The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1889  Wednesday, 16 November 2005

From: 		Holger Schott Syme <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Tuesday, 15 Nov 2005 14:54:42 -0500
Subject: 16.1881 Dead Horses and Closing Threads
Comment: 	RE: SHK 16.1881 Dead Horses and Closing Threads

I suppose it is inevitable that this issue comes up periodically, and I 
don't usually participate in the discussion; for once, though, I feel 
compelled to bring up the "purpose-of-the-listserv"-question myself.

Hardy does a tremendous job organizing this list, investing an 
unfathomable amount of time and mental energy. And on occasion, his 
efforts pay off splendidly. But SHAKSPER is only as good as its 
contributors, and I can't help feel that the way the list has been going 
it has moved further and further away from discussions in the field it 
is part of-that of the academic exploration of the works and culture of 
Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

Unquestionably _Hamlet_ is a play worthy of much critical attention, but 
its exegesis takes up an excessive amount of space on this listserv (and 
it is of course no coincidence that it's usually the same 10-15 people 
driving those discussions). The list has many well-established figures 
as lurkers who only very occasionally participate in discussions, but 
that is not, I don't think, a sign of academic snobbery or indifference; 
rather, the kinds of arguments that keep reappearing in slightly 
different guises on this list are simply irrelevant to the vast majority 
of scholars working in the field today (witness the thankfully 
short-lived thread on Lear's illegitimate son). Sadly, topics of great 
interest, such as Richard Burt's recent questions about the state of the 
field, or Tom Bishop's query about studies of Shakespearean imagery, 
don't seem to have much traction around here anymore; typically, the 
more established "names" on the list make an appearance to answer 
bibliographical queries, but don't stick around for extended discussions 
afterwards (this is emphatically not simply an effect of being 
"established"-cf. the Sidney-Spenser listserv, which regularly features 
contributions from some of the most well-known Spenserians around).

I frankly don't understand why some subjects which _should_ be allowed 
to develop (the recent debate over stage-railings is a case in point: to 
theatre historians at least that's a subject worthy of extended 
discussion!) are treated the same as issues that are clearly only of 
interest to an extremely self-selecting group (almost any thread on 
_Hamlet_, for instance). My main objection is that many of the latter 
threads incessantly go over ground covered in innumerable previous 
discussions, are more or less out of touch with the current state of the 
field, and often revolve around subjects well-treated in the existing 
(older) literature. On the other hand, threads such as the 
stage-railings one bring up issues that haven't been discussed here 
before, are still considered important by at least a sub-field of early 
modern studies, and haven't necessarily been treated in depth elsewhere. 
They may only be of limited interest to the SHAKSPER community at large, 
but at least they might potentially make a valuable contribution to the 
broader academic conversation about Shakespeare and Co.  That seems to 
me the best we can strive for on this list, and a goal which would make 
Hardy's efforts worthwhile.

If none of the above rings true to my fellow SHAKSPERians, I apologize 
for the rant. If it does, can we perhaps start a discussion about what 
we could do to improve things?

All the best,
Holger Syme

S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

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