Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wilkinson comments on human nature

London guest correspondent Heward Wilkinson comments below on the nature of the human. Wilkinson makes the point that human nature has indeed changed, but he argues that change occurred long before the nineteenth century. Linda Theil

Changes in Consciousness and Changes in Human Nature: Shapiro and the emergence of biographically slanted literature by Dr. Heward Wilkinson 
In response to Linda Theil's comments on Shapiro's presentation, I think Shapiro's assumption is indeed that human nature changed around the time of Garrick's Shakespeare Festival (1769) or Boswell's Life of Johnson (1791). This is indeed problematical (though it is not wholly without merit, thinking of Romanticism!). 

However, I do not think we should dismiss the idea that human nature itself changed. Leaving aside the huge theme of the emergence of consciousness from the bicameral mind around 1000 BCE [], one of the great traditional literary scholars, CS Lewis, argues that consciousness indeed changed in Provence in 11th century, with the advent of Courtly Love. This then shapes the work of such introducers of the vernacular as both Chaucer and Dante, and it leads on to Spenser and Shakespeare. That such notions are valid is suggested in relation to Shakespeare by one of the greatest, if most maverick, of Stratfordian Shakespeare critics, Harold Bloom, who notoriously writes of 'Shakespeare and the Invention of the Human' []. And TS Eliot postulated a 'dissociation of sensibility' in the 17th Century []. We should be vigorously using such historical considerations in our arguments. 

CS Lewis writes, in The Allegory of Love p. 4 []:     
French poets, in the eleventh century, discovered or invented or were the first to express, that romantic species of passion which English poets were still writing about in the nineteenth. They effected a change, which has left no corner of our ethics, our imagination, or our daily life, untouched, and they erected impassible barriers between us and the classical past, or the Oriental present. Compared with this revolution the Renaissance is a mere ripple on the surface of literature.
There can be no mistake about the novelty of romantic love: our only difficulty is to imagine in all its barrenness the mental world that existed before its coming - to wipe out of our minds, for a moment, nearly all that makes the food both of modern sentimentality and modern cynicism.
There is much more in the same vein. Nietzsche took this for granted, and accounted for it (in, if I recall, The Genealogy of Morals), as indeed Lewis does, by the influence of, and reaction against, Christian ideals of devotion to God. Hegel makes a parallel argument in The Phenomenology of Spirit. That 'biographical' interpretation of fictional work is part of this is engagingly illustrated by Spenser himself in his poem to Oxford at the beginning of The Fairie Queene! Flattery or no flattery, it means the concept was as familiar as cliche to the Elizabethans!
REceiue most Noble Lord in gentle gree,
The vnripe fruit of an vnready wit:
Which by thy countenaunce doth craue to bee
Defended from foule Enuies poisnous bit.
Which so to doe may thee right well befit,
Sith th'antique glory of thine auncestry
Vnder a shady vele is therein writ,
And eke thine owne long liuing memory,
Succeeding them in true nobility:
And also for the loue, which thou doest beare
To th'Heliconian ymps, and they to thee,
They vnto thee, and thou to them most deare:
Deare as thou art unto thy selfe, so loue
That loues & honours thee, as doth behoue. 

I am not convinced of Shapiro as a closet subversive of Stratfordism. Rather, I believe he really is as a-historical and uncritical as he seems to be. The degree of his scholarly slipshodness he evinces has been commented upon by many, like Roger Stritmatter [] and Richard Waugamann []. 
For me, the crashing contradiction which hits one between the eyes [] is his use of the same Shakespearean example, Theseus's speech at the beginning of Act 5 of Midsummer's Night's Dream, to illustrate simultaneously (!), 
A. Shakespeare's repudiation of any attribution of true biographical meaning in poetic writing (in favour of 'imagination'), 
B. Shapiro's actual attribution of Theseus' very positivistic views (which are congruent with Theseus' contextual role in the play) to Shakespeare himself
i.e., not only is he prepared to break his own rule at the very climax of his book, but he does it at the very instant he is propounding the rule! 

It is a wonderful illustration of the paradox of the liar, and that Shapiro seems not to be in the least aware of it, either means he is a completely conscienceless journalist politician and rhetorician (IF he is aware of it), OR so unscholarly that it is actually breathtaking. I lean to the latter, and accordingly believe he does believe his own position, and that it is academic incompetence that keeps him from noticing the problems.

This would also go with his a-historical mentality, and short-term positivistic populism, which makes his supposed insight into the historical character and development of biographically slanted fictional writing and theatre seem like a revelation to him, overturning his own VERY recent forays into 'biographical' interpretation [].         

Dr. Heward Wilkinson
Hon. Fellow of UKCP
UKCP Registered Integrative Psychotherapist

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Shapiro spoke at Stratford Shakespeare Festival August 13, 2011

As Tom Hunter said in his August 17 post here, a group of anti-Stratfordians attended Contested Will author James Shapiro’s lecture at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival on August 13, 2011. Oberon members Tom Hunter, Richard Joyrich, Sue Width, Tom and Joy Townsend, and I were joined by Lynne Kositsky, her husband Michael, and Roger Stritmatter to swell the ranks of approximately 220 spectators at The Studio Theater in downtown Stratford, Ontario.

Shapiro appeared scruffy chic in his bagged-out black T-shirt, wrinkled gray jacket, jeans, and black oxfords. His tossled hair was cut long on the top in the manner of mid-life men everywhere. A slim, good-looking man with an engaging manner and a gentle, raspy voice, Shapiro charmed the audience as he praised the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

“This is an extraordinary place,” he said. “I've never been here before and I'll be back as a theater-goer. You're all fortunate."

He read expressively from a prepared manuscript, stopping often for audience laughter at jokes lampooning anti-Stratfordians. The laughter was cued by Shapiro’s use of a particularly dry delivery, and the audience was so responsive to this command that I began to wonder if they knew what they were laughing at.

One of the more hilarious jokes went something like this:
“If I were rather hard pressed by an Oxfordian, I would say we know Oxford was a contemptible person who was accused of having sex with a horse. Should we go back to the play where he says ‘My kingdom for a horse?’”

Another joke had to do with the subversive nature of authorship research and the dangers of Roland Emmerich’s forthcoming film on the topic, Anonymous.

“Roland Emmerich is one of the great and most popular filmmakers . . . (his film) is a major, $40-million, Hollywood production in which Queen Elizabeth was not a virgin queen and her son was her lover. It’s a different kind of disaster film, for every teacher in North America -- ‘You didn’t tell me Queen Elizabeth was a ‘ho!’”

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tom Hunter announces Oberon meeting August 25

Dear Oberon,
Come to meetin' this Thursday, August 25, usual time 7 p.m. at the usual place, the Farmington Library on 12 Mile Rd.
We will hear updates on the latest Anonymous film developments, including a possible screening locally thanks to the efforts of Ray Perez and Linda Theil.
We will also hear the latest about James Shapiro who  appeared at the Stratford Ontario Shakespeare Festival this past Saturday.  Some of the details are not to be believed, but we have eye witnesses who heard and saw it all.
Also, our discussion of The Merchant of Venice will be driving toward a conclusion, including the solution to one of the most bothersome mysteries presented by the play to audiences for 400 years.  Plus we will take a look at a part of the play that has been omitted by past productions due to lack of understanding of its key importance and its essential role in conveying the purpose of the play.
So again the plate is full.  See you Thursday!
Your Oberon chair,
Tom Hunter, PhD

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New Anonymous trailer assuages fears of double incest plotline

A new Anonymous trailer has been released and is up on Facebook. Rob Frappier at the online movie site ScreenRant reported the release of the "international" trailer in an article titled "Anonymous international trailer"
on August 16, 2011. Frappier said:
If you love the works of Shakespeare, would you still love them if you learned that Shakespeare himself was a fraud? That's just one of the questions director Roland Emmerich is tackling in his new film, Anonymous, an interesting period drama which unravels the conspiracy behind who really wrote Shakespeare's greatest works.
Mark Anderson comments about this new trailer on his Facebook page, Fans of the Book: Shakespeare by Another Name:
For the record, John Orloff -- ANONYMOUS's screenwriter -- recently emailed to say that the movie has Rober Cecil tell Oxford that Oxford is the son of the queen. But even Oxford doesn't believe it! So initial worries about the movie's portrayal of some sort of incest storyline appear to have been overblown. Beyond that, I can only say what I've seen in the trailers released to the public so far. I've reprinted what John emailed me (with his permission) at the link: Anonymous questions: did Queen Elizabeth have children? BTW, he (Orloff) didn't deny the Southampton as secret royal heir storyline. And the above trailer certainly suggests it, too. But Oxford and Southampton as both royal heirs . . . that one appears to have been a bridge too far even for Mr. Emmerich. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Shapiro at Stratford

James Shapiro appeared at the Stratford Festival in Canada this past Saturday morning to a packed Studio Theater. His message was the very same message he gave to a packed house for his Folger talk in April, 2010. The problem with the message is that it is full of error and misleading statements about Oxfordians and the work we are doing.

