The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0402 Thursday, 22 August 2013
Date: August 13, 2013 8:18:50 AM EDT
Subject: Malcolm Evans, Man of Mystery
A couple of years ago, I wrote about the critical work of Malcolm Evans, who was visible briefly in the mid-1980s with s superb essay in the first volume of Alternative Shakespeares, and the brilliantly multi-faceted Signifying Nothing, which appeared in 1986. One of the many things I liked about the book was its playful way with post-structuralism, which extended to the use of unreliable narrative: as part of his investigation of Shakespeare, appropriation and postcolonialism, Evans fabricated the figure of ‘Edward Harrison’, a teacher of Shakespeare based in British Honduras in the late 1920s, who may of may not have been one of the anonymous Cambridge undergraduates quoted in I. A. Richards’s Practical Criticism, and whose unpublished journals provide the basis for a radical counter-reading of The Tempest. According to Evans, Harrison was last heard of planning ‘an eccentric scheme to carry ice, by dory, from Punta Garda to the Sarstoon River to the Indians and chicleros of the Peten Rainforests’.
Evans was clearly playing games here; what I found almost as intriguing is that, acting like a character in his own critical fiction, he too disappeared, quitting his university post not long after Signifying Nothing was published, and founding the marketing agency Semiotic Solutions (‘applying semiotics to marketing needs, developing accessible tools that deliver actionable insight and competitive advantage for brands’), which then mutated into Space Doctors. Whether or not there are lessons to be drawn here about the uses of ‘theory’, it’s an unusual career trajectory. But that’s not the end of it: a few days ago I received a courteous email from Malcolm Evans himself, thanking me for my comments on his work and hinting that the truth about his exit from the academy was even stranger than I had imagined. Anyone interested in following the trail can do so here: