The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0471 Friday, 15 August 2008
 From: Hardy M. Cook <
Date: Friday, August 15, 2008
Subj: Firing of Arden Editor Causes Tempest in Shakespeare Studies
 From: Peter Holland <
Date: Thursday, 14 Aug 2008 14:21:57 -0400
Subj: Re: SHK 19.0460 Petition Regarding Arden Shakespeare's . . .
From: Hardy M. Cook <
Date: Friday, August 15, 2008
Subject: Firing of Arden Editor Causes Tempest in Shakespeare Studies
In the last SHAKSPER digest, I mentioned an article that appeared in today's
print and online versions of _The Chronicle of Higher Education_:
Since the reading the entire article requires a subscription to the print or
online journal, I am suspending my normal practices and including the majority
of the article as a whole.
Firing of Arden Editor Causes Tempest in Shakespeare Studies
By JENNIFER HOWARD
The publisher of the eminent Arden Shakespeare collection has sent a shock wave
through the ranks of Shakespeare scholars by terminating the contract of the
senior researcher charged with editing a new edition of A Midsummer Night's
Dream for the series.
The decision by Cengage Learning to sever ties with Patricia Parker, a professor
of English at Stanford University, has infuriated many of Ms. Parker's fellow
Shakespeareans. More than 180 supporters have signed an online petition
demanding her reinstatement.
Many colleagues who signed the petition wrote about how ardently they had
anticipated Ms. Parker's version of the play, which has been in the works for
more than a decade, and threatened to boycott Arden editions if she is not
allowed to complete it.
So far the publisher has offered no public explanation for the dismissal. Ronald
G. Dunn, Cengage's president and chief executive officer, issued a brief written
statement in response to the protests.
"We have the highest regard for Patricia Parker as a scholar, and we regret that
our relationship with her has ended this way," Mr. Dunn wrote. "As I'm sure you
can appreciate, because this is a confidential contractual matter, it is not
appropriate for us to discuss the details publicly. We fully support the Arden
series, its authors, editors, and staff, and we appreciate the scholarly
community's passion for these works."
A Revered Series
The first volumes of the Arden Shakespeare began to appear in 1899; a second set
of editions came out from the 1950s to the 1980s. Arden 3, as the current series
is known, took off in 1995.
The uproar over Ms. Parker's dismissal proves how influential the series
remains. Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press also publish
well-regarded Shakespeare editions. "But many scholars still look to the Arden
as the benchmark," according to Gordon Teskey, a professor of English at Harvard
University who signed the petition on Ms. Parker's behalf.
"It always seemed to me that she is the ideal person to be editing this play,
and I have anticipated her edition for some time with great enthusiasm," Mr.
Teskey told The Chronicle in an e-mail. He described himself as "surprised and
dismayed" by her termination.
The scholars who serve as Arden's general editors -- Richard Proudfoot, Ann
Thompson, and David Scott Kastan -- have not made any public comments so far.
Ms. Parker tells her side of the story in a long letter posted on a Web site,
The Web site and petition were created by Richard Halpern, a professor of
English and director of undergraduate studies at the Johns Hopkins University.
Mr. Halpern told The Chronicle that he launched the petition because he admires
Ms. Parker's scholarship and believes that the episode has broader implications
for scholars who undertake textual editing, particularly for commercial publishers.
In the posted letter, dated August 2, Ms. Parker writes that she had been "in a
state of shock and disbelief" since receiving the termination notice from
Margaret Bartley, the Cengage publisher in charge of the series, in July.
According to Ms. Parker's account, Ms. Bentley cited a failure to meet a recent
deadline as the reason for the termination.
Ms. Parker describes a tangled web of lost contracts and missing correspondence
on Arden's end. She cites "delays and nonresponses" after her requests for
editorial feedback. Otherwise, she writes, she could have finished the edition
"many years ago." Instead, she writes, her text of the play "was being held in
Much Labour Lost?
Ms. Parker has presented her work on A Midsummer Night's Dream at conferences
and lectures and has shared it with individual scholars. A number of those who
signed the petition expressed some familiarity with her approach to the play.
Some signers detected the sinister hand of commercialism behind Arden's
decision. Some wondered whether a disagreement among the general editors might
be to blame and whether Ms. Parker might have been punished for an approach to
Shakespeare that was too innovative for some of the old guard.
"Pat has been a very original scholar," said Gary Taylor, a professor of English
at Florida State University and one of the general editors of the Oxford
Shakespeare. He also signed the reinstatement petition. "From everything I know
about Patricia Parker and her work, I would not expect her edition to look just
like everybody else's."
If a clash of editorial approaches did cause Ms. Parker's termination, Mr.
Taylor told The Chronicle, somebody should step forward and explain that. "This
kind of silence is good for no one except people who are standing behind walls
of lawyers," he said.
When one looks at the range of Shakespeare editions on the market, Mr. Taylor
observed, one encounters "a surprising and often numbing uniformity about them."
Over all he sees "a kind of commercial censorship, a feeling that we don't want
to disturb the very comfortable cash cow of Shakespeare publishing."
