To Link, or Not to Link – A Reflection on David Kathman’s Contribution to the Shakespeare Authorship Question

Posted By on April 3, 2016

The graduate and Tower relatives at 2001 University of Massachusetts PhD dissertation defense on De Vere Geneva Bible. From left to right, Oz, Chris, Ellen, David, Charles and Nick Tower, myself in the middle.

The graduate and Tower relatives at 2001 University of Massachusetts PhD dissertation defense on De Vere Geneva Bible. From left to right, Oz, Chris, Ellen, David, Charles and Nick Tower, myself in the middle.

During the 1990s, when I was writing my dissertation on the de Vere Bible as a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts, the process of completing the dissertation was made much more dramatic by the academic flutterbug, Dr. David Kathman, a PhD in linguistics who works as a stockbroker in financial services. [after writing this I was informed that Dr. Kathman objected to being called a stockbroker. According to his most recent Linked In profile, Kathman is a “Mutual Fund Analyst at Morningstar” – 4/18/16].

Here was a man who by his own declaration was practically born knowing it was his mission to destroy Shakespeare heresy!

Kathman took it upon himself, without ever meeting me and knowing almost nothing of my scholarship, real opinions on authorship, or plans for the future, without knowing the character or intent or progress of my research,  and indeed almost without knowing anything at all, it might seem, about the subjects at issue, to make several phone calls to  my committee members to dissuade them from supporting my inquiry.

There were many challenges in completing the dissertation, and after more ten years of work (which also involved writing drafts of several other major papers, most of which have since been published in venues like the University of Tennessee Law Review, Critical Survey, The New England Review, and other reasonably high impact journals in three different academic disciplines (literature, law, and psychology) I was by the end in danger of being labeled a perpetual student and sent home for non-completion of the PhD.  But none of these obstacles was quite as obnoxious as Dr. Kathman’s meddlesome  insinuations, which routinely illustrated former Folger Educations Direct Richmond Crinkley’s observation  that authorship orthodoxy is characteristically perpetuated by “a bizarre form of mutant racism.”

As a result of Dr. Kathman’s meddling, two changes in the composition of my committee were required in search of a committee that was considered by the co-chairs and myself suitably free from  the outside pressures that Mr. Kathman was employing to try to influence my dissertation defense.

Remarkably, given this history of interference, since the dissertation’s approval and publication in 2001  Dr. Kathman has almost fallen silent on the topic of the de Vere Bible. Certainly he has not updated his programmatic statement about the de Vere Bible on his website, by changing even a single word of it, since at least December 2001.

Now, it is of course Kathman’s prerogative to say nothing, perhaps on the theory that saying nothing takes less breath than having to say that you are sorry.

But, the closer we look, the less edifying Kathman’s silence appears. You see, he’s been  promising for a long time now to update his “essay,” but he never has. And I’m not talking about a six month delay. Or even a six year delay.

The  current 4/3/2016 version of  Kathman’s page reproduces the following note at the start of the  de Vere Bible page:

[Note: This essay is much more heavily revised than the others in this section. Parts of it have been adapted from my newsgroup posts, but most of it is new, written after I had a chance to examine the Bible in detail, both in person and on microfilm. Much more needs to be said on this topic, but this essay is intended as an introduction for curious bystanders who would like some information from a non-Oxfordian source. This is only a preliminary report, to be fleshed out as time allows.]

Remarkably, according to the ever-useful Wayback Machine, Kathman has been making this promise to update his research on the de Vere Bible since at least December 24, 2001, the earliest available archive from his website.

That’s over fourteen years, Dr. Kathman. What’s gone wrong?

I know what’s gone wrong.

Not long after Kathman wrote his little essay on the de Vere Bible, I had my PhD in hand.

Now, think about it, how could Kathman update his undated page after that? His whole premise was that I couldn’t possibly deserve to get a PhD because he knew that I was a nut. Right, Dr. Kathman?

