Monday, May 17, 2010

More Contested Cant

In recent days, you've probably seen a few reviews of James Shapiro's Contested Will. The man's a best-selling author and clearly doesn't need our help generating clicks.

But thanks go to reader SJW who pointed out the LA Times blog's recent post offering up some new old trout by reviewer Ward Elliott -- the author of a series of computer studies involving Edward de Vere's letters and the youthful poetry (mostly song lyrics) published under de Vere's name.

This may come as a surprise to those not familiar with academia, but Elliott published well-funded studies in the 1980s and '90s using computers to prove, among other things, that letters and song lyrics are very different from Shakespeare plays.

It never ceases to amaze this blogger (and part-time tech journalist) how often computers are enlisted to re-tell us things that are in fact already quite obvious. But Elliott points toward his CT scan of an apple and his CT scan of a glorious orange and says with the assurance of a good professor of number-crunching that never mind those trifling quibbles over the input data: The point is the computer says the apple couldn't ever no never have been an orange! So de Vere weren't Shakespeare, see?

I'm not a professor of number-crunching. But I think I have a fair nose for picking out hornswoggle just from the whiff of it.

I'm also a writer working on a second book and haven't the patience or time right now to deal with taking on Elliott's nonsense point-by-point. Fortunately, that's already been done.

Here [PDF] is a fine study of Elliott -- which it should be fairly noted Elliott replied to which was in turn replied to as well.

So, to those seeking deeper truths than "an apple ain't an orange," please seek above and you shall find!

Meantime, it's also worth noting one Canadian critic who's had enough of Shapiro's "anemic" scholarship.

That plus the skeptical review of Shapiro blogged about earlier has been picked up by the National Book Critics Circle.

Seems cant doesn't go down easily everywhere.


LAL said...

Oddly, I ran across Elliot in the L.A. Times last night while suggesting bloggers with a confirmaton bias actually read the case for Oxford instead of just believing Shapiro. I've been recommending your book.

Now that I've read what Elliot has to say I can only conclude Picasso couldn't have painted Picasso. The hand that drew realistically in pencil is not the hand that painted Guernica or the bullfighters. Styles never change! I don't even need a computer to figure this out.

"Why should this rose be better esteemed than that rose,
unless in pleasantness of smell it far surpassed the other rose?"

Did Shakespeare by Another Name get rave reviews when it came out? Just askin'. ;)


Anka said...

"I'm also a writer working on a second book..."

Care to elaborate?

Mark said...

Anka, I very much look forward to elaborating once we (fingers crossed) get a publisher and all wheels are in motion. So please keep your eye on this space for more announcements, we hope, soon.

Meantime, suffice it to say that the project is *not* a followup to Shakespeare By Another Name (which, LAL, did receive a few nice writeups when released and continues to generate good blurbs on Amazon to this day). I do hope to return to the authorship controversy. But for now, I feel SBAN fairly represents where I stand. No need to reiterate.

Doc Stritmatter said...


Ward Elliott is an expert at hornswoggling from way back.

His father was a distinguished statesman and an Oxfordian to boot. Little Ward apparently has never lived down the shame. Hence the hornswoggle shuffle.