Thursday, May 6, 2010

Who is this baby?

Georgetown University psychiatry professor Richard M. Waugaman, MD, says eighteenth century deification of Shakespeare is partially responsible for twenty-first century resistance to authorship inquiry.

In his article coauthored with Roger Stritmatter, “Who was ‘William Shakespeare’?”, in the current issue of the Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review (Vol. 32, nr. 2 – 2009, pp 105-115) Waugaman says:
Anyone who questions the traditional belief about Shakespeare’s authorship often encounters an unusual degree of opposition, which sometimes has the intensity of a religious war. This is not accidental. It is as though people’s faith is being questioned. We believe that there are, in fact, covert religious undertones to these reactions. Before 1769, there was relatively little interest in biographical facts about Shakespeare. But in that year, the great Shakespeare actor David Garrick organized a “Jubilee” in Stratford. This event put Stratford on the map as a tourist attraction and secular “pilgrimage” site, and it helped set in motion a sort of deification of Shakespeare that is truly a form of “bardolatry.” We can understand these developments better by looking at the broader intellectual context of 1769. By then, the deistic, agnostic, and atheistic trends of the Enlightenment were undermining traditional religious faith among the intelligentsia. We believe that this intellectual environment created a void, which the apotheosis of Shakespeare helped to fill. This might help explain the peculiar fury one sees if one questions the authorship of the man from Stratford. It is as though admirers of Shakespeare’s works are being accused of worshiping a false god.
Waugaman points to the 1789 painting by George Romney “The Infant Shakespeare attended by Nature and the Passions” (shown above in a copperplate engraving by Benjamin Smith) to illustrate “ . . . the use of religious iconography to convey widespread idealization of Shakespeare as a Christ-like figure.”

Waugaman also addresses the issue of dismay over Sigmund Freud’s shameful support of alternative Shakespeare authorship:
Freud was one of the first prominent intellectuals to endorse de Vere’s authorship. His endorsement was regarded by his followers as an embarrassing error. With the exception of A Bronson Feldman . . . Freud’s opinion was either ignored or “analyzed” by psychoanalytic critics. . . . We view these attempts to “analyze” Freud as reflecting efforts to discredit his conclusions, due to a curious antipathy toward questioning Shakespeare of Stratford’s authorship.
Waugaman refutes James Shapiro’s contention that biography has no impact on artistic endeavor that Shapiro discusses in his new book on the authorship controversy, Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? In the section of Waugaman’s article subtitled “The Psychoanalytic Study of Creativity and the Authorship Question” Waugaman says:
It may come as a surprise to psychoanalysts to learn just how much current literary theory minimizes the signifcance of an understanding of the psychologyand life experiences of the author. For several years, the predominant view has instead been that studies of the text itself should be paramount, and it is often not considered legitimate or relevant to introduce data, much less psychological speculations, about the influence of the author’s psychology on their literary creations.Freud touched on this problem when he accepted the Goethe Prize. He interwove his comments on de Vere with his defense of a psychoanalytic study of Goethe. He acknowledged that some would object that such psychoanalytic studies would “degrade” a great man. He met this objection with the claim that only a psychoanalytic study of great writers can “throw any light on the riddle of the miraculous gift that makes an artist” or “help us comprehend any better the value … of his works” (Freud, 1930, p. 211). We strongly agree with Freud that advances in our understanding of literary genius, and creativity in general, will be promoted by once more legitimizing the study of connections between the artist’s life and work. One constant in psychoanalytic studies of artistic creativity is deep interest in the psychology of the creative artist. Psychoanalysts take it for granted that their  special insights will illuminate personality, emotional conflicts, and salient life experiences of the creative artist. The authorship question has a special but often overlooked relevance to this investigation.
Waugaman also discusses:
  • Edward de Vere as foremost authorship candidate
  • why the Stratfordian attribution is inadequate
  • the psychology of secrecy as it pertains to pseudonymous writers, and
  • the psychology of creativity and the artistic imagination.
The Waugaman/Stritmatter article may be accessed from the Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review site at: or may be ordered from the journal at University Press of Southern Denmark, Campusvej 55, DK-5230 Odense M, Denmark, e-mail:

Waugaman will furnish a PDF file of this article to interested readers. Contact him at:

