The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0484  Monday, 18 August 2008

From:       Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:       Saturday, 16 Aug 2008 01:24:08 -0400
Subject:    Re: Petition Regarding Arden Shakespeare's Termination of Patricia 

I want to thank Peter Holland for his courage in urging the Shakespeare 
community not to rush to judgment on this matter. I am sure that all those who 
have offered support to Dr. Parker in her dispute with Arden3 are well 
intentioned; they sincerely believe that she has been mistreated by the 
publisher. But a lifetime of dealing with controversies of this nature, 
including skirmishes between authors and publishers, has cautioned me not to 
conclude that either side has a monopoly on rectitude. Arden's position has not 
been put forward, and it would be just plain silly to assume that it terminated 
Dr. Parker's contract out of whimsy or malice or, as suggested by Gary Taylor, a 
fear of innovation. Most publishing contracts contain a list of causes for 
termination, and the publisher must be prepared to prove that at least one of 
them applies or respond in damages if a court or jury disagrees. I hope the 
publisher will see fit to explain its position publicly, but I would understand 
if it has been advised that litigation concerns make silence more prudent for 
the time being.

There are a myriad of reasons for a publisher to want to terminate an author's 
contract. These may include poor scholarship, repeated failures to meet 
deadlines and delivery of copy that does not meet publishable standards. I am 
assured by scholars whom I respect that Dr. Parker's scholarship is impeccable, 
so that is probably not the problem. Her letter to Arden has passages that 
suggest that she acknowledges problems with meeting deadlines, such as the 

  "As Margaret is aware, of the four emergency hospitalizations I have gone 
through over the past three years  -- starting at the end of my sabbatical year 
at the Folger in 2004-5, when I had waited through that entire year (the only 
one I had to work on my edition free from fulltime teaching) for answers (that 
never came) from the Arden to crucial questions I had been asking for many years 
(including an essential decision needed from the Arden on a major proposal 
affecting my text, a proposal I had originally made almost a decade earlier and 
then repeatedly both orally and in writing, with no response -- two of those 
hospitalizations are now known (by the outside specialists my doctors / 
cardiologist had to consult) to have resulted from extreme stress (though they 
were assumed, throughout the hospitalizations and the long periods of subsequent 
cardiac and other monitoring, to have come from a tiny defect or problem they 
could not detect in my heart or cardiovascular system)."

I am sure that Dr. Parker wrote her letter under stress, and that probably 
accounts for the grammatical confusion evidenced in this sentence, and in some 
other places in her letter. But, then again, she seems to suggest that she was 
under stress when she provided copy to the Arden publisher. Alas, we therefore 
cannot rule out the third of the possible reasons I noted above.

In short, I am saying only that it would be premature for anyone to assume that 
Arden acted maliciously or even erroneously based only on having received the 
opinion of the other party to the dispute. It is quite understandable for fellow 
academics to want to come to the assistance of a colleague. But timely and 
cogently presented scholarship are also purposes to be served, and we don't know 
enough to say that Arden was wrong. Finally -- and I may be in error on this -- 
I am under the impression that SHAKSPER was formed and exists to advance 
scholarly discussion rather than personal interests. I suppose that it can also 
serve as a grievance mechanism for academics in their relations with 
universities, publishers, etc., but I am not aware that this is part of its 
mission and I don't think it should be.

[Editor's Note: There is no reason to extend this discussion further than it has 
already gone. Initially, I was calling attention to an incident of great 
interest to Shakespearean academics. I expressed my sense regarding the 
situation and urged others to read the material at the web site and make up 
their own minds. As do Peter Holland and Larry Weiss, I too would like to know 
Arden's reasons for the termination. Making the reasons public would enable 
Prof. Parker to address them directly. In the meantime, I have received a 
private e-mail from Bernice W. Kliman. She wrote me about a problem with the 
petition software that I myself experienced and that is that "Some people, 
depending on their browsers, have trouble using the site." She went on to write, 
"If that happens, they can write requesting me to enter their signatures and a 
short message. Many people get through on a second try." So if you have tried to 
sign the petition and have had difficulty, you should either try a second time 
or send your name and short message to Prof. Bernice Kliman at 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. who will make sure that they are entered in the petition. 

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>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the opinions 
expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the editor assumes no 
responsibility for them.

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