The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0136 Wednesday, 25 March 2009
From: Hardy M. Cook <
Date: Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Subject: Update on Patricia Parker's Dispute with Arden Shakespeare
In January, Cengage Learning quietly sold The Arden Shakespeare to the
Methuen Drama division of Bloomsbury Publishing. I and others had hoped
that this sale might be an opportunity for Methuen to reinstate Patricia
Parker under the proposal John Drakakis made in August 2008 and that was
discussed on the Richard Halpern site, beginning in September.
After several months of silence, I received a note from a SHAKSPER
subscriber and decided to see what I could find out about the situation.
Anyone who wrote to Methuen about the matter received a form letter from
Margaret Bartley, who for many years has overseen the Arden series as
publisher, first at Thomson Learning, then the Cengage, and now at A & C
Black. In this form letter, she writes, "We [Methuen Drama] have been
made aware of the dispute between Patricia Parker on the one side and
Cengage Learning and the Arden General Editors on the other. . . . At
this early stage in our [presumably Methuen Drama's] acquisition of this
list, it is nevertheless clear to Methuen Drama that the publishing
relationship between Patricia Parker and her previous publisher and the
General Editors of Arden had irretrievably broken down."
Yesterday, I wrote to John Drakakis who had made the proposal that Prof.
Andrew Gurr be appointed as co-editor to see the substantially completed
edition through to its conclusion.
I recently received an email from a SHAKSPER subscriber concerning
Cengage Learning's sale of the Arden Shakespeare to Methuen Drama, an
imprint of A&C Black Publishers, Ltd., which is a subsidiary of
Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; the email inquired if Methuen might now be
willing to reinstate Patricia Parker as editor of A Midsummer Night's
Dream: "I wondered if they [Methuen] might be more willing to reinstate
Patricia Parker as the editor of A Midsummer Night's Dream, about which
there has been so much concern. Maybe it would be helpful if some of us
Before I posted this query, I wanted to find out additional information.
<http://www.ardenshakespeare.com/methuen_drama.aspx>directs queries to
Suzi Williamson, but anyone who writes asking about Pat Parker's
possible reinstatement receives a form letter from Margaret Bartley, the
>My colleague Suzi Williamson has passed your
>email on to me as the Publisher for the Arden
>Shakespeare. Perhaps I may simply include below
>the letter we have sent to anyone contacting A&C
>Black with regard to Professor Parker's edition:
>Methuen Drama, an imprint of A&C Black Publishers Ltd,
>purchased the Arden Shakespeare list from
>Methuen Drama is one of Europe's largest performing arts
>publishers, with a long-term commitment to
>the publication of contemporary plays as well as student
>and scholarly editions, both under its own
>imprint, and under the name of New Mermaids.
>We have been made aware of the dispute between
>Patricia Parker on the one side and Cengage Learning
>and the Arden General Editors on the other.
>We are not in a position to comment further at present
>on the rights and wrongs of the case nor, given that
>this is a long-standing contractual dispute concerning
>an author with a previous publisher, is it appropriate.
>At this early stage in our acquisition of this list, it is
>nevertheless clear to Methuen Drama that the publishing
>relationship between Patricia Parker and her previous
>publisher and the General Editors of Arden had irretrievably
>broken down. We think that it is in neither the interests of
>the Arden Shakespeare list, nor of Professor Parker, to
>continue this discussion further.
At the website set up by Richard Halpern to solicit signatures on a
petition to reinstate Pat Parker, a discussion took place in the Discuss
the Petition section regarding your suggestion that Prof. Andrew Gurr be
brought in as a co-editor to oversee the edition. This discussion began
on September 15, 2008, when you wrote, "I copy below the relevant
section of the letter that I sent to Cengage on 22 August":
>Certainly there is now sufficient uncontested information
>in the public domain to warrant the immediate and
>unconditional reinstatement of Professor Parker.
>I think that in the interests of the reputation of Arden,
>there is no alternative to this course of action. I would
>very strongly advise against the appointment of a co-editor
>at this late stage, since this would simply impede the process
>of completion, and would raise further (dare I say sinister)
>questions about Arden's general editorial procedures. The
>best way forward for all concerned, I suggest, would be
>to bring in an independent, experienced, internationally
>recognised Shakespearean textual and theatrical scholar
>such as Professor Andrew Gurr, to oversee this edition. I
>understand that Professor Gurr has seen substantial amounts
>of Professor Parker's ongoing work on this edition over the
>last few years, which is, I imagine, the reason why she
>has been invited to deliver a keynote lecture at a
>forthcoming Globe conference to be held in his honour.
>This course of action would, I believe, be welcomed
>by the scholarly community generally, and would also
>have the effect of restoring confidence in the Arden
>project that has been seriously damaged by this whole affair.