Richard M. Waugaman is one of 12 editors of the new journal of authorship studies, 
Brief Chronicles, as announced by Roger Stritmatter on his website, Shake-speare’s Bible. Waugaman has published extensively on the topic of Shakespeare. When asked how his article ended up in a Scandinavian psychiatry journal, Waugaman said:
It was a fascinating experience. From what I've seen, they do mostly publish Scandinavian psychoanalysts. But a month after I sent them our article, the editor wrote that he and the first peer reviewer liked it so much they planned to publish it in their next issue, before even hearing from the second reviewer. There is clearly a different attitude toward the authorship question in those parts. I chose that journal because it's included in "PEP-Web" a database of English language psychoanalytic journals, to which most analysts (I would guess) now subscribe. After a three-year embargo, the full text then becomes available to all subscribers, whether or not they subcribe to that journal. Naturally, it will show up on PEP-Web literature searches (which are freely available to everyone). It may go without saying that this journal wasn't the first stop our article made. It's been around. A colleague who has an outstanding international reputation opined to me that "it would be of no psychoanalytic interest whatsoever even if it were proven conclusively that de Vere wrote Shakespeare's works. I told him his idea (not him, mind you) was insane.

Selected bibliography of publications on the topic of Shakespeare:  
“Unconscious Communication and Literature,”  Psychiatry, 66: 214-221 (2003).
Unconscious Communication in Shakespeare: ‘Et tu, Brute?’ Echoes ‘Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabbachthani?’”  Psychiatry, 70:52-58 (2007).
“A Wanderlust Poem, Newly Attributed to Edward de Vere,” Shakespeare Matters7(1):21-23 (2007).
“A Snail Poem, Newly Attributed to Edward de Vere,” Shakespeare Matters 7(2):6-11(2008).
“The Pseudonymous Author of Shakespeare’s Works”, on-line Princeton Alumni Weekly (March 19, 2008).
“A Psychoanalytic Study of Edward de Vere’s The Tempest". J. Amer. Academy of Psychoanalysis (2009).
The Psychology of Shakespearean Biography.” Brief Chronicles: The Interdisciplinary Journal of the Shakespeare Fellowship, Vol. 1 (2009).
"The Sternhold and Hopkins Whole Book of the Psalms is a Major Source for the Works of Shakespeare". Notes & Queries,. Dec. 2009 (see also

“Echoes of the ‘Lamed’ Section of Psalm 119 in Shakespeare’s Sonnets.” Shakespeare Matters 8:1-8 (2009).
“Shakespeare’s Sonnet 6 and the First Marked Passage in de Vere’s Bible.” Shakespeare Matters (in press).
 “The Bisexuality of Shakespeare’s Sonnets and Implications for De Vere’s Authorship.” The Psychoanalytic Review (in press).

“Shakespeare’s Sonnet 80, Marlowe, and Hero and LeanderShakespeare Matters(in press).

“Shakespeare’s Bible: A Personal Odyssey.” Academy Forum (in press).
The Source for Remembrance of Things Past in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30.” Shakespeare Matters (in press).
“Samuel Clemens and Mark Twain: Pseudonym as Act of Reparation.” The Psychoanalytic Review (in press).

“Echoes of the Whole Book of Psalms in Shakespeare’s 1 Henry VI, Richard II, and Edward III.” Notes & Queries (in press).

Submitted articles
“A New Biblical Source for the Works of Shakespeare: The Sternhold and 
Hopkins Psalms.” Renaissance Studies (revised draft under 

“The Arte of English Poesie: The Case for Edward de Vere’s Authorship.” 
Brief Chronicles.

Book reviews and book essays

Psycho-analysis 88: 267-271 (2007).

Shakespeare by Another Name, by Mark Anderson.  Psychoanalytic
 Quarterly 76: 1395-1403 (2007).  reprinted in Shakespeare 
Matters (2008).

Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature, by John Mullan. 
Shakespeare Matters 7(3): 10-14 (Spring, 2008).

Shakespeare the Thinker, by A.D. Nuttall.  Shakespeare Matters 7(4): 8-
11 (Fall, 2008). 
The Mind According to Shakespeare: Psychoanalysis in the Bard’s W
ritings, by Marvin B. Krims.  Psychoanalytic Quarterly 77: 1298-
1305 (2008).

The Anonymous Renaissance, by Marcy North.  Shakespeare Matters 
8(3):20-26 (2009).

The Muse as Therapist: A New Poetic Paradigm for Psychotherapy, by 
Heward Wilkinson.  Brief Chronicles: The Interdisciplinary Journal of 
the Shakespeare Fellowship. 1:274-278 (2009).

Hamlet Himself, by Bronson Feldman. Brief Chronicles (in press).
Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? by James Shapiro.
Psychoanalytic Quarterly (in preparation).

No comments: