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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: August ::
Petition Regarding Arden Shakespeare's Termination
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0471  Friday, 15 August 2008

[1] From:  Hardy M. Cook <
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     Date:  Friday, August 15, 2008
     Subj:  Firing of Arden Editor Causes Tempest in Shakespeare Studies

[2] From:  Peter Holland <
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     Date:  Thursday, 14 Aug 2008 14:21:57 -0400
     Subj:  Re: SHK 19.0460 Petition Regarding Arden Shakespeare's . . .

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Hardy M. Cook <
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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_:

http://chronicle.com/daily/2008/08/4252n.htm

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, 
reinstatepatparker.com.

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 
limbo."

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.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Peter Holland <
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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.

Peter Holland

++++++++++
Dear Richard,

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,
Peter

  ----- Original Message -----
From: 
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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.

Sincerely,
Richard Halpern
Sir William Osler Professor of English
Johns Hopkins University

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