Updating his webpage to accurately reflect not only his own evolving arguments, but also the state of the debate, would have forced to admit that since his already “much revised” (in 2001) comments, that I had received a PhD on the document in question, despite his attempts to stop me from doing so, and then he would be required to encounter the onerous task of attempting to explain to his readers why it was that I’d gotten a PhD even though he had called me a dangerous crackpot, and, based on this conclusion, had taken bizarre extra-curricular means to try to stop me from receiving the degree!

Why not? Kathman, by his own words, was a man on a mission, a mission he at least believed in with the same fervor of any fanatic for a troubled orthodoxy.

Did Kathman consider his only other option, namely  to update the article without mentioning the fact of my dissertation or other relevant post-2001 developments in scholarship?

If so, he wisely concluded that doing nothing, even if it meant his promise of an update lasted 15 years, would be safer.

In essence, except for an opportunistic slash at me in The Oxfordian XI (2009), Kathman decided to say nothing and see if anyone would notice that his assumptions, methodology, and conclusions, are now fourteen years out of date.

This interpretation is unfortunately consistent the impoverished idea of “scholarship” that is everywhere evident in Kathman’s treatment of the de Vere Bible, as well as other topics, including his discredited work on Tempest chronology.

Another thing that has never changed in all these years is that Kathman’s web posting still contains references only to other internet publications, all on the same site, by David Kathman.

Is this echo chamber Kathman’s idea of “scholarship”?

If this is the best the Stratfordians can do, it’s no wonder the Stratfordian house of cards is folding in upon itself in a giant heap of collapsed spades and hearts. Eventually, people are going to start to notice that while Kathman likes to preach about who’s a scholar and who ain’t, he’s made the mistake of not starting his efforts by reforming himself.  That’s Matt. 7.3, in case you were wondering.

To update his website Kathman would need to read books and articles he hasn’t read and isn’t interested in reading.  He would have to think too much to read them. They would hurt his head, I know.

Just consider the Notes and Queries articles Kathman would have to reference if we wanted to really offer a viable scholarly critique of my work on the de Vere Bible in 2016, especially one touching on my allegedly dangerously “lax” standards of literary inference.

Here are some of my publications that are missing from Kathman’s critique (in addition the Umass dissertation):

Let’s be clear about this. That’s eight articles published by Oxford University Press on Shakespeare and the Bible.

Not one of them has been cited or accurately summarized for the purposes of criticism, let alone refuted, by Dr. Kathman or anyone else for that matter. Nor has Dr. Kathman in the interim to my knowledge bothered to enlighten his readers about what standards he would himself proposed for examining intertextuality as evidence. These questions were extensively addressed in my dissertation, and are mentioned in every one of those Notes and Queries articles, but Dr. Kathman as always fails to notice this and pretends for the sake of preserving the illusions of his readers that it is not the case. Fifteen years later, Dr. Kathman still prefers to pretend that nothing has changed since 2001.

In the interim, Dr. Kathman’s allies on Wikipedia have busied themselves with repeatedly removing references to another Notes and Queries article, by Dr. Richard Waugaman, which  followed up on my work with startling results.

Waugaman used my de Vere Bible dissertation to discover and document a large number of references to the Sternhold and Hopkins edition of the psalms bound with the de Vere Bible and annotated with several manicules. Waugaman’s article is among the top read articles at Notes and Queries, an Oxford University Press publication. In fact, both Waugaman’s article and at least one of mine have repeatedly been ranked among the top read Notes and Queries in recent years.

Where is David Kathman in all of this? He came forth on the internet in 2001 with the roaring of a lion but has now become more like a mouse.

What happened to Kathman’s 2001 promise to “update” his “study” of the de Vere Bible?

In the interim, lots of other scholars, among them Waugaman, myself, and the feisty knitwitted, have  continued to do real research on the question of the book’s relationship to de Vere and the connections of the annotations and underlining it contains to “Shakespeare.” Yet, despite Kathman’s protestation about how much research he has done and how much he had”revised” his language in his 2001 (or earlier) posting, Kathman promises more in the future, but hasn’t delivered in fifteen years.

