To Link, or Not to Link – A Reflection on David Kathman’s Contribution to the Shakespeare Authorship Question
Posted By Roger Stritmatter on April 3, 2016
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 Shakespeareauthorship.com 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):
- “My Name Be Buried Where My Body Is:” The Influence of Ecclesiasticus 41 on Sonnets 71-74,” Notes and Queries 10.1093/notesj/gjv133 (Fall 2015), 583-586.
- “Revelations 14:13 and Hamlet 1.V.91-108: ‘Write, Blessed are the Dead,” Notes and Queries 60:3 (September 2013), 415-418.
- “Shakespeare’s Ecclesiasticus 28.2-5: A Biblical Source for Ariel’s Doctrine of Mercy,” Notes and Queries, 56:1 (March 2009), 67-70.
- “The Source of Harry of Cornwall’s Theological Doctrine,” Notes and Queries, 246: 3 (September 2001), 280-282.
- “’Old’ and ‘New’ Law in Merchant of Venice,” Notes and Queries, 245:1 (March 2000), 70-72.
- “By Providence Divine: Shakespeare’s Awareness of Some Geneva Marginal Notes of I Samuel,” Notes and Queries, 245:1 (March 2000), 97-100.
- “A New Biblical Source for Shakespeare’s Concept of ‘All Seeing Heaven,” Notes and Queries, 244:2 (June 1999), 207-209.
- “The Heavenly Treasure of Sonnets 48 and 52,” Notes and Queries, 244:2 (June 1999), 226-228.
- “The Influence of a Genevan Note from Romans 7.19 on Shake-Speare’s Sonnet 151,” Notes and Queries 242:4 (December 1997), 514-516.
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.