>I trust that you will regard my concern in this matter as
>being in the best interests of the Arden 3 Series. It is of
>vital importance that proper collegial relations be
>re-established as a matter of urgency, since if the
>situation is allowed to continue unchecked, then the
>opportunity to redeem what has quickly become a very
>critical situation will have been lost. I am circulating
>this letter to all those directly involved in Arden,
>since I understand that this particular case has
>generated very considerable anxiety amongst
>scholars actively involving in completing Arden projects.
You concluded, "I reprint this extract here in the fervent hope that it
will help to bring to a speedy conclusion a matter that many of us
regard as being very serious indeed."
Many eminent Shakespearean scholars and textual editors expressed
support of your proposal: Paul Yachnin, Michael Neill, John Cox,
Juliet Dusinberre, Leah S. Marcus, David Bevington, Peter Holland,
Charles Edelman, Robert S. Miola, Michael Warren, Andrew Murphy, Harry
Berger, Jr., Margreta de Grazia, Helen Ostovich, Terence Hawkes, Steven
Mullaney, Martin Orkin, John Joughin, Dennis Kennedy, and Peter Hulme.
Since you are an Arden editor yourself and the proposer of the
suggestion that Andrew Gurr be appointed as co-editor to oversee the
Parker edition of _A Midsummer Night's Dream_, I am writing to ask you
if you can share with me (or with the SHAKSPER subscribers) the current
state of your suggestion?
Today, I received a reply from John Drakakis. He begins by informing me
that he had "just returned from Europe, where the Patricia Parker issue
is still very much alive, and is causing considerable concern among
scholars." He then goes on to say the following,
Indeed, I have received an email from an eminent Renaissance scholar
recently expressing outrage at the decision to terminate Professor
Parker's contract. The proposal that I made in a letter of 22 August,
2008 has never been formally put to Professor Gurr, and he has said in
writing that were it to be put to him then he would be willing to act in
the capacity I outlined. I firmly believe that this is the only way
forward if the Arden general editors wish to remove the taint from their
Professor Parker's edition is the most eagerly awaited of all Arden
editions, and I am very disappointed that Methuen have not taken the
opportunity on acquiring the Arden Series to cat in the proper manner.
Prof. Drakakis also included a copy of an email he sent to Margaret
Bartley on January 13, 2009:
I still have one nagging concern, which is that the Patricia Parker
Midsummer Night's Dream issue has not, and will not, go away until a
proper solution is found. In the light of your recent announcement I can
now see why Cengage were eager to give the impression that the issue was
closed, and I can see that you had no alternative but to comply. But at
present there is still in existence a website that contains a very large
number of influential signatories whose opinions you should take
seriously in the new atmosphere that this sale has created. I am sure
that I am not alone in continuing to be concerned that the threat of a
world-wide boycott of Arden Shakespeare volumes still hangs over us. You
and I both know that that threat is real, and that it will jeopardise
our collective scholarly work as well as the future of Arden.
The Halpern website is a more than ample testimony to the strength of
feeling that this issue has created, and in my view there are two things
that will result in its being removed. At the end of last year, both you
and Cengage (and in the light of various documents that I have seen, I
am still very reluctant to believe that you and they are the same)
indicated that there were no plans to re-assign A Midsummer Night's
Dream. Whatever the motive for that strategy, it was the right move, and
this seems an appropriate moment to reflect on the acknowledged
10-years' work that Professor Parker has already undertaken, and to
think about re-instatement. If, as you say, the series is nearing
completion, then the guarantee that the series will be completed in a
timely fashion would surely be to reinstate Professor Parker in the full
knowledge that an edition of A Midsummer Night's Dream will be
forthcoming within the current schedule. A particular proposal has been
on the table since August 22 that has attracted widespread support, and
may yet, in the light of Professor Gurr's own response to a letter from
Jill Jones of Cengage at the end of last year, provide the basis for
The sale to Bloomsbury provides a unique opportunity to initiate a break
with the events of the last 6 months in relation to A Midsummer Night's
Dream and it is one that should not, in my view, be allowed to pass by.
I would be very unhappy- and again, I don't think that I am alone in
this- if a situation that can now be resolved amicably in a very
positive atmosphere should be allowed to deteriorate into
recrimination, and claim and counter-claim, all conducted in a far more
public forum than has been the case so far.
This is a moment to reflect on the events of the last 6 months, and to
do whatever is necessary to lift the threat of serious damage that still
hangs over the Arden Shakespeare project. I would urge you to think
carefully and to resist any temptation to sustain the damaging
managerialist ethos so characteristic of Cengage. In doing so I have no
doubt that you would receive the overwhelming support of the Shakespeare
community, and I feel certain that many of the threats of boycott of the
Arden Shakespeare would disappear overnight. The alternative is too
horrific to contemplate at any time, but especially at the beginning of
a new year.
I too hope that Prof. Parker is reinstated to the Arden Shakespeare
project, so its good name can be returned, bruised but not broken.
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
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