Saturday, August 23, 2014

Gary Taylor sez Waugaman is as unconvincing as holocaust deniers

by Linda Theil

Early modern literary scholar Gary Taylor, PhD, told Shakespeare authorship researcher Richard Waugaman, MD that he finds Waugaman's arguments unconvincing. In an August 19, 2014 email to Waugaman, Taylor said: "I simply find your reasoning, and your evidence, as unconvincing as those of Holocaust deniers, and other conspiracy theorists."

Waugaman told this Oberon reporter:
I’m delighted that a prominent Stratfordian has taken dead aim at us and has then shot himself in the foot. There’s now no doubt that for diehard Stratfordians like Gary Taylor, academic freedom means the freedom for them to silence dissent. We will no longer tolerate this.
Waugaman's article "The Psychology of Shakespeare Biography: An Update" had been accepted in January 2014 by the editors of the 2015 edition of the English and Italian journal Memoria di Shakespeare: a Journal of Shakespearean Studies, an edition that would be dedicated to the topic of Shakespeare biography. (See: Waugaman contributes to Italian journal)

But on August 18, 2014, Waugaman was told by Memoria di Shakespeare general editor Rosy Colombo Smith that the experienced co-editors who had enthusiastically accepted his article -- Lucianna Pire and Maria Valentini -- had "stepped down", that she and Gary Taylor were the new co-editors of the 2015 edition of the journal, and that they would not be publishing his article.

When Waugaman protested against the unfairness of dropping him from the edition, he received the message from Taylor quoted above, comparing Waugaman's reasoning to the odious arguments of Holocaust deniers -- a malicious comparison not unfamiliar to Waugaman and other authorship researchers. (See: Greenblatt sez sorry to Oxfordians)

 Taylor replied to Waugaman's protest in no uncertain terms:
This change is due to my own involvement in the volume. The editorial board was concerned about some of the contributions invited by the previous co-editors. I agreed to help by stepping in, with Professor Colombo, as new co-editor. But my acceptance was conditional on rejection of certain contributions, like yours, which seem to me profoundly unscholarly, and which would have the effect of undermining the credibility and status of other contributions to the volume.
Taylor, further, denounced Pire and Valentini: 
I understand that you are chargrined about the change of policy at the journal. But the previous co-editors, who contacted you, were themselves guilty of a breach of good faith, in committing the journal to positions conflicted with the intentions and desires of the journal's founders.
In a subsequent email, Waugaman told Taylor:
It has been only four months since both Stephen Greenblatt and Jonathan Bate apologized to me for having compared post-Stratfordians to Holocaust deniers. And now you make that repulsive comparison yourself. I can only assume your emotions have over-ridden your common decency. I know one fellow Oxfordian who lost more than 70 relatives in the Holocaust, and he finds that comparison especially disgusting.
Stratfordian David Ellis, author of The Truth About William Shakespeare: Fact, Fiction and Modern Biographies (Edinburgh University, 2012), (see: "UK professor says Shakespeare biographies are bunk") is also scheduled to appear in the 2015 Memoria di Shakespeare, but despite his criticism of Shakespeare biographers, has yet to feel the bite of Taylor's axe. Will Ellis' denial of alternate candidates for the production of Shakespeare's works protect Ellis from censorship? 

Versions of Waugaman's article have been published in the first edition of the post-Stratfordian journal Brief Chronicles 1 (2009) and in The Oxfordian (2012). The version accepted by Pire and Valentini for Memoria di Shakespeare 2015 can be read on the web at "The Psychology of Shakespearean Biography: An Update". Waugaman has added an afterword to the document describing his experience with Memoria di Shakespeare. A copy of Waugaman's afterword including the correspondence documenting this sad saga follows below.


Afterword

by Richard Waugaman, MD

Although this update of my 2009 article was requested by the editors of the Italian journal Memoria di Shakespeare for their 2015 special issue on Shakespeare Biography, I learned in August, 2014 that they were removed as editors for inviting my contribution (as well as others, from what I am told). For interested readers, I record here the relevant correspondence, so you may judge for yourselves whether this story is consistent or not with the ideals of academic freedom.


On January 17, 2014, I received this email from the co-editors of Memoria di Shakespeare:


Dear Professor Waugaman,
Thank you very much for your reply. We found your articles extremely interesting and absolutely pertinent to our forthcoming issue on “Shakespearian biographies”. David Ellis has already given us his contribution on the matter, as have some other experts on the theme. We would be delighted to have an article by you and in fact were wondering if we might even be allowed to use the first of the two you provided us links to, that is “The Psychology of Shakespeare biographers” from 2009, either as it is or maybe with some bibliographical updating  or minor changes you may want to add (emphasis added). If, instead, you wish to write something new we would very much appreciate it if it could be along the lines of the 2009 article since it provides, for our issue, an extremely useful background to the whole biographical-authorship question, as well as precious insight into specific matters.
We look forward to hearing from you and attach a style sheet for your convenience.
All the best,
Luciana Pirè and Maria Valentini


However, on August 18, I received the following email:


