Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Links & tangled webs

Two new and noteworthy web resources came to my attention this past week worth passing along.

First, a new (brief) documentary biography of Edward de Vere has been posted -- for free download, no less. Canadian researcher Nina Green, familiar to many Oxfordians as the moderator of the "Phaeton" email list, recently posted her 44-page Oxford's Biography (PDF) on her Oxford-Shakespeare website.

It's not an Oxfordian biography. (We, ahem, already have a pretty decent one of those.) Rather, it's a strict recitation of all the known facts and documents relating to Edward de Vere's life, from the christening cup granted to baby Edward on April 17, 1550 to the June 18, 1604 custody transfer of the Forest of Essex (six days before de Vere's death).

The PDF biography refrains from theorizing about the Shakespeare authorship issue. The previous documentary biography of de Vere (Alan Nelson's Monstrous Adversary, 2003) wore its hostility toward de Vere on its sleeve -- indeed in its very title. Its errors skewed toward making de Vere look bad and his case for any claim to the "Shakespeare" canon worse.

Kudos to Ms. Green for assembling this fresh and welcome new look into Edward de Vere's life.

Second link is a great new website hosted by the Georgetown University clinical psychiatry professor Richard Waugaman, "The Oxfreudian". It's a fine turn of phrase, with a good (and we hope ever-growing) collection of papers Waugaman has written on Edward de Vere and the authorship issue.

Like the late Bronson Feldman before him (one of the great underappreciated Oxfordian writers and critics), Waugaman brings a career of clinical experience as a psychoanalyst to the authorship issue, with often incisive results. For instance, in one essay for the Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review (co-written with Roger Stritmatter), Waugaman notes

It may come as a surprise to psychoanalysts to learn just how much current literary theory minimizes the significance of an understanding of the psychology and 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.


Creative Commons photo by Jenny Downing

2 comments:

oldie said...

Surely Dr Waugaman is putting the cart before the horse? "Psychological speculations" may or may not be a legitimate tool ..... in due time. That time will only come once the documentary evidence, i.e. that supplied by the body of work itself, has cemented the identity (or identities) of Shakespeare beyond a reasonable doubt. Until such developments have taken place psychological speculations are airy nothings, since the author is still a moving target.

John in Berkeley said...

Thanks Mark, Another invaluable resource by Nina Green. I've just added notes to her in my article, btw (since her digitized editions of Harvey were so incredibly helpful).