Well, if that’s the explanation I know the reason why.

But the most interesting thing I know about Kathman’s career making trouble for me at Umass is what my friend Lynne Kositsky, one of the 75-plus attendees at my defense or graduation,  informed me just after the graduation.   Kositsky told me that, according to the Department Chair, Dr. Moebius, Kathman had threatened the entire University of Massachusetts department of Comparative Literature with being shut down if it approved my dissertation. Is that “scholarship,” Dr. Kathman?

Let’s be clear. Dr. Moebius did not tell this to me. He told it to my best friend, who told it to me. And Kathman has never denied it.

Most impressively, this helps to explain why Kathman has not updated his webpage in 15 years. When your opening move in a debate is to threaten the opposition with academic disgrace and punishment, that does suggest a rather profound case of intellectual aversion to learning new things.

In his 2009 Oxfordian commentary on my dissertation, Kathman asserts that the dissertation “may look impressive to the uninitiated, but actually it is an astonishingly sloppy piece of work, riddled with elementary historical, literary, and logical errors,” and the analysis “is worthless because (among other things) of Stritmatter’s extremely lax standards for what counts as a correspondence.”

Regrettably, Dr. Kathman could not be induced, then or now, to offer a substantive elaboration of these claims, to explain why my standards were “extremely lax,” what they consisted of, or even to clarify that a large number of the parallels I cited in my dissertation were already well-established by prior scholars, sometimes by 1935 (Noble), and that a significant number of those allusions not already documented in the literature in 1999 had since then passed muster in my Notes and Queries articles, or explain how his own higher standards would improve on my “extremely lax” ones, or even acknowledge which instances of influence he supported and which he did not according to any coherent methodology.

Dr. Kathman had his soapbox, so he used it.

The old dictum is true that’s its easier to throw mud than it is do have a real conversation with someone of a different persuasion.

As I mentioned, in drawing this conclusion about my methods, Dr. Kathman could not even be bothered to cite or respond to these extensive publications (amounting by 2015 to perhaps 25,000 words of analysis in at least eight articles),  any one of which reveals a close attention to methodologies for detecting inter-textual influence that also guided me in the dissertation. Dr. Kathman cannot discuss those articles because he does not understand them. He has not even tried to understand them, and above all, he really doesn’t want you to read them, my dear reader.

Here’s what I want Dr. Kathman to do before he goes about to criticize me again.

How about taking the “Shakespeare’s Bible Test,” David?

Show us what you’ve got.  Can you understand why NONE of these examples is really, or should be, controversial? Or are you so poor a literary scholar that you don’t really understand how evidence for inter-textuality is actually ascertained or debunked?

If Dr. Kathman would like copies of those Notes and Queries articles, I’d be happy to the send them for the price of the postage. But I’m not holding my breath.


About the author

Roger Stritmatter is a native liberal humorist who lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Contrary to rumor, he does not live on North Avenue. He does, however, work on North Avenue. A pacifist by inclination, one of his heroes is John Brown. But he thinks that Fredrick Douglass, another of his heroes, made the right decision. Stritmatter's primary areas of interest include the nature of paradigm shifts, the history of ideas, forensic literary studies, MS studies, renaissance literature, and the history of the Shakespearean question, the latter a field in which he has published extensively.


15 Responses to “To Link, or Not to Link – A Reflection on David Kathman’s Contribution to the Shakespeare Authorship Question”

  1. knitwitted says:

    Hi Doc,

    I see Dr. Kathman has responded to your post within the cozy confines of his similarly-minded Oxfraud friends on FB. Re-posted as follows for everybody’s entertainment:

