[lit-ideas] Re: lit-ideas The Shadow Scholar

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 16 Nov 2010 18:34:07 +0000 (GMT)

The article gives rise in turn to a blog that gives rise in turn to a debate on 
the statistical improbability of the essay-writer's output. This debate gives 
rise in turn, according to no less an authority than this post, to the 
following interesting statistical fact:- while the percentage of Americans who 
doubt evolution exceeds the percentage of Britons who doubt evolution 
(evolution being of course a mere theory whereas creationism is belief in the 
literal truth of the Word of God - Henry Root), only 6% of Americans doubt that 
NASA put a man on the moon compared to 25% of Britons (source: Stephen Fry). 
Having paid my fee, my essay-writer suggests that we can conclude from this 
that persons find it easier to doubt the existence of things they themselves 
are incapable of doing; in the case of Britons, putting a man on the moon; in 
the case of Americans, evolving away from monkeys. (I have asked for a refund).

Hence John Wager, a man incapable of a dishonest thought, nevermind deed, feels 
those under his tutelage are less cheating than preceding generations, whereas 
I - a practiced cheat - think this cannot be so because the facilities for 
cheating have so much improved since my day, almost to the point where 
ingenuity and daring are no longer called for. Nowadays there is such a 
terrific amount of material simply waiting to be cut and pasted from the web, 
whereas the paucity of such material when I was a young scallywag meant having 
to resort to quotations from obscure figures, like the Abbé de Thuyès, whose 
Frenchified name with full use of accents was designed to lend ill-deserved 
credibility to his knack for uttering something so all-purpose it could be 
deployed to throw light on whatever historical topic was under discussion, from 
the Reformation ["In the name of freedom, freedom was lost" - the Abbe de 
Thuyes], to the Counter-Reformation ["In the name
 of freedom, freedom was lost" - the Abbe de Thuyes], to the Wars of Religion 
["In the name of freedom, freedom was lost" - the Abbe de Thuyes]. In later 
centuries, the abbot would be succeeded by a Dutch banker with a 
still-then-trendy Latin nom de plume ["Scrotumius"], a German burgermeister 
["Hans Neesanbaum-Zadaese", and a Russian minor poet ["Ydontcha Vochov"], who 
came to very similar conclusions about contemporary events:- the Dutch Revolt 
["In the name of freedom, freedom was lost" - Scrotumius], the Crimean War ["In 
the name of freedom, freedom was lost" - Hans], and the Russian Revolution ["In 
the name of freedom, freedom was lost" - Vochov]; figures so minor that they 
might not even have had entries on Google, if it had existed, and without the 
non-existence of which their own existence might never have happened. As it 
did. Hm.

Moving confusingly on, the old days did, I venture, test our creativity more. 
Obscure historical figures are two-a-penny, but what about coming up with 
quotations from a Shakespeare play, or one of the shorter works of Tennessee 
Williams, that had never been quoted since the dawn of human history but were 
nevertheless very much in the recognisable style of the author? The demands of 
scholarship were here intense, forcing the student of my generation sometimes 
to explain that the quotation offered from, say, "The Waste Land", was from an 
early, discarded draft ["I grow bored, I grow bored/In the night, when wife she 
snored/The meringue crumbs on the bed/Stank"]. With Shakespeare, referring to 
early drafts might arouse suspicion, and so Hamlet's "To be or maybe not" 
soliloquy should only ever be quoted in its ultimate, revised form. Keeping 
track of these subtleties would task someone with the knowledge of a Professor. 

It's all too easy now.



Obviously I've asked for my money back.

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