Even worse than that, it became clear Saturday that Shapiro is interested in nothing less than the dumbing down of Shakespeare. He encouraged his audience to read the plays and to ignore the centuries of scholarship and research which have brought great insight into those plays. For example, in maintaining steadfastly that there are absolutely no allusions in Shakespeare, he denied the work of scholars, traditional and Oxfordian alike, who have determined six specific references in Hamlet that, taken together, demonstrate that the character Polonius is a fictional representation of Lord Burghley.

Instead of embracing the work Oxfordians are doing which demonstrates greater genius by the writer than he or other Stratfordians could ever imagine, he ridiculed them for daring to question traditional assumptions about Shakespeare. With this kind of thinking, Stratfordians will do themselves in without any help from Oxfordians or anybody else.

The Stratford Beacon Herald reported on the event in an article “Shakespeare Authorship Debate Rages On.” To its credit the Beacon Herald did attempt to give voice to Oxfordians by quoting Dr. Roger Stritmatter who attended the Shapiro event. The following letter to the editor responds to that article.

Tom Hunter

To the Editor:

Thank you for reporting Dr. James Shapiro's presentation at Stratford on Saturday about the identity of the true author of works attributed to the glover's son from Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Contrary to your headline, there was no debate. Dr. Shapiro does not allow debate or even statement by those who disagree with Dr. Shapiro. He told us so in his opening remarks. Also, the Festival has declined our requests for equal time. The reasoning, of course, is that to doubt the authorship of the man from Stratford is to believe in conspiracy theories and suffer psychological deficiency. I suppose that makes us similar to those who believed the earth actually orbited the sun.

In the mean time, Dr. Shapiro continues to ridicule us and to spread misinformation about us. He has no idea of the incomparable and profound achievement of Shakespeare's work. Traditional scholars like to refer to Shakespeare's genius, but until they throw off the restrictions imposed by the biography upon which they insist, they will have no idea of how great a genius Shakespeare really was.

Thomas Hunter, Ph.D.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

New Anonymous film trailer posted on YouTube

A second film trailer for Roland Emmerich's film, Anonymous, was posted on YouTube August 5, 2011. Emmerich's historical thriller about the Shakespeare authorship controversy is scheduled for wide-release in the U.S. October 28, 2011. A preview will be screened on Sept. 7, 2011 in downtown Portland, Oregon as part of the Shakespeare Authorship Research Centre's annual conference September 6-9, 2011. Anonymous will also be featured at the Toronto International Film Festival to be held September 8-18, 2011.

Emmerich's film has Stratfordians aflutter, fearing examination of the traditional attribution of Shakespeare's plays may damage the brand. Instead of welcoming interest in Shakespeare's life and times, they are boarding up the windows against a flood of inquiry. The previously taboo topic of Shakespeare authorship is now allowed in the hallowed halls of Stratford-on-Avon so that a rear guard action against apostasy can be mounted. Paul Edmondson, Head of Research and Knowledge for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, said in an August 2, 2011 blog post , "Our concern is that the new film will stir up the questions again."

. . . So, we are hosting an Authorship Campaign which will continue to make clear the case for Shakespeare of Stratford. One part of our response will be 60 Minutes with Shakespeare: 60 scholars, 60 questions, 60 seconds each. This will be freely available to all from September, and should be a good resource for students, teachers, theatre practitioners, and all who love Shakespeare. You can register for it now in advance; just follow this link. Please tell your family and friends about it. Editing 60 Minutes with Shakespeare is taking up most of my time just now and the project will feature some very special contributors. So, watch this space…
And, there are also the three speeches the Stanley Wells, Michael Dobson, and I gave at a debate at The English-Speaking Union on 6 June posted on this blog in June to refer to as well. We spoke up for Shakespeare against Charles Beauclerk (a descendent of the Earl of Oxford), William Leahy (Brunel University), and Roland Emmerich himself. Or, you can watch the debate here.
As many of you will already know, William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon, a glover’s son, formed by a grammar school education, with a strong imagination, a sense for the musicality of language, and who knew what it is to act, won the debate.
The head of research and knowledge made up the part about the grammar school education and is only guessing the Stratford man had an imagination or artistic ability because there's not a scrap of evidence to support his claims. Oh, well, anything to keep "the questions" from being stirred up!

"Anonymous trailer: a history lesson from Roldand Emmerich"
"New trailer for Roland Emmerich's Anonymous"