Dear Professor Waugaman,
As you will know already [no, I did not know], Luciana Pirè and Maria Valentini have stepped down as editors of the forthcoming issue on biography of Memoria di Shakespeare. A Journal of Shakespearean Studies.
Gary Taylor and I are the new editors of the issue. While I appreciate your time and interest in publishing with us, we have decided against publishing an article that has come out already, and so recently (2009). I realize it has been revised, but really do not feel it adds much to what you have already said.
Thank you again for submitting your article.
With all best wishes,
Rosy Colombo Smith
Senior Professor of English
Sapienza University of Rome
General Editor of Memoria di Shakespeare. A Journal of Shakespearean Studies

On August 19, I replied, with a copy to the new co-editor, Gary Taylor:


Dear Professor Colombo Smith,
There seems to have been an misunderstanding. Here is the email I received from Professor Valenti on January 17 [I copied the text provided above].
I think you will agree that they invited me to allow them to republish my 2009 article, or to update it, as I did. 
If an article that was invited by a journal’s co-editors can subsequently be rejected by the next co-editors, it seems to me that this is a breach of good faith with contributors.
I understand that you and Professor Taylor may not share your predecessors’ opinions about my work. But it does seem to me only fair that you accept their decision on my contribution. I will certainly understand if you and Professor Taylor choose to add a note indicating that my article was invited by your predecessors.

Less than an hour later, I received the following reply from Gary Taylor:


Dear Dr Waugaman,
This change is due to my own involvement in the volume. The editorial board was concerned about some of the contributions invited by the previous co-editors. I agreed to help by stepping in, with Professor Colombo, as new co-editor. But my acceptance was conditional on rejection of certain contributions, like yours, which seem to me profoundly unscholarly, and which would have the effect of undermining the credibility and status of other contributions to the volume.
Unlike Stanley Wells, I don't live in Stratford, do not belong to the Birthplace Trust, have never had a job in Stratford, have never been a trustee of the RSC; my objections to your position about Shakespeare's biography cannot be described as in any way institutional or based on a conflict of interest. I simply find your reasoning, and your evidence, as unconvincing as those of Holocaust deniers, and other conspiracy theorists.
I understand that you are chargrined about the change of policy at the journal. But the previous co-editors, who contacted you, were themselves guilty of a breach of good faith, in committing the journal to positions conflicted with the intentions and desires of the journal's founders.
Sincerely,
Gary Taylor

Finally, I replied to him later that day (and yes, my reply is dripping with sarcasm):


Dear Professor Taylor,
Thank you for your prompt and candid reply. Given what you regard as the “profoundly unscholarly” nature of my article, I am grateful that you have spared me the embarrassment of having it published. After all, its unscholarly quality would be obvious to all who read it, so that its publication would do grave injury to the credibility of the post-Stratfordian viewpoint which I seek to promote.  
Thank you also for your generous efforts on behalf of Italian Shakespeare scholarship. I really do not see this as intellectual imperialism. As politically incorrect as it may sound, the fact is that certain Mediterranean countries are not yet fit to manage their own scholarly publications. It’s only thanks to globally responsible U.S. academics such as you that they are saved from humiliating themselves. 
From what you say, the previous editors’ lapse in judgment in inviting me to update my article was only one of the reasons they have been removed. I only hope they will learn a lesson from this experience. In fact, I suspect that everyone in academics who learns of this story will develop a new respect for the high scholarly standards of the community of Shakespeare scholars, who know when academic freedom needs to be set aside, in the interests of defending Shakespeare from conspiracy minded detractors. 
Now I come to my other publications, which I fear may also be unscholarly. I leave it to you to judge. If you conclude that the editors of Notes & Queries; The Renaissance Quarterly; Cahiers Élisabéthains; and psychoanalytic journals too numerous to mention also failed in their editorial responsibilities to the founders of their respective journals, I implore you not to demand their resignations also. Just notify me which of my other 140 publications are unscholarly, and I will promptly and cheerfully retract them. 
I do fully understand your concern that publishing my article might undermine the credibility of other— Stratfordian— contributions to the volume. In fact, that was precisely my intent— to undermine the status and credibility of all Stratfordians. You were quite perceptive to recognize this. 
Carl Sagan once said, "The reasoned criticism of a prevailing belief is a service to the proponents of that belief; if they are incapable of defending it, they are well advised to abandon it... Any substantive objection is permissible and encouraged; the only exception being that ad hominem attacks on the personality or motives of the author are excluded.”           
But Carl Sagan is no doubt guilty himself of being profoundly unscholarly in the foregoing statement, if he had the audacity to think it could possibly apply to the illustrious ranks of Shakespeare scholars. Even when they choose especially offensive ad hominem attacks. 
It has been only four months since both Stephen Greenblatt and Jonathan Bate apologized to me for having compared post-Stratfordians to Holocaust deniers. And now you make that repulsive comparison yourself. I can only assume your emotions have over-ridden your common decency. I know one fellow Oxfordian who lost more than 70 relatives in the Holocaust, and he finds that comparison especially disgusting. 
Sincerely,
Richard M. Waugaman, M.D.

***