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Shorthand

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0306  Wednesday, 18 July 2012

 

[1] From:        Harry Berger Jr < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         July 17, 2012 1:37:36 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: SHand 

 

[2] From:        Gabriel Egan < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         July 17, 2012 3:16:06 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: SHand 

 

[3] From:        Gerald E. Downs < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         July 17, 2012 9:21:09 PM EDT

     Subject:     Peer Review 

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Harry Berger Jr < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         July 17, 2012 1:37:36 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: SHand

 

Gerald Downs’s diatribe is kind of boring. It would be nice if he fought his little battles away from this site.

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Gabriel Egan < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         July 17, 2012 3:16:06 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: SHand

 

Regarding the suggestion that in King Lear, F’s “Take up, take up” reflects Shakespeare’s revision of Qu’s nonsense “take up to keep”, although he had originally written “take up the King” (Qc’s reading), Gerald Downs writes:

 

> No author would revise other people’s travesties.

 

That is to say, the author wouldn’t build on another’s error but would return to his original reading. That was also P. W. K. Stone’s assertion about this problem in King Lear.

 

In fact authors demonstrably do what Stone and Downs say they would not do. Gary Taylor gives examples of James Joyce revising Ulysses using proofs containing printers’ errors, and in each case rather than returning to his original reading Joyce builds upon the error to make something new and, sometimes, inferior. Taylor also points to Charles Dickens doing this. See Gary Taylor “King Lear: The Date and Authorship of the Folio Version” in Gary Taylor and Michael Warren (editors) The Division of the Kingdoms: Shakespeare’s Two Versions of King Lear (Oxford: Clarendon, 1983), pp. 351-468 (pp. 401-2).

 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Gerald E. Downs < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         July 17, 2012 9:21:09 PM EDT

Subject:     Peer Review

 

On the “Shorthand” thread Gabriel Egan expressed a preference that might be discussed in various ways:

 

> Gerald Downs presents mountains of evidence and

> interpretation in his postings, and I for one would

> rather deal with such claims in the form of a journal

> article that has first been through peer review,

> which tends to sort the strong from the weak claims.

 

Evidence mountains bear discussion; discussion groups may be good places to start. Much that I put forward is neglected or poorly handled over years of articles and books. Shall it stay that way until someone else navigates a peer review? A few citations derive from SHAKSPER; are they valid only if stamped “approved”? From my perspective, “peer review” often isn’t; it leaves a lot to be desired.

 

Most publications can use pre-publication discussion. Obviously, some don’t get it. In that respect, peer review is not very efficient. Though not inclined to publish, I have some recent experience trying; assuming for the nonce that I have something of worth to say on topics of interest to me, description of a peer review or two may be in order.

 

First, some ancient history. My Shakespeare interests persist because so many questions remain unanswered and my opinions develop with no thought of publication. I like footnotes, but not to write them. Moreover, I’ve naively assumed others would straighten things out without my help. That’s still my feeling, but—not in my lifetime.

 

I’ve answered some questions to my satisfaction—that is, until details lost their charm. In which cases I would be happy to air my views but wouldn’t cross the street to alter anyone’s belief. My mind was partly changed by four topics I’ll mention (and some I won't).

 

If one realizes van Dam was correct to see STM’s Hand D as that of a copyist, the first part of a difficult question (What’s Hand D?) gets easy. Over the years I wrote it up and showed two scholars in 1996, one of whom suggested publication. His professional interest made me feel an obligation; anyone wishing to follow up would have to wait on me. For that reason (and to credit van Dam, whose work in general gets short shrift) I rushed to submit a paper—in 2004.

 

Studies in Bibliography (my 2d choice) undertook an eleven-month peer review ended favorably by the same person who encouraged me years earlier. Was I one to look a gift-horse in the mouth? It bothered me to have a leg up, but that was justified by a number of improving revisions and the essay was scheduled for printing in 2007.

 

Because of a thread on this group, Douglas Brooks and I corresponded in 2004 and I showed him the article for some feedback—but declined his request to submit it to his journal for a peer review. It was under review elsewhere and little thought was given to his offer. In 2007 he published the essay without my knowledge. Why? Who knows. Once SB was told, the essay was understandably withdrawn. I took it pretty hard, but mention it now only because Brooks later confirmed that the piece got no peer review. So much for twelve years in the making, yet I’m still mulling over Hand D because it still hasn’t been figured out and it’s pretty interesting.

 

I happened onto John of Bordeaux about 2006 and came to see that it is important to those who should care (but don’t). For learning’s sake, I’m grateful that Studies in Bibliography accepted my 2008 submission after another year-long review. Again suggestions were helpful and the article was published in 2010. Not that anyone has responded. I hoped Studies would continue publishing online; no such luck. My other gripe was that extended-in-time-but-not-substance peer review is frustrating, even though I cause far more delay on my own. As Shane says, I’d like it to be my idea. When reviewers take months and months to turn down articles they don’t understand . . .

 

I’ve spent a lot of time on the text of King Lear because it isn’t easy and much of the scholarship makes it harder. I sent a working-copy article to Richard Knowles some time ago. We hardly corresponded, but I realized his forthcoming edition wouldn’t agree with my opinions and decided on submission (on the off chance) ahead of his Variorum in order that it not seem a response but an independent work. I expected a negative review but again the process dragged on.

 

One of the reviewers seems to have been Richard Knowles. If that is correct, two questions occur to me. Should one unwilling to discuss an article pre-submission pass judgment on its worthiness later? In such cases should reviewers inform editors of prior correspondence? Else any druthers for arguing only a peer-reviewed piece are obviated by the review itself. Reviewer 1, Author 0.

 

In a PBSA exchange with Adele Davidson on shorthand transmission, Knowles stated that no evidence had been put forward in support of theatrical reporting. Yet by that time my article on Bordeaux was out and I naturally cited it to support my Lear theme (in agreement with Stone) that Q1 is a reported text. That is, I claim powerful evidence of shorthand reporting does exist. I think a reviewer would be obliged to evaluate that evidence, since it has a direct bearing on the issues. But the reviewer allowed that he could not evaluate this key evidence; then how can he judge the article on Lear? Beats me. At any rate, one may ask whether an editor putting the (telegraphed) finishing touches on his edition is the “peer” to review a mass of contradictory fact and opinion. May as well ask a Scaliawag or a Doubting Clarence.

 

A third reviewer was called in to break a tie. He said the article should be published—somewhere else. OK, I had no illusions of acceptance (until the process sputtered) and even felt a bit guilty laying elaborate and serious argument on an editor who said it was hard to find qualified reviewers. Add ‘unbiased’ and you see how it is.

 

As that affair lingered, I got the bright idea to submit another long piece dealing with shorthand reports. Most scholars (even the peerage) have given shorthand little thought and have in fact a distinct bias against it. I thought to support the first article with the second. Didn’t work.

 

I recently repeated a part of that article on this group with an evaluation of Q1 Philaster, which must be a shorthand report (I say). It was one of a series of plays Walkley published that included Q1 Othello, which has been thought a dictated reconstruction (by the respected scholar Scott McMillin). My idea was to bring shorthand into the mix. For that article one of the reviewers was (I’m sure) Gabriel Egan, with whom I had discussed an earlier version. He has now officially judged the essay and would rather not discuss that which didn’t pass peer review. But it could enlighten us to learn more about the process. Are my arguments weak or do they just contradict the reviewer? Did the editor know we had corresponded? Those questions and others will be the topic of my next “peer” posting.

 

Gerald E. Downs

 

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