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TOPIC: NY Times survey

NY Times survey 9 years 6 months ago #580

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As of writing this, the NY Times is conducting a survey on authorship which many feel will be biased upon its publication. Below is Tom Pendleton's (co-editor of the Shakespeare Newsletter) open letter to the editor after receiving an invitation to participate. Also are downloadable screenshots of the survey itself.

Dear Mr. Calame:

I have recently been invited to participate in a survey by the New York Times Education Life to determine what college professors think of the Shakespeare Authorship question. I am sorry to see this silliness dragged our yet again since it has been demonstrated repeatedly that there is not the least scrap of evidence that anyone other than William Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the Shakespeare plays.

The fact that the survey is being conducted under the supervision of William J. Niederkorn, who has for at least the last five years operated as the Times resident Oxfordian, is, I think, reason to suspect that the outcome of the survey will in some way end up supporting Mr. Niederkorn's own views in this matter. Indeed, on August 30, 2005, Mr. Niederkorn had suggested that "authorship studies" be made part of "the standard Shakespeare curriculum"-an idea that makes little sense unless one is already committed to the belief that the job of being Shakespeare is now open for applications.

I am aware that Mr. Niederkorn has portrayed himself as neither an Oxfordian nor a Stratfordian, but as an impartial seeker after the truth. His supposed impartiality is, however, well demonstrated by his assertion that "On both sides of the authorship controversy, the arguments are conjectural" (Aug. 30, 05). What "conjecture" means in regard to the orthodox position is the assumption that the surviving contemporary testimony is likely to be reliable, especially when it co-relates with other surviving testimony. Thus, that the Shakespeare who in his will named Hemings and Condell as his fellows is the same Shakespeare whom Hemings and Condell seven years later identify as their "friend and fellow" who wrote the plays of the First Folio. On the other hand, "conjecture" for the Oxfordian means starting from the conviction that Shakespeare lacked the education, social status and life experience necessary to have written the plays, and then dismissing any evidence that contradicts this conviction as fraudulent or mistaken or meaning something other than it says.

To present the all but universally accepted evidence of Shakespeare's authorship as merely an indifferent option to the Oxfordian position is to misrepresent grossly the historical and literary situation. And this is what Mr. Niederkorn's previous publications in the Times have done, and what-it is reasonable to expect-his reflections on his survey will continue to do. As I understand your function at the Times, it is to assure that your readership is presented with reliable and properly researched information and analysis. I do not suggest that Mr. Niederkorn's survey be scrapped-this would probably be inappropriate-but I do suggest that when the results of and reflections upon the survey are published, the Times-as it has not done in the past-also present in some detail the evidences on which the orthodox case it based; not just a two or three line disagreement from some orthodox spokesman that will be buried among Mr. Niederkorn's biographical fantasies.

If the Times is serious about its reputation for accuracy and reliability, it really cannot allow Mr. Niederkorn to continue to speak for it on this matter.

Please feel free to make what use of this e-mail seems best to you. Thank you for your attention.

Thomas A. Pendleton, Ph.D.
Professor of English, Iona College
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