The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 22.0345 Tuesday, 13 December 2011
Date: Tuesday, December 13, 11
Subject: Editor’s Observation
I have received of late several potential postings that I would classify as advocating “pet” theories, which I would define as getting an idea, in these cases, of a literary topic and then going to the work or works and finding evidence for that theory.
When I was an undergraduate, taught principally by professors who were in turn taught and trained by New Critics, the paradigm for publication and, therefore, for instruction was to advance an interpretation then through “close reading” demonstrate that that interpretation was more convincing than those that came before. While I was in graduate school, the paradigm changed. The resulting Post Modern, Post Structuralist approaches tended to eschew the implied certainty of “interpretation,” that is finding ultimate meaning, and instead took a more fluid approach, acknowledging the investigator’s role as a reader with a set of critical/theoretical beliefs and thus offering “readings” from those critical/theoretical positions. These approaches often described themselves as “deconstructive readings.” (Derrida, as we know, did not call his work a theory, instead, advocating that he was offering instead a way of reading.)
I could go on, but I will spare readers.
One of the reasons that I am uncomfortable with what I am describing as “pet” theories is that it seems to me that the underlying procedures are the same as those that result in advancing of this or that person as author of William Shakespeare’s plays and poems. Although I am not currently going to announce a ban on “pet” theories as I did with the so-called authorship question in the mid-1990s, I want to remind subscribers that I do not distribute all submissions and that I want to encourage submitters to recall that since 2006 I have encouraged that postings be interest only to the Shakespearean academic community (See my Borrowers and Lenders essay at http://shaksper.net/documents/doc_download/11-shaksper-academic-list or http://www.borrowers.uga.edu/cocoon/borrowers/request?id=781467).
I ask subscribers to consider this policy when making submissions.
Hardy M. Cook
Editor of SHAKSPER