    “Wow. Not only does Roger still not have any idea what my actual job is (I have never been a “stock broker” or anything resembling one), but literally nothing else he writes about me in that ridiculous blog post is accurate. I did not do any of the things he accuses me of, and the quotes he seems to attribute to me are made up out of whole cloth, or possibly distorted and confused with things other people said; I honestly have no idea where any of those paranoid fantasies come from. I did exchange a few emails with one member of Roger’s committee, David Mix Barrington, a professor of computer science at UMass, after Barrington contacted me asking for my opinion of the correlation, if any, between the markings in the de Vere Bible and the Biblical allusions in Shakespeare’s plays. I responded cordially to Professor Barrington, expanding a bit on what I had written on the subject on the Shakespeare Authorship site. I think I also expressed an interest in hearing what kinds of arguments Roger was making, because I was curious what an attempt at an Oxfordian PhD dissertation might look like; however, Barrington said that he couldn’t share any details while the dissertation was in progress, which I said I completely understood, and that was the end of it. A year or two later, Professor Barrington e-mailed me again to say that he had been asked to step down from Roger’s committee, because Roger was no longer emphasizing the statistical correlation between the Bible markings and Shakespeare’s Biblical allusions (no doubt because the correlation is so close to random, or even negative). That was that. If Roger has any evidence that I did any of the terrible things he accuses me of, I’d be interested to see it, because none of that stuff ever happened. I was interested to hear this fantastic tale about me threatening to shut down the UMass Amherst comparative literature department; the reason I’ve never denied that tale is that I’ve never heard it until just now, from reading this blog post. (For the record, I categorically deny making any such threat.) The reason I haven’t responded directly to Roger for the past 20 years or so is that he’s an obnoxious asshole with abysmal scholarly standards; I long ago realized that arguing with him was a futile, disheartening exercise, and that my time was much better spent on real scholarship and doing other things I enjoy. I haven’t regretted that decision for a second.”{%22tn%22%3A%22R2%22}

    • Hahaha. I really like the first name faux intimacy tone of Dr. Kathman’s diatribe. Did he change jobs? Sorry I can’t always keep up with you, Dave, just like you can’t keep up with any of your boastful promises or threats. Take on what I actually said for a change, not what you wish I’d said. [message back to Dave]

      Thanks Knit.

      • knitwitted says:

        LOL!! I was going to message Mr. Reedy but it looks like he has blocked me on FB!! W-O-W!! What a scaredy cat. I think you already knew I was black-balled from FB Oxfraud. Let’s get on Twitter 😉

        • Tom Reedy blocked you on facebook? My my. He sounds very confident.

          • knitwitted says:

            [Snicker.] He’s not the first. Mike Gordon blocked me also, AFTER I re-posted part of one of his comments on Oxfraud FB. Funny how it’s okie dokie to re-post to Oxfraud FB comments made on ShakesVere FB but don’t ya dare re-post those Oxfraud comments!!! Do they seriously not understand that Oxfraud is a PUBLIC group?

          • Well Mike Gordon is high on my list of those suspected of dirty tricks and misdemeanors. I sure would like to know who exactly he works for. He answers comments for Stanley Wells on the SBT website, but to my knowledge other than this he makes a habit of not acknowledging any association with the SBT, even via a third party, like Misfits. There is money changing hands here. We just don’t know who exactly, is paying who to do what. But there’s a $60 million a year tourist industry that at least believes it is fighting for its life, so if you except fair play, forget it. Fair play will be enforced only when the wider intellectual culture begins to get tired of Stratfordian humbuggery. When we get an even playing field, without the “bizarre mutant racism” Richmond Crinkley described from his days as Folger Educations Director, then the tourist dollars will no longer matter and will be seen for what they are.

          • knitwitted says:

            All I know is I’m saving up for The Thomas Jefferson Tour. So the SBT best still have those houses there when I go. 😉

      • knitwitted says:

        Hi Doc,

        I’m re-reading Dr. Kathman’s detailed explanations to his friends of why such-n-such isn’t true. I’m just wondering why he didn’t just come on your blog and write “Tripe.” and be done with it. Why all his stammering and that final epithet hurled at you?

        Most people don’t waste their time explaining tripe. But Dr. Kathman does. Interesting!

        For the record, what has Dr. Kathman published on Shakespeare and the Bible? Does anybody know?

