Sunday, September 5, 2010

Frankly, my dear . . .

University of Warwick doctoral researcher Peter Kerwin -- in his blog The Shakespeare Apocrypha, one of the Warwick Blogs written by students and staff of the University of Warwick -- engaged in a lengthy discussion of Shakespeare authorship with alternate-authorship advocate Howard Schumann responding to Kerwin's Aug. 24, 2010 blog post announcing his July 29, 2010 publication of an article titled "Knowing Will Too Well" in the University of Warwick's Knowledge Centre online magazine. In his 23:32, August 28, 2010 comment responding to Schumann, Kerwin said:
The purpose of the [Knowledge Center] article was not to prove that Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the plays, which frankly I don’t care about either way, but to point out that the essential grounds for doubt are flawed, and that creative biography is in many ways to blame, and that the debate cannot be resolved on these terms.
Earlier that day at 14:28, Aug. 28, 2010 Kirwin had commented to Schumann:
Your individual points have all been answered by wiser heads elsewhere, I’m more interested in the ideological questions. 
When Schumann objected to Kerwin's reliance on "wiser heads", Kirwin replied Aug. 29, 2010: 
If you mean by ‘dodged every issue’ that I’ve pointed out the fundamental methodological flaws in the argument rather than attempting to deal with every individual detail, then you’re absolutely correct, and have understood the purpose of the article.
The specific "individual detail" that Kirwin was uninterested in, is the literary sources of Shakespeare's plays which Kirwin dismissed with his fantastical invention of a pre-electronic, info-dump available to all Elizabethans -- similar, no doubt, to Ann Arbor's forthcoming community cable. On this topic, Kirwin said in his 14:28, Aug 28, 2010 post:
Finally, your complaint about sources is a) wrong (most of the sources of Shakespeare’s plays were available in English or Latin, both spoken by yer average grammar-school educated child) and b) reductive – the intertextuality of the period means that books, translations and ideas circulated freely. The most popular play performed on the Jacobean stage, A Game at Chess, was a complex political allegory about English/Spanish relations of a sophistication that an equivalent crowd today would simply not be able to grasp. This stuff was part of everyday conversation.
Kerwin's proclaimed indifference to his topic, reliance on "wiser heads", disregard of "individual detail", and invention of undocumented Elizabethan circulating libraries make him appear a less than rigorous researcher; yet, the bio attached to his Knowledge Centre article proclaims his work at the heart of academe in Shakespeare studies:
Peter Kirwan is a doctoral researcher at the University of Warwick, where he also completed his undergraduate and Masters degrees. He is part of a team led by Prof. Jonathan Bate preparing a new edition of "Collaborative Plays by Shakespeare and Others" for Palgrave MacMillan/The Royal Shakespeare Company. His doctoral work looks at early modern collaborative authorship, textual culture and repertory practice, and at later cultural appropriations of Shakespeare. He is also an established theatre reviewer and a tutor in the Department of English.
Shakespeare authorship inquirers should pay attention when a traditionally inclined academic proclaims his or her indifference to the authorship question because it is a refrain that is repeated more and more frequently and its ubiquity signals a movement in the status of the authorship question among Stratfordians. Their "I don't care." comments represent the second stage in the psychology of mind-changing following this progression:

Antagonism: I'm right. You're wrong and you're stupid, to boot.
Consideration: I'm right; but even if you might be right, I don't care because you're stupid.
Change of conviction: You're right; but I don't care because it's a stupid question and you're stupid.
Appropriation: You're right, but it was my idea all along -- and by the way, you're stupid.

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