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Peer Reviews and Shorthand

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0313  Monday, 23 July 2012

 

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

     Date:         July 20, 2012 1:11:16 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: Peer Reviews and Shorthand 

 

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

     Date:         July 20, 2012 1:12:36 PM EDT

     Subject:     RE: Peer Reviews and Shorthand 

 

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

     Date:         July 20, 2012 1:51:58 PM EDT

     Subject:     RE: Peer Reviews and Shorthand 

 

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

     Date:         July 22, 2012 1:17:48 AM EDT

     Subject:     Re: Shorthand 

 

 

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

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

Date:         July 20, 2012 1:11:16 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: Peer Reviews and Shorthand

 

It’s always dangerous to assume that Terence Hawkes isn’t yanking one’s chain, but I’ll risk it.

 

> Gabriel Egan’s defence of peer review, let alone

> 'double-blind peer review', strikes me as extremely

> odd. What does he think editors are for?

 

Journal editors in the humanities are, in my view, there for the same reason they exist in the sciences: to facilitate the scholarly debate and not to dominate it. That is, an editor should enable the publication of writing that she thinks is likely to be of interest and use to the readers of the journal. This function is impaired if the editor tries also to decide what is worth publishing and what is not, since with the best will in the world she will be unable to keep her prejudices out of the matter.

 

By seeking the confidential opinion of two expert referees who don’t know the identity of the would-be contributor, the editor stands a good chance of weeding out the contributions that won’t be of interest or utility without allowing other factors (amongst which personal animus between scholars is the most common and damaging) to get in the way.

 

Yes, there are limitations double-blind peer review. I see these as the chief ones:

 

  • The editor gets to pick the referees, and may consciously or unconsciously choose them in the hope of getting a favourable or unfavourable report.

 

  • The referees necessarily are high-ranking in their field, and are likely to represent one or more of the prevailing orthodoxies; this is a barrier to radical new ideas getting published.

 

  • The editor has to reject the hopeless cases even before they get seen by the referees (else the referees get grouchy and stop agreeing to referee), and may thereby eliminate a piece that ought to have got through.

 

We can do things to limit these harms. Online submission and review management systems provide statistics that are useful, for example showing which referees have especially high or low acceptance rates; a referee who in seeing 50 pieces has never approved one of them is probably impossible to satisfy and is as unhelpful to a journal as one who approved all 50.

 

If I’ve overlooked other disadvantages of double-blind peer review, I’d be grateful to hear about them. Over on another list we’re discussing whether Open Access monographs (yep, they’re coming) ought to be peer reviewed, and the debate about peer review is getting lively on a number of fronts.

 

If I had to pick one knock-down reason why double-blind peer review is a good thing, I’d fall back on science and medicine: the quality of science publishing is so high, and the medicines we get are so wonderfully efficacious, because human beings have figured out the benefits of double-blind processes. This doesn’t stop Hoffman-LaRoche and GlaxoSmithKline doing evil, but it makes it harder for them.

 

Gabriel Egan

 

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

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

Date:         July 20, 2012 1:12:36 PM EDT

Subject:     RE: Peer Reviews and Shorthand

 

Gabriel Egan and Gerald Downs have, between them opened a can of worms that has nothing to do with short-hand.

 

For what it’s worth I take the view that ‘blind’ peer reviewing should be transparent, and as Terry Hawkes strongly implies in his posting editors make decisions, and they are empowered to do so because they have a relevant competence.  I’m sure Bob Grumman can tell the difference between paranoid gossip and relevant discussion, and I assume that he seeks to avoid the former but read the latter. I’m not suggesting that anything get ‘banned’ but that serious discussion should not be laced with irrelevant speculations about who refereed what and when. Reading this strand makes me feel like the domestic cat who’s being kicked.

 

Personally I would regard it as part of professional courtesy to append my name to any adjudication I made, and I have never forbidden publishers or editors from divulging my identity when I have been asked to make an assessment.  I am surprised that this isn’t the norm. Is the profession so unprofessional that it can’t distinguish between a typescript and a person? And must judgements necessarily be ad hominem or ad feminam?

 

Yours

Anon

 

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

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

Date:         July 20, 2012 1:51:58 PM EDT

Subject:     RE: Peer Reviews and Shorthand

 

I agree totally with this comment by Larry Weiss: “ Under the present regime, many insightful papers are denied publication because the author is relatively unknown or is not in need of support for a tenure application, while a piece of fluff dashed off by a “name” author could not possibly be denied publication.” It seems to describe the “gate keeping” function I’ve long noticed to be at work in the mainline EM journals, which is such a shame.  I also, obviously, agree with both Gabriel Egan’ s original suggestion and with Steve Urkowitz’s.

 

Imtiaz Habib

Old Dominion University (only to ensure I’m not taken as an innocent uninformed “foreigner”)!

 

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         July 22, 2012 1:17:48 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: Shorthand

 

Gabriel Egan observes of my comment that “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.

 

But Stone and I, if I may speak for him, are talking about the many manifest errors in Q1. By “travesties” I take the whole of the corruption into account. The few examples I’ve discussed can’t be isolated without missing the point. A possibility that Shakespeare so treated Q1 after 1608 while making both profound and faulty changes isn’t a probability. Stone does a good job on Q1 errors compounded in F. I doubt these compare to Ulysses. Though I wouldn’t necessarily suppose a revising author would return to his original reading, that’s more likely than what happens in F. I chose the “take up” example not for its strength, though it’s telling enough, but for its category (Qu & Qc unnoticed in Urkowitz). There are lots more. For instance, Stone adduces error at Q1 5.3:

 

   Her.  What are you? your name and qualitie?

And why you answere this present summons. 2779

   Edg.  O know my name is lost by treasons tooth.

Bare-gnawne and canker-bitte, yet are I mou't

Where is the aduersarie I come to cope with all.

   Alb.  Which is that aduersarie?                  (Gloster,

   Edg. What's he that speakes for Edmund Earle of

   Bast. Him selfe, what saiest thou to him?

   Edg.  Draw thy sword.

That if my speech offend a noble hart, thy arme

May do thee Iustice, here is mine.

Behold it is the priuiledge of my tongue,

My oath and my profession, I protest, . . . 2790

   Bast. In wisdome I sholud aske thy name, . . . 2801

By right of knighthood, I disdaine and spurne      2804

 

F makes a number of changes, including in these lines:

 

   Edg. Know my name is lost

By Treasons tooth: bare-gnawne, and Canker-bit,

Yet I am noble as the Adversary

I come to cope. . . .                                  F, 3073

   Bast. What safe, and nicely I might well delay,

By rule of Knight-hood, I disdaine and spurne: 3101

 

> It is obvious that By is a mistake for My. Edmund is

> saying that he waives his right, by the rules of trial

> by combat, to know the identity of his appellant

> (Edgar). . . . But in F the misprint By is overlooked

> and preserved. Two consequences follow: (a) the

> phrase 'by right', being unidiomatic, must be modified,

> and (b) the verbs 'disdain' and 'spurn' must be supplied

> with an object. An extra line comes in aid, and, in the

> event, the unnecessary effort results in confusion . . . .

> What must refer to the coming combat, yet that is not

> the object of Edmund's disdain, as the structure of the

> sentence seems to imply. The sense requires 'delay'

> as an object, or the predicate 'to do so' after 'spurn'.

> More significant, however, than the muddle itself

> is the clear evidence that a misunderstanding has

> initiated it. There can be no question but that F's

> extra line was inspired by a failure to identify the

> corruption in Q (Stone, 69).

 

Oxford and Cambridge accept Stone’s emendation; I think it’s right. F was trying to manufacture sense from an error, which could well be a mishearing: That is compatible with shorthand, where the phrase ‘By right’ might be heard instead of ‘My right’; more so if Kemp had a cold. In Bordeaux the scribe apparently used the same symbol for b and p in order to keep ambiguity from slowing him down. Errors resulted, but the time-saving value outweighed the down-side. However, I would not claim ‘By’ for ‘My’ as meaningful evidence for shorthand. But it is good evidence that F depended even on the Q errors. Stone notes too that bad punctuation is inherited by F, where

 

O know my name is lost by treasons tooth.

Bare-gnawne and canker-bitte,' Q1

 

is similarly punctuated in F but should be written, as per Theobald:

 

O know my name is lost,

By treasons tooth bare-gnawne and canker-bitte,

 

I think the next words of the speech are also indicative of confusion for the F reviser, whoever he was (not Shakespeare); which had me going for a while:

 

. . . yet are I mou't    Q1

Where is the aduersarie I come to cope with all. 

 

Yet am I Noble as the Adversary          

I come to cope.         F

 

Q1 is senseless until one realizes ‘ere’ is spelt ‘are’, when “Yet before I say why I answer the summons (move it), where is the creep.” Edgar’s sword was his badge, the privilege of his ‘quality.’ The sword served to dare Edmund on the one hand and keep the mask on the Lone Ranger on the other. “Noble as Edmund” would blow the cover. But F’s reviser couldn’t figure it out so he changed the dialogue: ‘yet are I’ became ‘yet am I’. Besides, he had to fix the meter.

 

Now, we can multiply inherited corruptions; how many will convince the revisionists among us? Gabriel Egan agrees (apparently) that Q1 itself was revised to F. Most scholars have compromised: Shakespeare’s foul papers—Q copy—served first to produce the F-like promptbook, which shared copy-duty with Q2 to get F. That simply bypasses the mass of corruption in Q.

 

Gerald E. Downs 

 

 

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