, "The 
theory shared by a number of MY colleagues is that Hamlet and Ophelia 
had textual relations".  Others in the debate, myself included, wanted 
to distinguish between textual and performative characters - characters 
in texts and characters in performances.  Nonetheless, discussions of 
characters as "real persons" continue.  In fact, this interest in 
characters and their motivations, frequently in relations to a "pet" 
theory about Shakespeare or about a particular play, has been the 
central location of contention on SHAKSPER emanating oftentimes over the 
past half dozen years from exceptionally vocal and passionate 
non-academic members, greatly complicating my role as moderator.

SHAKSPER was founded as an "academic" conference, and I still view it as 
such.  Nevertheless, I have encouraged diversity and inclusiveness.  In 
the early days of SHAKSPER before the proliferation of Internet Service 
Providers, almost all of the members of the list were from academia. 
However, as the Internet and personal computers became ubiquitous the 
membership of SHAKSPER changed as did the nature of some of the 
discourse that took place on the list.  Beginning in the mid-1990s, 
meta-discussions concerning SHAKSPER's purpose, most initiated by 
academics, began to appear with increasing frequency among the 
discussions.  The eight-week hiatus at the end of 2005 and the beginning 
2006, which resulted from the server crash mentioned above, provided me 
a break from my editing duties and the chance to consider the changes 
that had occurred as SHAKSPER evolved from its academic roots.  When 
SHAKSPER came back online in February, in an effort to regain the 
academic focus of the early days of the list, I resolved to become a 
more active moderator and only to post messages that I believe were of 
interest to the Shakespeare academic community.  By adopting this new 
policy and direction to the posting messages only of interest to the 
academic community, I was not proposing to restrict the membership of 
SHAKSPER or to eliminate significant questions and comments from actors, 
directors, or any member of SHAKSPER.  The source of the post was not 
the issue; the issue was its relevance to the broad scope of academic 
interests in Shakespeare studies.  In the spirit of reasserting SHAKSPER 
discursive role in the scholarly community, a new feature on SHAKSPER 
will commence in January 2007, The SHAKSPER Roundtable.  These 
roundtable exchanges are designed to differ from the everyday 
discussions that take place on the list.  They will be organized around 
a focused topic of current interest to the discipline of Shakespeare or 
Early Modern Studies and will be under the direction of a Guest 
Moderator.  Our first topic is Presentism with Hugh Grady, Professor of 
English at Arcadia University in Pennsylvania, as Guest Moderator.  The 
Guest Moderator is responsible for initiating, moderating, directing, 
and concluding the discussions.  To begin, the Guest Moderator suggests 
a Reading List of three to five items that are announced at least two 
weeks before discussion starts. Anyone participating is expected to be 
thoroughly familiar with these readings.  The Guest Moderator initiates 
the discussion with a question or a statement.   Members who wish to 
participate send responses that are clearly identified as belonging to 
the Forum/Roundtable thread to me, and I forward them to the Guest 
Moderator, who organizes and comments on the entire week's submissions 
before suggesting directions that discussions might take the following 
week.  After calling an end to the Roundtable, the Guest Moderator 
provides a summary statement, and then the entire course of the 
Roundtable discussions is given its own page on the SHAKSPER website for 
public review.  My hope is that these changes will enable SHAKSPER to 
regain some of the excitement of the earlier years when scholars around 
the world had an alternative venue to conferences and publications to 
talk and to explore ideas.

Best wishes for the New Year,
Hardy

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
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.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.