      • I have no intention of answering every line of Dr. Kathman’s amusing rationalizations. However, I would reply to his one point about me being “paranoid.”

        And on the off chance that someone might ferry this reply to Kathman, here I go:

        First, Dave, I’d be careful with those clinical labels since you are not a professional psychotherapist like Dr. Waugaman is. Calling another person crazy because you don’t want to deal with the substance of what they have written is poor sportsmanship.

        You say:

        I honestly have no idea where any of those paranoid fantasies come from.

        You missed the fact that they came from Ms. Kositsky? Was that not clear? Why do you call a conversation between two people, a “paranoid fantasy”? You sound scared, or maybe just deeply confused about reality.

  2. knitwitted says:

    P.S. Thank you for your mention of my work!! Much appreciated!!

    Also, I would like to note that despite the efforts of Mr. Reedy to scrub all references on Wikipedia to yours and Dr. Waugaman’s *Notes and Queries* submissions, they are still available on the “Biblical Allusions in Shakespeare” page. Please note that Tom was kind enough to help start said page for me.

    As for Dr. Kathman’s site, I would like to add that his statement “The annotator was for some reason drawn to the Apocrypha, marking 96 verses in Ecclesiasticus (used only moderately by Shakespeare)” is incorrect based on Dr. Shaheen’s “From the Apocrypha, Shakespeare makes frequent reference to the book of Ecclesiasticus.” (“Shakespeare’s Knowledge of the Bible – How Acquired” *Shakespeare Studies* Vol. 20, (1988): 201).

    Kathman: “There are another 120-plus which Roger Stritmatter claims are parallels which previous commentators have overlooked; I have only seen a few of these and find them unimpressive”. So how many is “a few” and do those “few” taint the entire “120-plus”? And why doesn’t Kathman explain exactly what’s wrong with those “few”?

    Also, Kathman kinda/sorta reviewed only Dr. Shaheen’s work instead of reviewing ALL prior Shakespeare and the Bible scholars’ work as used by you. That’s really poor scholarship not to use a researcher’s exact sources when critiquing said work.

    I would also like to note that IIRC Kathman did find marked verses not found by you; AND that you found marked verses he did not.

    Best wishes!

    • ” Please note that Tom was kind enough to help start said page for me.”

      Ya, except that logic is sort of like, I’ll put your ideas in a ghetto that I created in my own mind to make me feel better about myself. So I’m not quite as sanguine about it as you are, but nevertheless good for you to try to keep it preserved somewhere.

      • knitwitted says:

        Sorry but as obnoxious as he can be at times, Tom was very nice and helpful to me on Wikipedia on several occasions. For example, he did a great job writing Bob Grumman’s page for me. He also had asked me at one time to help w/ the Oxford’s Men page which he had started. Sorry to disappoint, but the world isn’t all bad all the time. 😉

  3. Yes, that word “moderate” covers an awful lot of territory, doesn’t it, knitwitted? Its like a giant rubber band that can be used to stretch the truth out into a laywer’s long day of lying.

    I am afraid this sort of thing is endemic to David Kathman’s entire approach to the authorship question. So it is not, unfortunately, a matter of merely finding some cases where he “flubbed it,” as in picking the cherries that are still left after the rot of so many conveniently inflammatory or manifestly deceptive phrases one has encountered in Dr. Kathman’s work.

    According to most authorities, including Shaheen, since Noble (1935) at least, Ecclesiasticus is a book of the Bible that Shakespeare was highly drawn to, and to which he very often alluded.

    A whole raft of these are documented in my dissertation, and three of them written up in N&Q, but I don’t suppose that Dr. Kathman could ever be bothered to read the dissertation he failed to stop let alone keep himself current on the practical implications of my “very lax” standards for assessing intertextuality. 😉

    The chapter on *Measure for Measure* is one that has nothing to do with any marked verses in the de Vere Bible. It is the intellectual heart, in fact, of the dissertation. It’s about ethics, something that I fear is not Dr. Kathman’s strong point, any more than Ecclesiasticus apparently is. Still, dum spiro, spero.

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