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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: November ::
Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0419  Monday, 1 November 2010

[1]  From:      John W Kennedy <
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     Date:      October 29, 2010 7:27:49 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0412  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous 

[2]  From:      Tom Reedy <
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     Date:      October 29, 2010 7:54:36 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0412  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
 
[3]  From:      Gabriel Egan <
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     Date:      October 30, 2010 6:43:49 AM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0412  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
 
[4]  From:      Hardy M. Cook <
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     Date:      Monday, November 1, 2010            
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0412 Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         John W Kennedy <
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Date:         October 29, 2010 7:27:49 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0412  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0412  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous

I'm not a proper academic, but I can think of a few points.

Emmerich is generally regarded with contempt in the science-fiction community, as a 
notorious purveyor of what is contemptuously dismissed as "skiffy" (i.e., "sci-fi" 
without any hint of "science" about it).

I suppose someone will have to make the sacrifice of actually watching the thing, so 
as to make a list of the outright lies it is sure to include.

Anyone is free to use the synopsis of anti-Stratfordiana on my personal website. 
(Perhaps I should follow present fashion and re-title it "$#*! Anti-Stratfordians 
Say".)

I strongly suggest that anyone who wishes to undertake this battle study 
"Shakespeare's Lives", "Contested Will", "Shakespeare, In Fact", and the Shakespeare 
Authorship Page. And "Monstrous Adversary" would probably be a good idea, too.

Beware false catenas. "Since we know A, surely it is not unreasonable to think 
B...." Then, two pages later, "Since we have established B...," etc., etc., etc..

Brace yourself for the "But it's only fiction...." defense.

One further point -- and I know this is difficult for academics. If you hear an 
anti-Stratfordian make a plausible claim and you do not know it to be false, do not 
give him the benefit of the doubt; check it. They make things up.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Tom Reedy <
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Date:         October 29, 2010 7:54:36 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0412  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0412  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous

I for one hope that academics follow Jim Shapiro's advice and example and directly 
face and answer such questions without rancor. Five academic publications addressing 
the issue were published in the mid-1950s-early 1960s: The Shakespeare Ciphers 
Examined (1957), by William and Elizebeth Friedman; The Poacher from Stratford 
(1958) by Frank Wadsworth; Shakespeare and His Betters (1958), by Reginald 
Churchill; The Shakespeare Claimants (1962), by N. H. Gibson; and Shakespeare and 
His Rivals: A Casebook on the Authorship Controversy (1962), by George L. McMichael 
and Edgar M. Glenn.

After the onslaught of academic refutations in the 1950s and 60s, anti-Stratfordism 
was declining until Charlton Ogburn, Jr., as president of the almost-defunct 
(membership 80) Shakespeare Oxford Society, beginning in the 1980s abandoned the 
anti-Stratfordian simulacrum of scholarly method in favor of launching a public 
relations strategy by framing the issue as one of fairness and equal time in the 
atmosphere of conspiracy that permeated America after Watergate, and he learned how 
to use the media to bypass the academic community and appeal directly to the public 
by promoting mock trials, television shows about Oxfordism, (anybody remember "The 
Shakespeare Mystery" first broadcast on FRONTLINE in 1989 and repeated regularly 
since then? Its premier was watched by 3.5 million viewers.), debates in Atlantic 
and Harper's, and Web sites on the Internet, including slanted articles placed on 
Wikipedia written by anti-Stratfordians.

Academics, prematurely congratulating themselves on their earlier job well done, 
stopped paying attention and never caught up, as Shapiro makes clear. The academic 
response--when one was offered--was made up of nothing but ridicule and invective, 
saving a few scattered responses by Jonathan Bate and Alan Nelson, and any in-depth 
rebuttals had to be made by informed and committed non-academics: Shakespeare, in 
Fact (1994), by Irvin Matus; The Shakespeare Authorship Page (started 23 April 1994) 
at http://shakespeareauthorship.com/ by Dave Kathman and Terry Ross, and The Case 
for Shakespeare: The End of the Authorship Question (2005), by Scott McCrea.

The great attraction of anti-Stratfordism is its romanticism: secret identities, 
great conspiracies, digging up graves -- it's a great comic-book entertainment 
custom-made for today's culture. The only thing missing is Shakespeare as a vampire, 
but I feel sure we'll soon be seeing that. Nobody ever went broke feeding corn-fed 
bullshit fantasy to the world; we're hungry for distraction and meaning and 
Shakespeare as a blind is a very attractive story. The fact that's it's all fantasy 
is really its most attractive feature, and I'm sure the Emmerich movie is going to 
be great fun, but I hope the response from the flood of viewers and students seeking 
information about anti-Stratfordism and Shakespeare will be met with more than a 
dismissive sneer from academics who think the topic is too far below them to deserve 
a thoughtful answer.

At one time before the professionalism of the Shakespeare academy, Shakespeare was 
important to a broader section of the population than it is now. Emmerich's movie 
will furnish academics with a second chance to engage with students who are 
seriously seeking answers. Whether they find those answers in the classroom or on 
the Internet is entirely up to the academy. For many years, my motto has been that 
one has to be willing to make an ass out of oneself in public to become capable of 
learning; I think the corollary is that it applies to those doing the teaching, as 
well.

Just my 2p.

Tom Reedy

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Gabriel Egan <
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Date:         October 30, 2010 6:43:49 AM EDT
Subject: 21.0412  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0412  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous

Hardy Cook precisely outlines the problem that this list faces when we 
have an important film (Anonymous) that we might want to discuss, 
despite the premises of the film being (if advanced publicity is to be 
believed) a banned topic for this list.

But I suggest, Hardy, that the following self-quotation you made is unhelpful:

>I shall NEVER be convinced by any anti-Stratfordian
>argument -- I am too reasonable a person to fall for
>another conspiracy theory.

Taken literally, this is not an academic approach to the problem but an 
emotional one, born of a frustration with the anti-Stratfordian whack-
jobs. It's a frustration shared by many.

But as a parallel situation, I propose we take the creationists' 
disbelief about evolution. The correct scientific response to them is 
not "I will never give up my belief in evolution" but "I will gladly 
give up my belief in evolution when you show me some real evidence 
against it". It's that willingness to change one's mind that makes the 
creationist/evolutionist debate asymmetrical, since the creationists are 
irrationally attached to a blind faith while the evolutionists are 
rationally attached to a set of procedures (invoking evidence and logic) 
that have shown themselves to be extremely good at generating hypotheses 
that successfully predict the outcomes of experiments before they are 
undertaken. (Or, to put it more loosely, procedures that are good at 
getting at the truth.)

Richard Dawkins in _The God Delusion_ (p. 19) quotes J. B. S. Haldane on 
what it would take to make him give up a belief in evolution: "Fossil 
rabbits in the Precambrian". The evolutionists do devote some time to 
showing that the creationists have no evidence, and they do it because, 
as a response to nonsense, silence can be mistaken for dumbfoundedness. 
If the film Anonymous puts into popular circulation some narratives 
about Shakespeare that Shakespearians can show to be untrue, 
Shakespearians should do so.

Gabriel Egan

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:         Monday, November 1, 2010            
Subject: 21.0412 Q: Academic Response to Anonymous 
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0412 Q: Academic Response to Anonymous 

In response, to Gabriel Egan's posting, let me first point out that the quotation 
Gabriel cites was something I wrote in 1994. Nevertheless, Gabriel is correct in his 
assessment that the sentiments I expressed then -- and I probably would have 
repeated until I had read and thought about his posting -- did indeed arise from 
emotional frustration. This emotional frustration was a result of many years of my 
attempting to confront anti-Stratfordians of various stripes with what I considered 
irrefutable evidence, evidence I considered would stand up to scholarly scrutiny. As 
much as I might "feel" as though the typical anti-Stratfordian would not change his 
or her mind even if presented with irrefutable evidence, Gabriel is further correct 
in urging us ("orthodox" academics and scholars) to assume a position that 
acknowledges that were we presented with evidence that stood up to the test of 
scholarly proof that we would accept that the anti-Stratfordian candidate put forth 
had written the works attributed to William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon. If 
we are not able to acknowledge that we would be convinced by evidence acceptable as 
scholarly proof, then we cannot expect that anti-Stratfordian would be swayed by us.

As I reflect on the contributions of John, Tom, and Gabriel, it is becoming clear to 
me that in order to respond to anti-Stratfordians, academics and scholars must first 
be able to define what constitutes scholar proof/evidence so that we will then be 
able to explain how our "facts" are valid by scholarly standards and why anti-
Stratfordian arguments are not valid by those scholarly standards. 

Thoughts?

Hardy M. Cook
Editor of SHAKSPER and
Professor Emeritus
Bowie State University


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