In a case like Ms. Parker's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Mr. Taylor told The
Chronicle, the lack of public explanation "makes it hard to judge whether this
is a case of commercial censorship or whether it's a dispute between scholars."
Meanwhile, Cengage has not yet signed another editor to take Ms. Parker's place,
and there are 17 plays still to publish in the Arden 3 series. "Arden represents
a very small part of our business in commercial terms, but we have been very
pleased to support its scholarly mission," the publisher told The Chronicle.
From: Peter Holland <
Date: Thursday, 14 Aug 2008 14:21:57 -0400
Subject: 19.0460 Petition Regarding Arden Shakespeare's Termination
Comment: Re: SHK 19.0460 Petition Regarding Arden Shakespeare's Termination
of Patricia Parker
I am pasting here my letter to Richard Halpern and the many recipients of his
e-mail concerning all this. I hope Professor Halpern will not mind my including
his e-mail as well. For once (and it's a very rare occurrence) I do not find
myself agreeing with Hardy and I shall not be signing the petition.
When I had finished writing the e-mail which follows, I hovered for a long time
before sending it. It is not phrased quite as I might wish but I still think it
worth sending. Here goes.
Since my inbox is full of messages on the subject of Pat and Dream and Arden and
since I have not yet made any e-comment about what has happening, I thought I
would use yours to make one. I count Pat as a dear friend and, of course, I
deeply admire her work. She and I have talked on the phone about the Arden
events, as we also busily e-mail about my work on the Shakespeare Encyclopedia
she is editing. I have heard her account of what has happened.
What I have not heard - what none of us have heard -- is Arden's side of the
story. Now it is likely to be the case that Margaret, Cengage and the General
Editors might have something to say. I don't know what it is and I am not going
to guess whether it would impress or persuade me for a fraction of a second. I
am sorry that there has been a rush to judgement by so many people, a decision
that so unequivocally assumes that there cannot be any rational reason for
Arden's actions. Many appear to assume that everyone associated with Arden is
100% in the wrong, though that transgresses every aspect of complex human social
interaction that I encounter. I repeat, as emphatically as I can, that I do not
know whether there is any sensible reason from their POV; I only know that they
have chosen to treat the matter as confidential and hence not to make a public
statement about what led to the decision.
In addition, I do not believe that any further public statements of support for
Pat and further reviling of the stupidity of the Arden team serves any purpose.
It is already apparent that many people, having heard Pat's account, have voiced
their anger. Threats of boycotting Arden that you report below are silly as a
scholarly and pedagogic response. The worth of all the other Arden 3 editions
does not hang on whether or not Pat's Dream edition, which would, I am sure, be
outstanding, is published in the series. The exhilarating prospect of, for
instance, working with my students Timon, using Tony and Gretchen's magnificent
edition (to take the most recent one I have been enjoying) does not depend for
me on whether a completely different edition in the series is or is not
published, even if I were absolutely sure (as I cannot be) that Margaret,
Cengage and the Arden General Editors have behaved in the most damnable fashion.
Much as I desperately want to see Pat's Arden Dream (and I write as a previous
Dream editor!), I, for one, will not deprive my students of the work of my
colleagues, many of whom are as brilliant and wonderful as Pat is.
Since letters like this one which go against the flow are so often misread, let
me repeat yet again that I do not write this with any assumption that Arden is
right and Pat is wrong. Nor do I believe that the shares of responsibility or
blame must be 50/50 or any other proportion. I write only in the full knowledge
that I do not have full knowledge of what happened or why, from Arden's
perspective, termination of the contract seemed the right decision. Only with
that knowledge could the (currently intemperate) comments that are widely
circulating possibly be validated.
Please note that I have copied Pat into this e-mail exchange since I want her
too to understand that I am not trying for a moment to exonerate Arden's
actions. But the current flurry of a campaign with associated threats to which
you refer is not, for me, a good way (read: 'a good scholarly, critical and
pedagogic as well as a good political way') to proceed.
With best wishes,
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, August 11, 2008 4:40 PM
Subject: online petition in support of Pat Parker
Dear Ms. Bartley and Mr. Dunn:
I write to alert you to the existence of an online petition calling for Pat
Parker's reinstatement as editor of the Arden 3 Midsummer Night's Dream. The
petition has over 70 signatures already, and more come in by the hour. As
important as numbers is the eminence of many of the signatories, who are among
the most important Shakespeare and Renaissance scholars from around the world.
Most of the signatures are accompanied by individualized comments which may also
be of interest to you. I invite you to view the petition and signatures at
http://arden.petitionhost.com/ and to re-check it periodically to keep abreast
of the ever-expanding list of petitioners.
As the response to this petition suggests, the "buzz" around the profession
created by this dismissal should be of concern to you. More than one petitioner
resolves not to order Arden editions for use in courses until the matter is
resolved. I join them in their resolve and in the hope that Professor Parker
will soon be reinstated as editor of this play.
Sir William Osler Professor of English
Johns Hopkins University
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
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