Sunday, July 3, 2011

Waugaman's review of newly published compendium, Anonymity in Early Modern England

Richard M. Waugaman, MD, previewed his upcoming review of Anonymity in Early Modern England by J.W. Starner and B.H. Traister this week on Amazon.com. The entire review will appear in upcoming editions of the interdisciplinary journal of authorship studies, Brief Chronicles, and the Shakespeare Fellowship newsletter, Shakespeare Matters.


Waugaman's five-star review on Amazon.com, "The Beginning of the End for the Stratfordian Legend", focuses on the chapter written by Bruce Danner, PhD titled, "The Anonymous Shakespeare: Heresy, Authorship, and the Anxiety of Orthodoxy". Danner is an English professor whose upcoming book, Edmund Spencer's War on Lord Burghley, will be published September 27, 2011 by McMillan. An abstract and first chapter of Danner's book may be read on his weblog.


Waugaman surmises in his review that Danner may be on the road to his own intellectual emancipation from Stratfordian dogma. Waugaman will post the entire review on his website, The Oxfreudian, after publication. (Update: review posted 09/01/11)


The fascinating Amazon.com preview is published below with Waugaman's permission:
This intriguing and provocative book originated in a 2004 Shakespeare Society of America seminar. It joins several other recent works that are enlarging our understanding of the crucial role that anonymous authorship played in early modern England. The implications for the Shakespeare authorship question are immense. Orthodox Stratfordian scholars have such unshakable preconceptions that they often seem blind to the subversive implications of their own discoveries. Most early modern English literature was anonymous, but scholars have nevertheless gravitated toward attributed texts, making them less conversant with the conventions of anonymous authorship.
It is the final section of the book, The Consequences of Anonymity and Attribution, that I found most interesting-- specifically, Bruce Danner's chapter, `The Anonymous Shakespeare: Heresy, Authorship, and the Anxiety of Orthodoxy.' Danner, of St. Lawrence University, is a widely published mainstream Shakespeare scholar. He claims anonymity for the plays attributed to Shakespeare because he views `the construction of Shakespeare as a vague, colossal abstraction so capacious as to become undefineable' (p. 215).
Like an Old Testament prophet, Danner is eloquent in rebuking his fellow Stratfordians for their evil ways: `the Shakespearean profession itself is the author of anti-Stratfordianism. In its vision of Shakespeare as author, professional scholars can neither portray nor theorize the figure beyond the sphere of anonymity' (p. 156). And Danner has an explanation of why orthodox scholars persist in their irrational attitudes toward the author--`perhaps because resisting [`the eulogistic construction of Shakespeare'] would imperil the status that we currently enjoy' (p. 156).
One of Danner's first lines of attack is against the foundation stone of orthodoxy, the 1623 First Folio. Without it, the orthodox case collapses. Danner admits that `the First Folio falsifies a number of key facts' (p. 144); its `omissions, errors, and outright lies have long been common knowledge' (p. 147). He singles out Stephen Greenblatt for scathing criticism of Greenblatt's specious and contradictory discussion of other literary evidence. He says Greenblatt `ventures into novel avenues of myth-making that undermine his position in creative new ways' (p. 155) and that `Greenblatt's views look less like theories than desperate overreaching' (p. 156). But Danner then clarifies that Greenblatt is just the tip of the Stratfordian iceberg: `In their efforts to discover a Shakespearean presence in resistant or inconclusive evidence, orthodox scholars have fashioned theories that resemble their own worst caricatures of anti-Stratfordianism' (p. 156).
Danner lists some of the central problems with the legendary author: Stratfordians have not established the chronology of the plays; they are ignorant as to the author's political, religious, and cultural opinions; they cannot establish the authorial text for the plays. `Such facts provide the foundations of literary study... and yet these are just such definitive issues that the Shakespearean profession cannot resolve' (p. 152).
It is difficult to ponder the full implications of Danner's attack on Shakespearean orthodoxy without surmising that he is on the journey toward intellectual freedom himself. If so, his chapter might offer a rare view of a paradigm change in statu nascendi. It is an inspiring sight. An `anonymous' Shakespeare may be a necessary transition that will one day allow Stratfordians to discard their discredited theory.
UPDATE September 1, 2011
Waugaman's entire review is now available online: 
Review of Janet Wright Starner and Barbara Howard Traister (eds.), Anonymity in Early Modern England: “What’s in a Name?” (Ashgate, 2011) by Richard M. Waugaman, MD used by permission of Shakespeare Matters (in press)