Shapiro 'On the Media': Name-Calling and Bullying Students and Doubters
Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter, Vol. 54, No. 3, p. 25, 2018
Early Shakespeare Authorship Doubts, 2019 (Forthcoming)
5 Pages Posted: 14 May 2018 Last revised: 9 Jan 2019
Date Written: May 14, 2018
This essay will form part of the Conclusion (Part V) of the author's forthcoming book, "Early Shakespeare Authorship Doubts."
For far too long, when it comes to the Shakespeare Authorship Question (SAQ), orthodox academics, whatever their motivations, have largely avoided the simple duty that any serious scholar has: to engage forthrightly with the evidence.
Instead, such scholars, when they deign to mention the SAQ at all, have focused almost entirely on trying to denigrate or psychoanalyze authorship doubters. In its most insulting and ridiculous forms, this has involved suggestions of snobbery or even mental illness (sometimes even invoking comparisons to Holocaust denial).
A milder version — almost more maddeningly smug and condescending — has been to retreat behind a fog of fashionable academic jargon, analyzing authorship doubt as a purely contingent product of modern times and cultural preoccupations. This was largely the approach taken by English Professor James Shapiro of Columbia University in his book about the SAQ, "Contested Will" (2010).
Somehow, from the orthodox perspective, it is never about the simple factual and historical issue at the heart of the SAQ: Does the available evidence, fully considered in context, raise reasonable questions about who actually wrote these particular works of literature?
Professor Shapiro spoke at length about the SAQ in a December 2016 interview with Brooke Gladstone on her public radio show "On the Media." This essay criticizes the way in which both Shapiro and Gladstone approached the SAQ, especially the troubling implications of Shapiro's comments for how Shakespeare authorship doubters, especially students, should be treated.
Keywords: Shakespeare authorship question, James Shapiro, Brooke Gladstone, On the Media, students, authorship doubters, authorship skeptics
JEL Classification: K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation